Maximizing Productivity with High-Speed Steel

Just as high-speed steel (HSS) replaced carbon steel 100 years ago, carbide is quickly becoming the industry standard among cutting and boring tools. Still, high-speed bits and blades maintain an important niche in many metalworking applications. There are several options for making HSS as efficient and economical as possible by increasing feeds rates, reducing cycle times, maximizing production time, and lowering tool costs.

Preferred Applications

HSS End Mills

Many users continue to prefer HSS for many jobs, especially in machining operations where intricate cuts, deep hole or small hole-diameter drilling, or threading is required, using tools such as:

  • Reamers
  • Taps
  • End, Slab, and Face Mills
  • Gear Shapers

HSS is strong enough to withstand cutting pressures and high vibrations inherent in many shop machine tools.  HSS also takes and retains sharp edges and can perform well even in older and underpowered machines.

Cost Effective Alternative to Carbide

When tool cost is a concern, HSS is a viable alternative to carbide. Steel taps and bits are long-lasting and less expensive. Of course the total cost should be weighed against the slower cutting speed compared to carbide. In intermittent cutting operations, HSS’s longevity can make up the difference in productivity, especially in applications subject to breakage. Breaking a carbide bit is costly and can bring a production line to a screeching halt, and if a replacement is not on hand or cannot be located, business can suffer.

Material and Design

Advances in design and engineering have extended high speed steel’s usefulness and increased its productivity. Constructed of tool-grade steel, typically with tungsten or molybdenum, chromium, and trace amounts of vanadium and carbon added, HSS can be made even harder with the addition of cobalt. These cobalt drills and cutters can handle extra-tough workpieces such as titanium alloys and stainless steel. The use of cobalt drills allows cutting speeds to increase by as much as 50 percent, though their cost is higher than that of “regular” HSS.

Coatings and Metallurgy

The harder a HSS drill can be built, the faster it can bore or cut, the more resilient it becomes, and the longer it will last. Several powder coatings can be applied to increase surface hardness, reduce friction, and guard against rust. Titanium nitride in particular, often is deposited by chemical or physical vapors, producing a gold finish on the cutting edges. As with cobalt additives, surface coatings add to the cost. The increased wear protection and lubricity that allows coated drills to operate as much as twice as fast at regular HSS versions, also adds 25 to 50 percent to the price tag.
Regal Cutting Tools produces a wide range of taps, drills and end mills that take advantage of high-speed steel’s design, engineering geometries, hardness, and other attributes to make it as productive and economical as possible. Regal’s two-flute HSS end mills offer unchallenged flexibility. The additional cutting edge on our three-flute model, allows for greater feed rates. Finally, mills with four or more flutes aids in smoothness by spreading out the cutting force. Our new line of SuperTuf variable helix end mills competes favorably with carbide in both productivity and cost.
Contact Regal’s experts today to discuss your cutting and tapping needs and learn how high-speed steel can work for you.