High speed steel, or HSS, is a type of steel that is used in high speed applications, such as in things like drill bits and power saw blades. It is a replacement for carbon steel tools, specifically bits and blades, though both may still be used commonly. Its development has a number of advantages over carbon and thus is considered a more popular choice for such applications.
Several very important factors allow high speed steel to work. The first is the type of metals used. Together, they can provide a heat resistance that can keep the metal hard even under extreme temperatures. High temperature treatment further helps the steel remain hard under extremely high temperatures.
High speed steel is an alloy that combines several metals. Combinations often include tungsten, chromium, molybdenum, cobalt and others. Tungsten is the most common type of steel currently used in these products. However, there are many different types and designations of high speed steel, each having its own special combination. Some may use very little tungsten.
The heat treatment that high speed steel undergoes is a product of modern advancements of technology. Usually, a laser or electron beam is used to treat the steel at high temperatures. While there have been some high speed products dating back to the 19th century, this new technology creates a particularly effective product by being able to reach much higher temperatures than via traditional means.
High speed steel is very important because heat has the ability to melt metals. This can even happen from friction created by drilling and sawing. Anyone who works with power tools can attest to how hot a drill bit can get after just a few seconds of use. Thus, to some extent, how fast a tool can cut or drill depends on how much heat it can withstand. The faster it can go, the quicker the job can get done.
Most toolmakers, understanding the value of high speed steel, will make certain to note it in product descriptions and marketing pieces. This adds value to the tool and ensures the consumer gets the product he or she needs. While there may not be any logo that is standard in the industry for this type of steel, it is usually noted on the packaging. If there is any question, buyers should ask before making the purchase.