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What is High speed steel
09.16, 2019

High speed steel (short for HSS or HS) is a subset of tool steels, commonly used as cutting tool material-quoted from

It is often used in power-saw blades and drill bits. It is superior to the older high-carbon steel tools used extensively through the 1940s in that it can withstand higher temperatures without losing its temper (hardness). This property allows HSS to cut faster than high carbon steel, hence the name high-speed steel. At room temperature, in their generally recommended heat treatment, HSS grades generally display high hardness (above Rockwell hardness 60) and abrasion resistance (generally linked to tungsten and vanadium content often used in HSS) compared with common carbon and tool steels.

A sample of alloying compositions of common high speed steel grades (by %wt)(impurity limits are not included)


  • M2 is the "standard" and most widely used industrial HSS. It has small and evenly distributed carbides giving high wear resistance, though its decarburization sensitivity is a little bit high. After heat treatment, its hardness is the same as T1, but its bending strength can reach 4700 MPa, and its toughness and thermo-plasticity are higher than T1 by 50%. It is usually used to manufacture a variety of tools, such as drill bits, taps and reamers. 1.3343 is the equivalent numeric designation for M2 material identified in ISO 4957.

  • M35 is similar to M2, but with 5% cobalt added. M35 is also known as Cobalt Steel, HSSE or HSS-E. It will cut faster and last longer than M2.

  • M42 is a molybdenum-series high-speed steel alloy with an additional 8% or 10% cobalt. It is widely used in metal manufacturing industries because of its superior red-hardness as compared to more conventional high-speed steels, allowing for shorter cycle times in production environments due to higher cutting speeds or from the increase in time between tool changes. M42 is also less prone to chipping when used for interrupted cuts and costs less when compared to the same tool made of carbide. Tools made from cobalt-bearing high speed steels can often be identified by the letters HSS-Co.