Steel Continues to Drive Innovation and Staying Power

AK Steel’s Research and Innovation Center was built for collaboration with customers, and includes a state of the art pilot production operation for steelmaking and upstream research and development.

If you asked somebody at the dawn of the 20th century what the world would look like in the year 2020, the answers would have varied wildly.

Those who were making a living in a thriving steel industry may not have foreseen a day when new materials would claim to have benefits over steel.

But as we get ready to move into a new decade, we continue to know what has remained true for more than a hundred years:  innovation drives the steel industry, and there is not a more cost-effective, flexible or safe material than steel when it comes to manufacturing automobiles.

Such is the staying power of steel.

“Steel brings tremendous value to companies that make automobiles and automotive components,” said Scott Stevens, General Manager, Applications and Advanced Engineering in AK Steel’s Research and Innovation organization. “Steel’s inherent strength, overall performance, and value result in innovative solutions, which make it hard to beat.”

AK Steel was founded nearly 120 years ago in Middletown, Ohio, where one if its largest plants   operates today.  Headquartered in West Chester, Ohio, the company’s focus on innovation and proximity to customers, including those in the automotive industry in Detroit, continues to be a benefit for the business today. 

AK Steel is the only North American producer of carbon, stainless and electrical steels.  It remains focused on delighting customers with innovative steel products and processes that automotive companies may not have even dreamed of just a few years ago.

Employees at AK Steel’s Research and Innovation Center bring deep expertise in steelmaking to create new steel products to meet customers’ needs today and for the future. 

“If a customer is looking for outstanding products, or a new product to meet their needs, we work collaboratively with them to deliver innovative solutions, said Stevens. “We engage constantly with OEM engineers who design vehicles to ensure they get what they need, because that is the foundation of our business.”

Innovation is a key driver to the steel industry.  In fact, today 75% of the 3,500 steel grades currently in use around the world did not even exist 20 years ago.

Not only do automotive OEMs plan their future products years in advance.  They also set performance targets very early on, in the design stage. This is where steel companies like AK Steel are invaluable to their automotive partners.

“We work daily with our customers to deliver high performance, cost effective solutions that also help them achieve their overall performance, safety and fuel efficiency standards,” said Stevens.   

Steel continues to offer the widest range of strength and formability compared to other competing materials, which gives it significant advantages in product applications and manufacturing.   

As automotive performance, fuel economy and safety regulations increase, AK Steel continues to provide new solutions.  That is why they have developed products like 3rd Generation Advanced High Strength Steels (AHSS) NEXMET® 1000 & 1200, and DI-MAX® HF-10X electrical steel. NEXMET® AHSS is designed to help in automotive lightweighting applications, while DI-MAX® HF-10X allows the production of more efficient motors for hybrid/electric vehicles.

Specifically, the NEXMET® family of products offer higher strength, greater ductility, and improved formability solutions for structural and exterior automotive body lightweighting needs.  DI-MAX® HF-10X is a non-oriented electrical steel designed for use in high speed motors, traction motors, and other rotating equipment.

Steel remains a product of choice with OEMs, and there is no sign of that stopping any time soon.

“When you consider safety, cost, and overall performance, which includes enhanced manufacturability that allows the efficient production of complex automotive parts, steel continues to provide the best overall value,” says Stevens.  “At AK Steel, we are not only delivering solutions for vehicles built today, but also working years in advance to deliver new product and process innovation to meet our customers’ future needs.”  

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