Chromium martensitic hot-work tool steels : damage, performance and microstructure

Abstract: Chromium martensitic hot-work tool steel (AISI H13) is commonly used as die material in hot forming techniques such as die casting, hot rolling, extrusion and hot forging. They are developed to endure the severe conditions by high mechanical properties attained by a complex microstructure. Even though the hot-work tool steel has been improved over the years by alloying and heat treatment, damages still occur. Thermal fatigue is believed to be one of the most common failure mechanisms in hot forming tools. In this thesis tools used in hot forging and die casting were examined to determine damage, material response, thermal fatigue crack initiation and propagation. Different chromium martensitic hot-work tool steels, heat treated at four different austenitizing temperatures were experimentally tested in thermal fatigue and isothermal fatigue. The materials were then evaluated using X-ray line broadening analysis and transmission electron microscopy to explore the relation between fatigue softening and the change in microstructure. The high temperature fatigue softening was also simulated using an elasto-plastic, non-linear kinematic and isotropic model. The model was implemented in a numerical simulation to support the integration of die design, tool steel properties and its use. It was found that the dominant damage mechanisms in the investigated tools were thermal fatigue and that tool material experiences a three stage softening at high temperature loading. The primary stage was concluded to be influenced by the dislocation density and the second stage by the temper resistance i.e. carbide morphology. The microstructural changes during the softening stages were also connected to the non-linear kinematic and isotropic model. The general aim of this thesis is to increase the knowledge of the chromium martensitic hot-work tool steel damage, performance and microstructure.