The Auto Industry’s High-Strength Diet Plan

Today’s vehicles are getting lighter, as we’ve documented in a previous blog post. A practice beginning on the heels of the Oil Crisis of the 1970s, the automotive industry continues to look to lightweighting to increase the fuel efficiency of its vehicles. As the most sustainable automotive material, steel is no stranger to reducing greenhouse gas emissions – even when the world isn’t looking – and the steel industry continues to work hand-in-hand with the automotive industry to accelerate innovation in performance, value and sustainability.

Since regulations will continue to tighten for the foreseeable future, lightweighting is here to stay, meaning automotive material choices will continue to dominate the conversation. What other benefits does lightweighting with high-strength steel provide consumers outside of consuming less fuel? We’re glad you asked. Vehicle lightweighting enhances the overall driving experience in a variety of ways and the use of high-strength steel often accentuates those benefits.

A vehicle’s center of gravity is also called the center of mass. Every object has one, including us humans. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the point at which the entire weight of a body may be considered as concentrated so that if supported at this point the body would remain in equilibrium in any position.” If you need a clear picture, let’s have the high-strength steel-intensive Lexus LC 500 show us:

Lexus LC 500 balancing

 

When vehicle mass is changed, such as when an advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) or ultra high-strength steel (UHSS) component replaces a part made from another material, the center of gravity changes. This gives engineers another tool to improve the vehicle – the ability to put the vehicle’s center of gravity in an area better-suited to the needs of its customers. This results in improved dynamic performance, giving the vehicle more stability and greater handling.

Stopping and starting are also improved through a lighter-weight vehicle. You don’t need to be a physics major to know a Chevrolet Bolt will likely have a shorter braking distance than a Chrysler Pacifica, regardless of lightweighting achieved with steel. Though this example is much more pronounced (they are in different segments, of course), it demonstrates how a vehicle with more mass will need more stopping distance. The same goes for acceleration as well. A lighter vehicle will generally move quicker and be more agile.

The use of high-strength steels can also increase visibility! Automakers won’t be making windshields out of high-strength steel anytime soon, but as industry safety standards become more precise and account for a wider variety of crash types, the passenger cage is coming under the microscope. By using more AHSS and UHSS in a vehicle’s pillars, engineers can reduce the pillar size while maintaining or even increasing their performance and crashworthiness. This gives the driver a broader range of peripheral vision and more peace of mind driving on the highway.  More visibility and stronger materials, combined with a shorter braking distance, equals a safer vehicle overall. Take a look at how the 2016 Volvo XC90, winner of the Automotive Excellence Award at Great Designs in Steel 2017, envelops the vehicle’s passengers in high-strength steels and puts the strongest steel grades in the pillars:

Volvo XC90 BIW

The safety features don’t stop there! You may have heard of automatic braking, blind zone alerts or lane departure warnings. These features have prevented countless accidents already and will play a larger role in automakers’ future safety offerings.

So how does high-strength steel play a role in those features? Easy. Those systems are complex and highly technical, often involving the use of radar and other equipment around the vehicle. One or two sensors might not weigh much, but a vehicle’s entire suite of advanced safety features add up quickly. Automakers can use the weight savings from AHSS to include additional innovative features in their vehicle to further enhance the vehicle’s safety.

Lightweighting offers automakers the opportunity to gain an edge on their competition. Which of these benefits interest you the most? It’s okay to say more than one! Leave a comment below.

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Steel: Beyond the Body

When most people think of a vehicle using high-strength steel, two areas usually come to mind: the exterior panels and the vehicle’s frame. That’s no surprise, since they’re two of the areas where high-strength steel makes the biggest impact on a vehicle’s weight and performance. However, it’s time we start looking beyond the body for areas where high-strength steel provides value.

Steel has been crucial to the automotive industry since its inception. Most critical vehicle components are made out of steel, and years of collaboration between the steel industry and the auto industry has accelerated innovation in both. As automakers continue to look for ways to make their vehicles lighter while maintaining or improving performance, the steel industry continues to create improved, higher tensile strength grades of steel even in places the average consumer doesn’t normally think about when purchasing a vehicle.

Today’s automakers love touting their vehicles’ high-strength steel makeup, however, they love talking about their vehicles’ engines even more. Internal combustion engines are made up of thousands of individual parts all moving in perfect harmony to create the force that propels a vehicle. From pistons to valves, connecting rods to cam shafts, many components of a vehicle’s engine are made of steel due to the extremely high temperatures and intense loads an engine produces. The steel industry has responded to market demands by supplying newer grades of steel to make these parts, allowing automakers to maintain and improve part durability and performance while reducing size and weight. This allows the vehicle to go further than before using the same amount of fuel!

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All that effort to make a vehicle go in a straight line is fine – if you’re a drag racer. What about the components that make a vehicle turn? Good news, high-strength steel helps steering systems too. Rack-and-pinion parts (the system moved by the steering wheel to turn the front wheels) and suspension components (how the vehicle is connected to its wheels) are other key areas where high-strength steel makes a difference. Because of the intense demands required of these systems – especially in terms of safety – only the most durable, effective materials will make the cut. That’s where the innovation of the steel industry comes in. Since high-strength steels have a wide range of formability and strength, automakers can create torsion bars, stabilizers, steering racks and more to the exact specifications required for both safety and performance. Automakers are continuing to find new ways to create better steering and suspension components out of high-strength steels. We can’t wait for what’s next!

Let’s shift gears a bit and talk about the transmission. How does high-strength steel affect the gearbox? As a critical component of a vehicle’s drivetrain, the transmission ensures a vehicle is using the right amount of power given the speed, terrain and how much load the vehicle is carrying. Transmission failures have frustrated drivers and repair shops alike, so it’s a relief to know that carmakers are making transmissions more durable by increasing their use of ultra- and advanced high-strength steel. Gears, shafts and clutches alike are seeing the benefits of high-strength steel’s fatigue resistance, with lighter weight as an added bonus!

stick shift

That lighter weight is also making it easier on the driveshaft, which itself is seeing more use of durable high-strength steel. The rods and differential gears that move power from the engine to the transmission are key contributors to the weight of a vehicle, in addition to being a vital part of a vehicle’s ability to perform. Downsizing and reducing the mass of driveshaft components while maintaining or improving the vehicle’s overall performance remains a focus of today’s researchers.

Steel really can be used in a variety of ways in the automotive industry. Its durability and reliability make a significant difference – and the industry is taking notice. Each vehicle provides the opportunity for engineers, designers and researchers to learn more about high-strength steels and how to best use them in a vehicle. From its current uses to its future applications, the steel industry is committed to maintaining steel’s status as the best material for the automotive industry!

Did any components surprise you? Let us know in the comments!

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The Steel Industry’s Tech Transformation

This is a guest post courtesy of Sean Donnelly, president and CEO of ArcelorMittal Dofasco, based in Hamilton, ON, and chairman of the Steel Market Development Institute’s (SMDI) CEO Group. He was the keynote speaker at Great Designs in Steel (GDIS) 2017.

SMDI invited the steel and automotive industries to Livonia, Michigan for GDIS 2017 to share knowledge, network with peers, tout the innovative work taking place in the industry, and to present the Automotive Excellence Award. Given the focus on materials in today’s automotive industry, collaboration is the key to advancing steel.

Humphrey points to Donnelly

I was proud to participate in a keynote conversation at this year’s event. Having worked at ArcelorMittal Dofasco for my entire 35-year career, I’ve experienced many changes in the automotive industry.

Vehicle design has been the most drastic improvement. From handling to power, styling to connectivity, automakers have implemented significant innovations. Today, strict automotive regulations are challenging automakers to squeeze every possible MPG out of vehicle engines while also improving vehicle safety. As vehicles becomes more fuel-efficient, it’s clear lightweighting is mandatory to stay competitive. The steel industry is working with automakers closer than ever before, but how can further improvements be made?

Automotive engineers are working with steel industry researchers earlier in the design process to ensure the use of varying steel grades is optimized for automakers’ needs. This process is featured prominently at GDIS and is an important part of our strategy in the steel industry. As we discussed during the event, when you put intelligent people with a common purpose together to collaborate, you will get successful results. The event is praised by automakers and steelmakers alike for facilitating inter-industry collaboration while balancing the proprietary information of all involved organizations. Communicating openly and working closely with each other at GDIS, and beyond, is enabling both industries to flourish.

Challenges Faced by the Steel Industry

We continue to search for new ways to make better products for automakers. However, there are two key categories I’d like to discuss.

First, we are constantly looking to reduce variability in the steels we produce in areas such as mechanical properties, surface quality and thickness. The steel industry has made incredible progress in this and improvements continue to be made. We are ensuring our products perform as they should every single time – from weld quality, to road performance, to recyclability at the end of its life.

Second, the need to increase the formability of steel products continues to be at a premium. The steel strength-ductility diagram below shows the multitude of steel grades currently available to automakers. Steel companies are working to increase how much their products can be shaped during production (indicated by elongation on the y-axis), while also increasing their strength (x-axis). As you can see in this chart, the variety of grades available to automakers (currently over 200) is constantly increasing and moving to high-strength and high elongation grades, far outpacing the innovation of other materials.

Steel Grade Innovation Today CUT

How will the industry achieve these goals? Through technology.

“Industry 4.0,” defined as the second stage of automation, is transforming the industry. Machines and robots are using people, sensors, algorithms and advanced software to gather data and communicate with each other to make decentralized decisions in real time. This technology helps humans solve problems using data never seen before – the new capabilities are boosting production efficiency and making product design more detailed.

New data capabilities give more insight into steel processing than ever before, allowing researchers around the world to make newer, consistent, stronger and more ductile steels faster than at any point in history. Additionally, processes enabled by these new technologies impact every facet of the steelmaking process.  For example, automated surface inspection applies technology to the quality control process, which has reduced non-conforming production four-fold. This directly helps the industry achieve its goal of reducing variability in its products. New technology is a key reason why the production of advanced high-strength steel has increased by 7000% during the past decade.

The Steel Industry of the Future

The future of the steel industry involves much more highly-trained, highly-skilled workers than in the past. One of ArcelorMittal’s 10 Sustainable Development Outcomes is to “ensure a pipeline of talented scientists and engineers.” We’re aiming to funnel young students into STEM programs, equipping them for the economy of the future and beyond. Coding, robotics and advanced manufacturing will all play key parts in ArcelorMittal’s future, with work under way to further develop these career paths. Other steel companies are also implementing similar processes to prepare the next era of steel.

The steel industry can never move too fast in its pursuit of improvement. Automakers and suppliers alike are cheering on the new developments introduced by the steel industry, and are applauding the adoption of new technologies and research collaboration on display at GDIS. The most valuable part of GDIS is in the exchange of ideas. The best and brightest in the automotive and steel industries are all gathered in one place to learn and collaborate with each other. No matter how steel affects your life, it’s an exciting time to be in one of the world’s most technologically advanced industries.

Donnelly talks to Humphrey

How else is technology changing the automotive industry? What sort of innovations do you think are on the horizon? Let us know in the comments below.

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Your Summer Soundtrack Tune Up

Windows down, music up! There’s no better feeling than going on a summertime adventure, where new experiences await. Whether you’re headed out solo or with friends, have an action packed itinerary or plan to go wherever the road takes you, you’ll need a strong soundtrack to go with it.

We have the perfect one for you.

The Perfect Playlist for the Perfect Drive!

The role of music as part of the driving experience cannot be understated. When you hear the intro of a song like Joker and the Thief or Wagon Wheel, you can’t help but turn up the volume! Our hope is that every song on this playlist gives you a “best road trip ever” type of feeling. Before you hit the road, grab some sunscreen, put your windows down and the sunroof all the way back, open your Spotify app, and let our playlist work its magic.

Without further ado, we present to you DriveUsingSteel’s “Summer on the Road” playlist!

Hit the “Follow” button so you can pull it up as soon as you get in the car!

These songs have inspired countless head bobs, steering wheel taps, impromptu in-car concerts and more. You just can’t help but smile when you’re Walking on Sunshine, whether you’re the driver or The Passenger. There’s nothing like Summertime to remind you of the gorgeous scenery of America!  It’s a great time to make some memories, and we have just the soundtrack.

What do you think of our Summer on the Road playlist? Any songs we should add? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Volvo Wins Automotive Excellence Award at 16th annual Great Designs in Steel Seminar

Every year, the Steel Market Development Institute presents the Automotive Excellence Award at the annual Great Designs in Steel (GDIS) conference. Now in its 16th year, the conference features the best and brightest of the automotive and steel industries and is the largest material-focused conference in the world. GDIS features multiple technical presentations from across the industry – there’s truly something for everyone!

The Automotive Excellence award is bestowed upon the winning presentation from last year’s conference based on a series of criteria such as challenges and benefits associated with costs, mass reduction and performance; overall contribution to the advancement of steel; and implementation in production.

Auto Excellence USE

From L to R: Sean Donnelly, Matthew Winkler, Lawrence Kavanagh and Dave Anderson. 

At GDIS 2017, Henric Lindberg and the Volvo Car Corporation body structure team won the award for their presentation titled, “Advanced High-Strength Steel Technologies in the 2016 Volvo XC90” shown at GDIS 2016.

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The presentation featured Volvo’s newly designed body architecture for the XC90, the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). Stiffer, stronger, larger and lighter, the XC90 architecture is designed to improve the driving performance through increased use of Advanced High-Strength Steel (AHSS).

Volvo XC90

“Volvo’s innovative use of steel will launch a new generation of applications of the material,´ said Jody Hall, SMDI’s vice president of the automotive market. “Their new architecture exemplifies the use of the right material in the right application. By utilizing a steel-intensive structure, they were able to reduce mass without sacrificing strength and safety.” Hall also noted how exceptional innovation using steel in automotive design and manufacturing is shown by award winners.

Along with winning the Automotive Excellence Award, the structure played a significant part in the XC90 being named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in 2015. It was also awarded the 2016 North American Truck/Utility of the Year at the North American International Auto Show – an award that continues to be given to advanced high-strength steel-intensive vehicles.

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Starting in 2002, GDIS grew from 475 registrants to over 1,600 today – making it one of the largest and longest running materials focused conferences in the world.

Volvo XC90 BIW

Join us in congratulating Henric Linberg and the Volvo team!  What do you think is the best-designed vehicle on the road today? Let us know in the comments below.

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Let’s Take It Outside with NWAPA!

The Pacific Northwest, a general term for the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, is well-known for its outdoor culture – no surprise, given the area’s gorgeous scenery. The population of these states are generally centered around one big city (Seattle, Portland and Boise), surrounded by thousands of acres of natural beauty to be enjoyed in all four seasons.  In our quest to tell America about the benefits of advanced high-strength steel (AHSS), we traveled to The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Washington, where we were proud to sponsor the Northwest Automotive Press Association’s (NWAPA) annual Mudfest event.

The event tests both on-road and off-road capabilities of various vehicles, with multiple awards at stake such as the Best Compact Vehicle, Best Family Vehicle, Best Pickup, and more. One vehicle would also earn the title of Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year. As automakers are selling SUVs, crossovers, pickups and other off-road-ready vehicles at an unprecedented pace, NWAPA’s awards are coveted.

Vehicle Lineup

This year’s field of entrants included brands among adventurers like Jeep, Subaru, Honda and Volkswagen. Luxury brands like Mercedes and Volvo even joined the fun, showing “rugged” doesn’t mean “uncomfortable” in their vehicles. A common theme among the entrants? Increased use of AHSS. We already know AHSS-intensive vehicles have been taking home the industry’s top awards. So as automakers look to increase the capabilities of their off-road vehicles, they are stiffening chassis and reducing weight by using more AHSS than ever. A stiff frame enables better handling and fuel efficiency – crucial features when off-roading – and a lighter vehicle means the engine doesn’t have to work as hard. Throw in the Pacific Northwest’s love of the environment – their states are beautiful, and they want to keep them beautiful – and the business case for using AHSS in outdoor activity vehicles is clear.

After testing was finished, the votes were tallied and the last vehicle exited the local car wash, the winners of the 2017 NWAPA Mudfest were announced:

Voting on Day 1

Jeep Compass TrailHawkBest Compact: 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk

What a way to start off a new generation! The newly re-designed Jeep Compass’ Trailhawk trim proved it belongs in the storied Jeep lineup as it takes home some new hardware. The new Compass was designed and built with extensive use of AHSS – more than 65 percent in the body structure. This is likely the first of many awards for the Compass, which should put the Jeep brand in line for some healthy sales numbers.

VW Golf AlltrackBest Premium Compact: 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

The VW Golf Alltrack made good on its name, showing it was capable of handling all sorts of terrain, whether off-road or on-road. Boasting a significant amount of AHSS in its stamped body and chassis, the Golf Alltrack is designed to weather almost anything the road can throw at it. The hatchback’s AHSS usage is part of a larger overall effort to reduce vehicle weight while improving vehicle performance, which has proven successful across the industry. We’d say Volkswagen did a great job – and it looks like NWAPA members agree!

Subaru ForesterBest Family Vehicle: 2017 Subaru Forester

It wouldn’t be a Pacific Northwest event without a Subaru, would it? But this Forester isn’t taking home an award because of its name. The Forester’s ring-shaped frame uses AHSS in select areas to optimize occupant protection in the event of an accident in any direction. Strength and wisdom in material selection ensures this large SUV keeps a family secure at every mile – and on every terrain. Combined with Subaru’s famous all-wheel-drive capabilities, you have a winning recipe!

Jeep Grand Cherokee TrailHawkBest Premium Vehicle: 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk

Jeep has never been a stranger to the podium, and the top-of-the-line Grand Cherokee is usually the vehicle taking home the hardware. It’s no different here at the NWAPA Mudfest, where members were enthralled by the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk’s handling. The ride comfort and the luxury interior made it a popular vehicle to be driven! The Grand Cherokee’s AHSS body structure provides torsional stiffness, giving the vehicle more control over any terrain it’s traversing.

Ford RaptorBest Pickup Vehicle: 2017 Ford Raptor

Building off of a legacy of off-road expertise, the brand-new Ford Raptor is king of NWAPA’s pickup hill. With a chassis unique to the vehicle, rather than borrowed from the F-150, the Raptor distances itself from its brother by adding more weight-saving AHSS, giving it the strongest frame of the F-Series trucks. Rigid and fully-boxed, the frame helps keep the driver in control no matter what it’s hauling – or what’s underneath the tires. Ford’s use of AHSS is being rewarded with some shiny new hardware!

Land Rover DiscoveryBest Extreme Capability Vehicle: 2017 Land Rover Discovery

Event attendees loved the Discovery’s capability in the mud, while keeping them cozy inside in true Land Rover fashion. We see this victory as a testament to Land Rover’s use of AHSS in key areas of the vehicle, such as in the Discovery’s lightweight subframes. Stiffness in the subframes allow for better steering and chassis performance, especially when the vehicle is off-roading. As larger vehicles capture more market share in today’s automotive industry, this recognition will serve Land Rover well as it seeks volume from America’s outdoor lovers. In addition to this award, the Land Rover Discovery was also given the title “Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year.”

Events like the NWAPA Mudfest are a great way to engage with automotive media and to see what experts are saying about the vehicles they cover. It’s also an opportunity to show how AHSS is accelerating innovation in today’s automotive industry.

What do you think of the awards NWAPA handed out, like the 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk winning Best Compact Vehicle? Are any of these vehicles now on your wish list? Let us know in the comments.

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Give Your Vehicle Some TLC!

Spring has sprung! Gone are the dreary days of winter – which means no more slush, road salt or slow traffic (well… hopefully). While many drivers will be making a beeline to the car wash to scrub all of the winter filth away, there’s quite a bit more you can do to ensure your car, truck or SUV looks – and performs – at its best year-round. Investing a bit of money into your vehicle throughout the year will usually pay off in savings down the line. This means going beyond the standard maintenance service (generally a chassis lubrication, oil change and filter replacement) you get at your local shop or dealership. Here are six maintenance items to keep you and your vehicle on the road for many miles.

1.     Interior Detailing

Maybe the most obvious item on this list is also the easiest. Given all the dirt, leaves, wrappers, receipts and other debris coming into our cars, it’s worth taking some time to vacuum it out. Getting in between and underneath your car seats will ensure your vehicle stays clear of dirt and odors – and seldom-seen features like the seat mechanism work properly. But don’t just limit cleaning to car seats and floors – taking wet wipes to the steering wheel, center stack, dashboard and console will remove germs, stickiness and other contaminants that could cause long-term damage to your vehicle – and your health!

Clean Car Seat

2.     Tire Rotation

Though this is included with many professional oil changes, tire rotation is sometimes overlooked as a basic maintenance item. Front-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive vehicles typically wear down one pair of tires quicker than the other, so having both pairs “take a turn” being worn down is beneficial. Ensuring your tires wear evenly will save gas, and will likely reduce the number of times you need to change them over the course of a vehicle’s lifetime. The easiest way to check the depth of your tire treads is tried and true – take a penny and stick it into the treads of your tire so Abraham Lincoln is facing you, upside down. If you can see the top of Honest Abe’s head, it means the treads are less than 2/32” thick and it’s time to get new tires! It’s recommended you rotate your tires every 5,000 miles.

Tire Tread Check

3.     Transmission Fluid

Much of the focus on a vehicle is on its engine, and for good reason – it’s what makes your vehicle go! But transmissions are equally as important as engines. In essence, it controls how much power the engine has to produce in order to make the wheels turn. So what does fluid have to do with it? Many of today’s automotive transmissions are hydraulic, meaning they use fluid to control various clutches and change gears. This fluid can wear out over time, which usually leads to serious and costly transmission damage. If your owner’s manual isn’t available, Transmission Repair Guy recommends having your automatic transmission’s fluid replaced every 30,000 to 60,000 miles – or once every two to four years – to make sure the road ahead is smooth sailing.

4.     Windshield Wipers

It’s a cheap, quick fix, but it’s easy to overlook. Windshield wipers are your vehicle’s front line against the elements, with its rubber or silicone edge ensuring a driver has clear vision during inclement weather. This edge wears down over time, leaving streaks on your windshield. Certain wiper blades (such as Bosch ICON or Rain-X Latitude Water Repellency 2-in-1) apply a hydrophobic coating onto your windshield, which prevents water from accumulating long after it’s been used. It’s recommended you change your windshield wipers at least once per year, ideally before they start wearing out. You do yourself a disservice by putting off replacement of your windshield wipers – keep your vision clear as you move forward!

Windshield wipers

5.     Wheels

Hearing a loud, piercing noise as you roll up to a red light? Sounds like it’s time to change your brakes. Most drivers are aware of how brakes work – brake pads rub against an inner part of the wheel called the rotor– but there’s more to taking good care of your wheels than just the brake pads. The calipers, the push-and–pull mechanism, need to stay tight and free from rust. Brake fluid, which impacts how brakes respond to the pressing and depressing of the brake pedal, may need to be changed periodically as well – it depends on your manufacturer. Stopping your vehicle is just as important as starting it, so ensure the totality of your vehicle’s brake system is well-maintained.

6.     Power Steering Fluid

Power steering didn’t start appearing in mass-produced vehicles until the 1951 Chrysler Imperial, but it has been nearly standard ever since. Larger vehicles – including high-strength steel-intensive trucks and SUVs preferred by today’s automotive customers – would be difficult to maneuver without it. Using a hydraulic system, force is applied to the steering gear via double-acting hydraulic cylinders. The fluid in these reservoirs needs to be changed periodically. The rule of thumb, per YourMechanic.com, is to replace it every two years or 24,000 miles. It goes a long way towards ensuring you’re always in control!

Vehicle maintenance manifests itself in multiple ways – and it goes beyond oil changes, car washes and the occasional brake replacement. Following these steps will help you get more miles (and more memories!) out of your beloved vehicle. It’s also important for your vehicle to retain value.

Did we miss anything? What do you recommend makes life on the road easier? Leave us a comment and let’s chat!

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A High-Strength Celebration of Earth Day!

We live in a consumption-focused world, not giving much thought to the resources we use on a daily basis. From basic human necessities like food, clothing and shelter to advancements like technology, medicine and automobiles. We take many things for granted, knowing these items are plentifully available when we need them. For most, as long as we recycle what can be recycled, we feel we’ve done our part. However, we only get one planet! Earth Day was founded to bring attention to the needs of our planet, with a special focus on the environment. Its reach – and significance – has expanded greatly since 1970, with special attention on recycling and the impact humans have on the environment.

Earth_Day_Flag

The first-ever Earth Day came about when John McConnell, a peace activist, proposed a day to honor our planet at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco. Though it was to be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson took the idea a step further. He proposed an environmental teach-in to be held on April 22, 1970 following an oil spill in California. It was there Earth Day was born. This marked the beginning of the environmental movement with millions of Americans participating in events in communities and schools across the country. 1990 marked the first international expansion of Earth Day, and the website states more than 1 billion people take part in Earth Day actions worldwide.

As an important part of modern society and one of the world’s most prominent industries, steel has made incredible progress in reducing emissions and the steel industry continues researching new processes to reduce the amount of CO2 emitted during steel production. Since 1990, when Earth Day went global, the North American steel industry has reduced the CO2 and energy intensity of each ton of steel produced by 37 percent and 32 percent, respectively. Additionally, steel is a major player in constructing green energy infrastructure. Check out The True Sustainability of Steel in Numbers infographic from the Steel Recycling Institute, WorldSteel and the American Iron and Steel Institute. The steel industry is part of the solution to reducing our impact on the climate. But steelmakers aren’t just doing more with less energy; they’ve made recycling a standard part of the steel-making process.

Steel holds the title of most-recycled material in North America – it is recycled more than paper, plastic, aluminum and glass combined. Scrap steel is the largest source of raw material in today’s steel industry, since steel can be recycled over and over with no loss in performance. Much of the scrap used to make new steel comes from automobiles, the most-recycled consumer good. Large magnets on cranes enable steel to be easily sorted and quickly moved along in the recycling process, a property of steel that saves both time and money. There are typically 60 to 80 million tons of steel scrap recycled per year into new steel products in North America. When taking into account all of the vehicles on the road today, steel’s dedication to sustainability shows. There is no denying the steel industry is committed to better equipping itself with the knowledge and capabilities to recycle more material for years to come.

LCA from worldsteel

The Life Cycle of Steel, from worldsteel.org

Considering autos, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from both the production and recycling of steel with emissions when driving the vehicles creates the car’s life cycle. Life Cycle Assessment, or LCA, is a tool to compare the life cycle of vehicles. It looks at the emissions from every part of the automaking process. The Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute, promotes the use of steel in the automotive industry on behalf of North American steel companies and partners such as the Steel Recycling Institute. SMDI encourages consumers, automakers and regulatory agencies to consider the lifecycle of a vehicle when judging cars, trucks, SUVs and crossovers by their GHG emissions.

When taking a close look at the entire life cycle of steel, we see the steel industry takes its responsibility to the planet seriously – and not just on April 22. Already a leader in recycling, the steel industry is funding more research to create new processes to produce steel with fewer GHG emissions. This knowledge is enabling automakers to further reduce the impact vehicles have on the environment around us. It’s all part of the steel industry’s effort to create a better world.

How are you taking action this Earth Day to reduce your impact on the planet? What improvements have you made in your daily life to reduce your impact on the environment? Share your thoughts below!

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Steel Vehicles Have Changed – How We Repair Them Has Too

This is a guest post courtesy of Steve Marks, Industry Support Manager, I-CAR, and the recipient of SMDI’s 2017 Man of Steel Community Hero Award.

Advances in automotive steels are allowing global manufacturers to produce amazing vehicles to meet consumer expectations in style, comfort, electronic connectivity and performance. In addition to the high expectations of the consumer, there is also the EPA 2025 fuel economy target looming in the future. One way to increase fuel economy is to reduce vehicle weight. Since advanced steels are so strong and formable, body panels can be made thinner to reduce mass while maintaining structural integrity for performance and safety, thus providing the highest level of protection in a collision or rollover event. Crash performance is rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) by the number of stars (up to 5 stars) awarded for frontal, side and rollover tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also assigns ratings, based on their own crash testing.

IIHS Crash Test Buick LaCrosse

Photo courtesy of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS); To maintain the original level of crash performance, structural repairs must be done as specified by the vehicle manufacturer.

In the unfortunate event of an accident requiring vehicle repair, the method of repair is not always obvious to the owner. If the paint color matches, the body panels align, and the vehicle drives well, the owner is usually satisfied with the repair. Incorrect repair may not be apparent until months, or even years, later, or in the event of another accident where the structure of the vehicle does not provide the level of protection originally designed into it. The Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) recommends four ways collision repairers can repair automotive steel[1]:

  • Spot Welding – the joining of two metal surfaces with heat.
    • This is the most common weld and is usually used to join steels of the same grade, though two different grades can be welded together.
  • MIG Brazing – a special type of welding that minimizes heating of the steel.
    • Used primarily with hot formed boron steel – an ultra high-strength steel with boron added for extra hardening and wear resistance; which can be formed into complex shapes.
  • Weld Bonding/Sealing – spot welding used in combination with an adhesive.
    • This is typically used for overlapping sheet metals.
  • Rivet Bonding – using rivets and studs in conjunction with adhesives.
    • Able to join both similar and dissimilar metals.

When repairs are done correctly, there should be no reduction in the integrity of a vehicle’s crashworthiness. It’s one of the many ways in which the IIHS has advanced automotive safety. Well-known for its crash testing, the IIHS’s annual “Top Safety Pick” and “Pick+” awards are highly coveted amongst automakers. A key criterion of their testing requires collision repairers to restore a vehicle to its original crashworthiness. To achieve this, other automotive materials must be fully replaced with a brand new part. On the other hand, steel reduces the costs of repair (and therefore insurance premiums) because many grades can be repaired, rather than outright replaced, with no reduction in crashworthiness.

Buick Lacrosse BIW

Photo courtesy of General Motors; Only a small percentage of current body structures are made from mild steel. Vehicle structures are now made mostly from advanced steels.

Joining Body Panels

Photo courtesy of I-CAR; Advanced steel body panels must be joined to the structure using the correct methods and equipment specified by the vehicle manufacturer. 

To ensure the correct repair of your vehicle, it’s necessary to have the work done at a trusted repair facility which has the technician skill and training, up-to-date equipment, and the quality parts and products to provide a safe and complete repair.  When going to your local collision repair facilities look for evidence of ongoing technician training and a good reputation of doing quality work. Some vehicle brands have authorized collision repair centers with specialized equipment and training to provide a quality repair. Look for current certificates displayed to prove the technicians receive ongoing training from vehicle makers and from I-CAR.

Looking for the I-CAR Gold Class logo is one way to know your collision damaged vehicle is in the hands of trained technicians. Many vehicle makers, including Honda, Nissan, GM, Ford, Fiat Chrysler and others, leverage I-CAR Gold Class repair facilities and I-CAR trained technicians for their repair networks. To learn more about I-CAR Gold Class, visit https://www.goldclass.com

I-CAR Gold Class

Photo courtesy of I-CAR; The I-CAR Gold Class logo signifies a collision repair shop has achieved and maintains a high level of role-relevant training across each of the major collision repair roles.

[1] Advanced High-Strength Steel Structures Collision Repair Update: 

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Forging a Future: Women Impacting Today’s Steel Industry

As an important part of the global economy, many people look to the automotive industry as a trendsetter in the worldwide workplace. Much like the automotive industry, the steel industry has been historically male-dominated since its inception. It didn’t change much until World War II, when Rosie the Riveter told American women they were capable of holding their own, women began to expand their roles outside the home. Though many women left those jobs once the war was over, some stayed, and the notion of women working alongside men gained acceptance. Fast-forward to today, and whether it’s in management, in distribution or in the factories, women are rubbing elbows with men in today’s steel workplace more than ever. In honor of Women’s History Month, we wanted to highlight women that are making an impact in today’s steel industry.

“Advanced high-strength steels help us put the right material in the right place.”
– Theresa Klix, Head of Metallic Materials Engineering,
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

FCA’s head of metallic materials engineering, Theresa Klix, started off as a product development engineer for body structures. Now, she oversees metallurgists and material experts as director of the NAFTA Engineering Standards group, which harmonizes engineering standards across the globe. She talked with us about why Steel Matters to her in a short interview, seen above.

SMDI_Women in Steel_Elizabeth Krear

Keeping within Fiat Chrysler, Elizabeth Krear has an absolutely vital job within the company. She’s the chief engineer of the Ram 1500, the highest-selling vehicle in FCA’s portfolio. She was profiled in a previous blog post after being awarded SMDI’s Industry Innovator award at the 2015 North American International Auto Show. She used Advanced High-Strength Steel in key areas during development of the Ram 1500 that helped it achieve the best gas mileage in its class for fuel economy. Whitney from Be Car Chic sat down with her in 2015 and picked her brain about what drove her to where she is today.

SMDI_Women in Steel_Jackie Stachowski

A mother to four children, Jackie Stachowski of Nucor started out as the youngest-ever metallurgical service engineer in LTV Steel’s history, rising quickly to a role in technical sales before joining General Motors. Now, she is president of the Association of Women in the Metal Industries’ Detroit chapter, where she is helping younger women along the trail she blazed, while encouraging them to forge their own pathway to success. Read more about her in last year’s Mother’s Day Blog Post.

“We’re very lucky to have someone of her caliber aboard, and I’m lucky to have her in my organization.”
– Kevin Doyle, Environmental Division Manager,
ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor

Ensuring that her company keeps the area around it as sustainable as possible, Simonne Benoit is a true asset to ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor, according to many of her compatriots. “The things that she does, work-wise, not only benefit us as a company,” says Kevin Doyle, environmental division manager, “but Northwest Indiana as a whole.” She created a zero-discharge water system that keeps used water inside ArcelorMittal’s ecosystem, rather than discharging it into Lake Michigan. Read more about her in this NWI Times feature.

SMDI_Women in Steel_Brandie Sebastian

The environmental sustainability data created and analyzed by the American Iron and Steel Institute, its partners and other industry members is an important asset to both the steel and automotive industries. By conducting research and building upon knowledge of life cycle data, Brandie Sebastian continually strives to be an agent of change across the steel industry. In her role as the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Manager at the Steel Recycling Institute, she has been instrumental in developing processes and resources for understanding how steel and steel products affect the environment throughout their life cycle. Primed by a background in environmental engineering, she has helped create Environmental Product Declarations for various steel products, conducted LCA studies of automotive lightweighting, serves in leadership roles in LCA and sustainable materials organizations, and continues to improve the data and methods on which the foundation for steel life cycle research resides. She largely credits her success to female mentors at every step of her education and career. Through mentorship, she says, “I learned how to truly value myself and find the courage to take the leap when exciting, yet challenging, opportunities presented themselves.” She’s paying that mentorship forward by helping develop young women in the sustainability field!

SMDI_Women in Steel_Deanna Lorincz

Serving as SMDI’s Senior Director of Communications for six of her 16 years at the Institute, Deanna Lorincz has made her mark by boiling down complicated technical information into language that is easy to understand – even if you’re not a metallurgist. She leads SMDI’s communications strategy with the steady hand of more than 20 years of experience. Deanna was responsible for planning, implementing and launching the inaugural Great Designs in Steel conference in 2002. Under her leadership, it has since become the largest materials-focused event in the world, propelling the visibility of advanced grades of steel to new heights. She credits her success as an advocate for steel to implementing appropriate communications strategies to inform customers about the superior performance advantages of steel, and would advise young women looking to make headway in the industry to “constantly challenge yourself” and “keep an open mind to new ideas.” She’s truly an example of hard work paying off!

There are thousands of women we haven’t mentioned who are impacting today’s automotive and steel industries – from the factories to the boardrooms – balancing work, support of their communities and family. Women’s History Month is a time set aside to recognize them and how they contribute to a better industry. We encourage you, our readers, to join us in honoring women across the world!

Know any other women who are making an impact in the steel and/or automotive industries? Which of these women are most inspirational to you? Leave us a comment and let’s chat!

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