7th March 2016
Steel has traditionally been the material of choice across automotive, construction and other industries due to its high strength and relatively low cost. Although reduction in the manufacturing cost of more lightweight materials has threatened this position, the use of steel brings with it a huge knowledge base on how best to efficiently design products that make best use of the material’s properties.
The steel producers are far from standing still and continue to push the boundaries of this material developing new steels and manufacturing technologies for future products. For example, advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) often make up more than 50% of a modern automotive body in white and allow parts to be manufactured at thinner gauges than conventional steels while retaining performance properties.
This contributes to sustainable mobility by not only reducing the weight of the automotive vehicles and increasing fuel economy, but also steel generally requires less energy and emissions to produce than other structural materials and is fully recyclable. Beyond automotive, many other industries rely on steel. For example:
• On average 75% of the weight of a typical household appliance is steel
• A steel food can is not only recyclable but takes half the energy to manufacture as a comparable aluminum can
• Wind turbines use steel tubular sections
• The USS New York was built with 24 tons of scrap steel reclaimed and recycled from the World Trade Center
Adhesives are extremely common throughout many products from vehicle and aircraft interiors to packaging applications but advances have allowed adhesives to be used in a structural capacity. Their high strength allows adhesives to bond metallic together with the joint often proving stronger than the components being bonded. When developing lightweight thermoset components such as carbon composites, adhesives are used to bond the different ply layers together and therefore play an extremely important part in determining the relative strength of the product and its performance characteristics.
ADVANTAGES OF STEEL
• High strength makes it ideal for structural and safety systems
• High levels of knowledge of how to best use the material
• New AHSS materials are helping to minimise the weight of steel components by allowing thinner material use
DISADVANTAGES OF STEEL
• Costs of moving away from steel remain very high for many industries
• Exposed steels cannot generally be manufactured from recycled material
• Usually heavier than the equivalent component made from aluminium or composite material
• Thinner AHSS can have derogatory effects on component performance which may require counter measures