Forging dies must withstand a lot. They must be hard so that their surface does not get too worn out and is able to last through great changes in temperature and handle the impactful blows of the forge. However, the harder a material is, the more brittle it becomes – and forging dies are less able to handle the stress from the impact. For this reason, the manufacturers had to find a compromise between hardness and strength. One of the possibilities is to surround a semi-hard, strong material with a hard layer. The problem is that the layer rests on the softer material and can be indented by blows, like the shell of an egg.
Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT in Aachen, Germany, developed an alternative. “The forging dies we have been working on have a useful life that is up to twice as long,” explains Kristian Arntz, head of department at the IPT. “We are using a working material that is less hard and able to handle the impact stress well. We melt the uppermost layer of the material with a laser and introduce a powder into the melt material that is used to chemically alter the characteristics of the material. We have therefore achieved a large degree of hardness in the upper millimeter.”