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General Motors H-13 Material

and Heat Treat Specification


Edward W. Flynn,
GMPT Engineering Center
Ypsilanti, MI

Tooling Specialist

General Description of DC-9999-1 Revision 15

DC-9999-1 is the specification for H-13 and other hot


work tool steels used in the build of aluminum die cast
dies for General Motors. This specification defines the
material characteristics and heat treat required to produce
acceptable inserts for all dies. It also details of the testing
program required to insure that all purchased pieces meet
the requirements of the specification. All material and
heat treat must be bought from approved suppliers, but
the latest version of the specification makes provision
for the introduction of new sources for both material
and heat treat.

Benefits of the Specification and Testing Program

From January 1992 to September, 1994 (33 months) all H-13


inserts in the production environment at GM Powertrain Bedford (both material and heat treat) were untested and
presumably not in the best of condition. The premature
failure rate (an insert that does not last the average 180,000
shots between die rebuilds) was 33 per year. There were
92 dies in the baseline study (1992 to 1994) and an average
of 84 dies in subsequent years.
The cost impact is based upon an average cost of $23,000
per insert. This includes all material, heat treat, labor and
machining. The average number of shots on a die going to
die rebuild was 177,667 shots in the base period of 1992 to
1994. This number increased as more H-13 inserts made of
tested and approved premium grade material and heat treat
found their way into the production cycle. We can safely
conclude that better, more reliable inserts accounted for the

increase in die life up to 199,800 shots per die.


Currently all inserts installed meet the requirements of
DC-9999-1 including testing at an independent laboratory.

Major Provisions of DC-9999-1


General Requirements
This section of the specification outlines the general
requirements and testing program.
The Tool Source has ultimate responsibility for the
implementation and adherence to this specification and for
the general administration and implementation.
Approved suppliers are listed in the general section. A
potential material supplier can become an approved supplier
by going through a provisional testing program. At the
end of the testing program General Motors will perform
an audit of the mill with primary focus on QS-9000/ISO
9000 items.
Approved heat treat suppliers are also listed. A potential
heat treat supplier can become an approved supplier by
participating in a program similar to the provisional testing
for the material supplier. After a 16X16X16 piece is heat
treated, it is shipped to the testing lab for a thorough
analysis. If the piece passes all tests, then the provisional
testing period begins. Forty-five inserts must be heat treated,
25 must be at least 14 thick. The acceptance rate must
exceed 95%. At the end of the test period GM will perform
a QS-9000 / ISO 9000 audit as described above.
A die caster using this specification should choose an
outside, independent test lab capable of performing all

Cost Savings - Insert Testing Program


H-13 Inserts

Major Die Cast Dies

Calendar
Year

Failures

Cost
Impact

Cost
Savings

Failures

1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998

37

$851,000
$690,000
$736,000
$575,000
$368,000
$207,000
$115,000

$23,000
$184,000
$391,000
$552,000
$644,000

Test Program Starts

30
32
25
16
9
5

May '94
To end
August '98

Average
Number
Shots
of Rebuilts
172000
179000
182000
175000
189000
199800
196300

25
28
21
22
18
20
12

Lab Tests

Cost
Savings

Annealed Hardened

294
876

Insert and Die Total

$510,957
$1,108,743
$560,049

660
504
230

285
886
577
562
302

$2,179,749

2564

2612

$3,973,749

$461,520

$653,000

$1,114,520

Cost Savings

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May/June 2000

Insert and Die Total Less Lab Costs

$2,859,229

Annualized Savings

$659,822

Savings to Cost Ratio

3.57

Per Year

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Provisional Sources

A Provisional Source is not an approved source. A Provisional Source is one that has demonstrated the capability to meet all the requirements of
this specification, but has not developed a long history of insert test results statistically confirming the capability.

Material (Steel):
A wide spectrum and large population of insert steels must be tested in an actual tool
source production environment (tools built for the die caster) to confirm capability. The
confirmation process and requirements are as follows:
The provisional testing period shall last a maximum of 30 months from the first
production insert test submitted. The provisional source must meet all requirements
of this specification.
During this period a minimum of 25 pieces shall be tested at Bodycote Taussig; 15
pieces must be at least 14 thick. The die caster has no obligation to create the
opportunity to test these pieces within the prescribed period of time.
The first time acceptance rate must be 88% or better for the total population
of inserts.
When a piece is rejected, a new block of steel must be substituted by the Supplier
at his cost. This substitute piece must meet the requirements of the specification.
If it fails, then the provisional testing period is at an end and the Supplier must
start the whole process again.
If 30 months is not sufficient time to complete the confirmation process, the Supplier
may elect to begin the process again subject to the approval of the die caster.
The Suppliers mill will be inspected by the die caster at the end of the testing period if
all the conditions are met. This inspection will primarily focus on QS-9000/ISO 9000
series audit items with particular emphasis placed on process control and quality
systems. This is not a QS/ISO certification on the part of the die caster.

Heat Treat:
As with the material provisional sources, a large population of insert steels must be tested
in an actual tool source production environment (tools built for the die caster) to confirm
capability. The confirmation process and requirements are as follows:
The heat treater will buy a piece of premium grade H-13 steel that meets the current
material specification per DC-9999-1. This steel must be bought from either Thyssen
or Uddeholm, steel size 16 x 16 x 16 (approximate weight is 1173 lbs.). Make
sure the steel source cuts the 12 sampling plane 98% through.

the necessary tests. A secondary consideration would


be the labs ability to render a complete failure analysis
on inserts that have been removed prematurely from
production. The Tool Source should not be allowed to
choose the testing lab.
A supplier becomes an approved source when it meets
all the requirements of the provisional testing period and
the GM on-site audit.
All inserts built by the Tool Source have unique serial
numbers assigned to them from a common database by GM
or the Tool Source. All large die cavity inserts (exceeding
300 pounds) are tested individually. Small inserts can be
tested in lots especially if they are cut from a common piece
of steel. The Tool Source is responsible for coordinating
all the activities of the material supplier and heat treater in
regard to the proper testing required in this specification.
The Tool Source will be paid for the insert when they
submit an invoice with copies of the test results for both
material and heat treat from the independent lab. This
insures that all inserts are tested without intervention or
audit on the part of the customer. If the heat treat test
is not performed, the invoice will not be honored. If heat
treat testing is performed but the material test is omitted,
the invoice will be paid with a deduction of $400. General
Motors has no obligation to test the insert heat treat after
receipt of insert or installation in a die.
When material is rejected the material supplier must
replace it as soon as possible at their cost. If the heat treat
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May/June 2000

Send the piece of steel to Bodycote Taussig for testing. They will remove several
samples and forward the test results to the potential heat treat supplier and
the die caster.
Upon verification of material quality, the steel will be shipped to the heat treat
source for heat treat.
After heat treating the steel per DC-9999-1 latest revision, send the entire block to
Bodycote Taussig for analysis. Also send the furnace charts to the plant metallurgist
at the die caster. Taussig will remove several test pieces and forward the results to
the potential heat treat supplier and the die caster.
The metallurgist at the die caster will analyze and compare the results to the
initial heat treat potential test and determine if the heat treat source is capable
of meeting the GMPT specification.
Once the heat treater has demonstrated capability his name will be added to the
current version of DC-9999-1 as a source with provisional approval. The provisional
testing period shall last a maximum of 40 months form the first production insert test
submitted.The provisional source must meet all requirements of this specification. Full
approval is only possible after heat treating 45 pieces (25 being at least 14 thick) of
steel for the die caster with an acceptance rate of 95% or more.
When a piece is rejected, it must be re-heat treated by the Supplier at his cost. This
heat treat must then meet the requirements of the specification. If it fails, then the
provisional testing period may be terminated by the die caster depending upon the
circumstances and the Supplier must start the whole process again.
If 40 months is not sufficient time to complete the confirmation process, the Supplier
may elect to begin the process again subject to the approval of the die caster.
The heat treaters facility will be inspected by the die caster at the end of the
testing period if all the conditions are met. This inspection will primarily focus
on QS-9000/ISO 9000 series audit items with particular emphasis placed on
process control and quality systems. This is not a QS/ISO certification on the
part of the die caster.
A supplier (material or heat treat) becomes an Approved Source when it meets all the
requirements of the provisional testing period and the die casters on-site audit.

is unacceptable, then the heat treater may attempt a re-heat


treat. If it fails, they must replace the material and pay the
Tool Source for all machining hours to date. As you can see
there are very severe penalties for non-conformance to this
specification and its testing procedures.
Premium Grade H-13 /
Hot Work Tool Material
This portion of the specification explains the requirements
for premium grade H-13 steel. Being an approved source
does not imply that all pieces of H-13 shipped meet the
specification. Every piece is tested. The material is ordered
such that the grain direction is parallel to the direction of
draw of the insert. An additional .625 inch of material is
added to the purchased block and is cut 97% through by
the material source so that the Tool Source can remove
this slice of H-13 material for testing. Removal by the Tool
Source (not the material supplier) is very important. The
serial number of the block is usually painted on the side
of the steel. Two coupons (2 1/2 X 3 1/2) are removed
from the center of the slice; the first piece is immediately
engraved by the Tool Source with the serial number and
sent to the test lab to determine the acceptability of the
material and its heat treat potential. The other test coupon
is saved for attachment to the rough machined insert during
the heat treat phase.
The block of steel provided by the material source must
be cut from a parent block in the warehouse from a heat of
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steel of known quality likely to meet this specification. The


parent block may be no more than 2 inches thicker than the
required piece delivered to the Tool Source. For example,
this prevents the supplier from providing a 10 inch thick
steel piece from a 18 inch thick parent block. Essentially, the
smallest of the three tool block dimensions determine the
maximum thickness of the parent block and the thickness
of the delivered piece.
The H-13 steel must meet the chemical requirements for
the material and periodically this is checked at the testing
lab. The steel must be produced utilizing the electro-slag
remelt (ESR) process or the vacuum arc remelt (VAR)
process. No exceptions are granted. Certification of the
material by heat number and assigned serial number is
required. Requirements for hardenability limits, grain size,
annealed microstructure, primary carbides, microcleanliness
and impact capability are all part of the specification and
SAMPLING PLANE

SHORT/THICKNESS
7"

STEEL BLOCK

97% CUT-THROUGH

GRAIN DIRECTION
ADDITION AT 5 8 "

212"

TRANSVERSE

TWO TEST COUPONS 212" X 312"

testing program. The material test coupon is subjected to


an ideal laboratory heat treat. Then Charpy Impact test
pieces are machined and broken at room temperature. The
average must exceed 10 ft.-lbs. (3 pieces). Generally, the
impacts average 12 ft.-lbs. and it is not unusual to see test
results in the 13 to 16 ft.-lb. range.
Heat Treat of Premium
Grade H-13 / Hot Work Tool Steel
This portion of the specification explains the requirements
for heat treating the H-13 steel at the heat treat source.
Fluidized bed furnaces are not allowed. The furnace must
be a vacuum furnace capable of at least 10 bar nitrogen
pressure backfill and have a quench rate of at least 50
degrees Fahrenheit per minute. The quench can be achieved
by a combination of backfill and partial furnace loading.
Internal and external thermocouples are attached to the
roughed insert to assure proper temperature cycling and
quenching per the requirements of the specification.
The Tool Source must insure that only those inserts with
material approval from the testing lab are sent to the heat
treater. The second testing coupon is put in full contact
with the insert and tack welded. After the heat treat, the
coupon is removed and sent to the testing lab for analysis.
The Tool Source does not start the finish machining until
the lab approves the heat treat.
The specification assigns a very distinct recipe to the heat
treat process. The austenitizing temperature for H-13 steel
is given at 1895 +/- 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Conformance to
the defined temperature - time curves will insure a good,
high yield heat treat. Depending on the configuration of
the insert and the thermodynamic balance of the furnace,
the interrupt at 800 degrees may not be necessary. If the
differential temperature between the internal and surface
thermocouples is less than 200 degrees when the external
temperature attains 800 degrees, the interrupt can be
skipped. The furnace chart and all pertinent records must
be kept for 5 years.
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A minimum of three tempers is required. Three tempers


must be made even if the hardness range is attained during
the second temper. Final temper is 1050 degrees.
Inserts that have been EDMd must be stress relieved
between 1000 and 1050 degrees after final inspection and
just prior to delivery or installation in a die. Inserts that
have been welded before heat treat must be annealed by
the heat treater. Those welded after heat treat must be
stress relieved at a temperature 50 degrees lower than the
final temper temperature.
All coupons are tested for hardness, microstructure
(Chrysler spec NP2080), surface condition and Charpy
impact. The average of the three Charpy impacts must
exceed 8 ft.-lbs. Generally, the heat treated Charpy impacts
are 90% to 95% of the Charpy impacts recorded when
testing the material. Previous failure analysis has shown
a 100% probability of cracking failure for large inserts
with Charpy V-notch impact values of 6 ft-lbs or less.
6 to 8 ft-lbs is a transition zone. Cracking failure above
8 ft-lbs is rare.
Material Flow
The following describes the typical flow of material and
testing for a piece of insert steel.
Tool Source - Steel is purchased by the Tool Source and
a serial number is assigned.
Material Source - Cut the proper sized block adding
enough in the longitudinal direction for the testing plane.The
testing plane is cut such that it is barely attached to the block.
The block is shipped to the Tool Source. Certifications are
sent to the Tool Source and Die Caster.
Tool Source - The test plane is removed from the block.
Two test coupons are cut from the center. Each coupon
is engraved with the proper serial number. One coupon
is immediately sent to the test lab along with proper
documentation.
Test Lab - The metallurgical properties of the coupon
are tested in the as-received condition, then the coupon is
subjected to an ideal heat treat with oil quench.The coupon
is cut and machined for Charpy V-notch test specimens. The
specimens are broken and the results recorded. Test results
are forwarded to the Tool Source and the Die Caster. If
the material passes, the Tool Source commences rough
machining. If it fails, the Tool Source notifies the material
supplier and a new piece is substituted. The failed piece is
returned to the Steel Source.
Tool Source - The steel is rough machined and sent to the
Heat Treat Source with the second coupon attached to the
center of the largest surface. A small shallow hole is drilled
at the specified location for the thermocouple Ts.
Heat Treater - The insert is heat treated with thermocouples placed per the specification. After heat treat, the
coupon is removed and sent to the Testing Lab. The insert
is held until test results are issued.
Test Lab - The metallurgical properties of the heat treated
coupon are examined per the specification. Charpy V-notch
impact samples are prepared and broken. Test results
are forwarded to the Heat Treater, Tool Source and Die
Caster. Results are also recorded into a computer database.
If the test results are good, the heat treater returns the
insert to the Tool Source. If they are bad, the piece is
re-heat treated with a surrogate coupon. A second failure is
cause for rejection. The whole process begins again with a
new piece of steel. The Heat Treater compensates the Tool
Source for the cost of material and rough machining.
Tool Source - Finish machine the insert.

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