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    Driving innovation

True or false: the steel industry is innovating faster than the mobile phone industry?

August 2015 - According to our global head of research and development (R&D) Greg Ludkovsky the answer is: ‘true’. In the second of our automotive blogs, Brian Aranha, head of our automotive business talks about the importance of R&D in staying one step ahead of the competition.

‘True’ is a response that may surprise people, because for many years steel has been seen as an old, heavy, commodity-driven industry. However, for those in the know, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, half of all the steel grades produced today were not available 10 years ago.

Steel is continually reinvented as further research is conducted into its unique properties and the development of an almost unlimited number of different steel grades.

Cutting edge innovations in the steel industry is crucial in order to maintain a competitive advantage. ArcelorMittal, therefore, spends a huge amount of time, effort and money on R&D; we understand its importance and are industry leaders in this area.

In 2014 ArcelorMittal invested US$259m in R&D, in the steels of tomorrow. We operate 12 R&D centres globally and employee 1,300 full time researchers. A third of our R&D resources is dedicated to research for our unique automotive franchise business, with up to 80 new automotive products under development at any one time.

R&D has been at the forefront of industry developments to pioneer advanced high strength steel (AHSS) grades and manufacturing processes that help automotive customers create lighter yet stronger vehicles and meet demanding new targets for fuel economy.

In the past year, we have achieved significant breakthrough with Fortiform®, a new generation of AHSS press-hardenable steels, which combine excellent strength with formability. The first Fortiform® product was launched in 2014 and has been trialled by major automotive customers. Fortiform® is a new range of cold-stamping AHSS steels and can absorb more energy in a crash even though less steel is used.

As car manufactures race to meet the stringent new emissions targets we have focused our R&D efforts on developing steels which possess a very high mechanical strength after hot stamping. Our Usibor® range of hot stamping steels has now been extended with the development of a 2,000MPa grade steel and Usibor® 2000 is now in industrial trials.

Our Ductibor® range was similarly extended with Ductibor® 1000, designed as a complementary product for Usibor® to meet new crashworthiness requirements.

We have demonstrated that a 20% weight saving of the body-in-white can be achieved using existing steel grades, but we are continually improving and pushing the boundaries of what people think is possible. The steel grades that are now in development have the potential to achieve a further 10% reduction in weight for all the parts currently made of dual phase steels.

These advancements are in part made possible through the close working relationships we have with our customers. Our team of dedicated resident engineers bring technical support to our global customers as part of our co-engineering programme. We pride ourselves on these strong working relationships. In July this year, we received a supplier award recognising our commitment to innovation. Presented to our automotive team by PSA Peugeot Citroën the award recognised the introduction of Fortiform® , a family of high-strength steels for cold stamping, which has enabled the carmaker to reuse its existing conventional stamping presses while achieving weight savings of between 10% and 20%.

By Brian Aranha, head of global automotive and commercial coordination


Related info

ArcelorMittal's range of steels for the automotive sector comprises all the main metallurgical families:

  • Steels for drawing: aluminum killed and IF (Interstitial Free);
  • High-strength steels: high yield strength steels, rephosphorized steels, high strength IF steels, isotropic and bake hardening steels;
  • Very high strength multiphase steels: Dual Phase, TRIP, ferrite-bainite, Complex Phase steels.

 

Check out our Steels for hot stamping - Usibor®