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The performance of tool steels (in the case of knives in particular the cutting edge stability and edge retention) depends largely on the homogeneity of the material and the size of the carbides. The more evenly the alloying elements are distributed and the smaller the carbides, the higher the potential performance.
In conventional melt-metallurgical production, the steel is completely melted and the desired alloying elements are added. During the cooling process, the previously homogeneous melt inevitably separates. The end product is no longer completely homogeneous. In alloyed tool steels, so-called carbide clusters are also formed, i.e. areas with very large cabids and with a higher concentration of these carbides. There are processes, both in the production and in the subsequent heat treatment, that reduce these negative effects. But with very high-alloy steels, the smelting metallurgical process reaches its limits.
In powder metallurgical production, the raw materials are ground or atomized, mixed and then sintered at high temperatures and high pressures. In this way, the size, distribution and type of carbides and all other components can be controlled in a targeted manner. This process is particularly suitable for high-alloy tool steels, which would not produce satisfactory results if they were manufactured using melt metallurgy. In this way, steels can be produced that achieve a high level of hardness and very high wear resistance, while at the same time exhibiting relatively high toughness and cutting edge stability.
Due to the complex manufacturing process and the high content of alloying elements, PM steels are many times more expensive than conventionally melted steels.