K390 was developed as an alternative to Crucible’s CPM-10V, which has had success since the late 1970s as a steel with very high wear resistance yet also moderate toughness. CPM-10V achieved these properties by having a relatively high volume of vanadium carbides, very hard carbides that contribute greatly to wear resistance. Because the carbides are so hard, it requires less of them for a certain level of wear resistance. Carbides are brittle, so having a lower volume of carbide for the same wear resistance means greater toughness. The patent application for K390 was submitted in Austria by Bohler in 2002 , and the steel was announced in 2004 . The main modifications to CPM-10V were increased Mo, W, and Co. This gives K390 better “secondary hardening” and therefore “hot hardness” so that it can maintain its hardness at high temperatures. The higher Mo also gives it greater “hardenability” so that large dies can still harden all the way through.
Dr. Larrin is back with a breakdown of one of the hottest steels out there, other than his own MagnaCut of course.