The steel industry is revving up to meet the technological challenges needed on the drive toward a leaner, meaner and cleaner North American automotive industry, evidenced at an industry event this spring.
The Automotive Applications Council of the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) held its eighth annual Great Designs in Steel (GDIS) seminar in Livonia, Mich., providing the more than 1,000 attendees a dramatic demonstration of the advances being made in steel vehicle applications.
GDIS offered first-hand demonstrations highlighting steel solutions ranging from product research to major original equipment manufacturer applications. High-quality discussions addressing key issues included technical presentations on the environment and energy challenges impacting vehicle design.
The purpose of GDIS is to demonstrate how new advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) technologies provide cost-effective solutions to help automakers increase fuel economy, curb emissions and improve safety.
During the day-long event, more than 25 technical presentations were given by North American automotive and steel industry experts on such topics as applications of AHSS in the 2009 Acura TL and 2009 Honda Pilot; the future of steel in the 21st Century; optimized steel solutions for roof strength using AHSS; automotive lightweighting; upcoming energy climate policy opportunities; and future steel vehicles, advanced powertrains and the influence of material selection.
One highlight of the seminar was a live extrication demonstration of an imaginary passenger in a crashed car manufactured with ultra-HSS product. Firefighters from McKinney, Texas, and Livonia showed how new rescue equipment has been developed to help first responders free trapped passengers from new HSS vehicles.
Among the vehicles displayed was a 2009 Ford F-150 Super Cab cut-away exhibit that showed off the innovative use of new steel, materials and processes. The F-150 Super Cab uses a combination of AHSS and tube hydroforming to achieve the new roof-strength standards recently implemented by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. According to Ford Motor Co., the roof strength of the F-150 has increased by nearly 75 percent compared with the 2008 model.
SMDI, part of the American Iron and Steel Institute, also presented the GDIS Automotive Excellence Award to the BMW X6 Research and Development team, selected for its cost-effective use of ultra-HSS products that meet new market demands for safety, fuel efficiency and emissions standards. The award recognizes individuals or teams from automakers, suppliers or the academic community who embrace innovation and make significant contributions to the advancement of steel in the automotive marketplace.
BMW used unique processing technologies and several complex, ultra-HSS grades in its X6 design. The vehicle features a steel structure and steel side frames, panels, rear and B-pillar reinforcements and a longitudinal rear member. These parts improve performance, reduce costs and weight and meet Insurance Institute for Highway Safety side-impact crash test requirements.
GDIS provided a dramatic snapshot for seminar participants this year of how the steel industry is positioning itself through advanced technologies for the evolving North American automobile sector.
Ronald P. Krupitzer is vice president of automotive applications at the Steel Market Development Institute, a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute.