Definition: The ability of a metal to rapidly distribute within itself both the stress and strain caused by a suddenly applied load, or more simply expressed, the ability of a material to withstand shock loading. It is the exact opposite of “brittleness” which carries the implication of sudden failure. A brittle material has little resistance to failure once the elastic limit has been reached.
The ability of a metal to deform plastically and to absorb energy in the process before fracture is termed toughness. The emphasis of this definition should be placed on the ability to absorb energy before fracture. Recall that ductility is a measure of how much something deforms plastically before fracture, but just because a material is ductile does not make it tough. The key to toughness is a good combination of strength and ductility. A material with high strength and high ductility will have more toughness than a material with low strength and high ductility. Material toughness equates to a slow absorption of energy by the material.
It is critical when specifying die cast tool steel that the proper choices are made to take into consideration toughness/ductility requirements.