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Article: Ultralight Steel Auto Body: Advanced

Vehicle Concepts.
ULSAB-AVC (Advanced Vehicle Concepts) is the most recent addition to the global
steel industry's series of initiatives offering steel solutions to the challenges facing
automakers around the world today. That is, the need to increase vehicle fuel efficiency
while improving safety and maintaining affordability. ULSAB-AVC concepts
revolutionize the kinds of steels normally applied to vehicle architectures, as well as
demonstrate cutting edge steel vehicle design. This vehicle concepts initiative, engineered
by Porsche Engineering Services Inc., Troy, Michigan, USA, brings the potential for safe,
affordable, fuel efficient vehicles, which are environmentally responsible, to near-term
reality.

Envisioned by the collaborative efforts of 33 international steel producers forming the


ULSAB-AVC Consortium, the ULSAB-AVC Program presents advanced vehicle
concepts that help automakers use steel more efficiently and provide a structural platform
for achieving:

* Anticipated crash safety requirements for 2004

* Significantly improved fuel efficiency

* Optimized environmental performance regarding emissions, source reduction and


recycling

* High volume manufacturability at affordable costs

ULSAB drivers

#High Modulus Ductile (HMD) and High Performance ThermoPlastic Composites


(HPPC) may represent two advanced materials that meet the automobile industry's
requirement for weight reduction, design flexibility, improved moldability, and impact
protection for large body panels. GE Advanced Materials says that its HMD technology
also offers the potential for parts reduction and enhanced integration for body-panel
applications. The HMD grades propose to address technology and design limitations
imposed by material flow restrictions and to improve upon the coefficient of thermal
expansion seen from conventional materials used in body panels.

The company's HPPC is said to offer good coefficient of thermal expansion performance,
indicating that it will likely behave in a manner similar to that of aluminum and steel. GE
says it is an excellent candidate for horizontal body-panel applications in which it could
deliver up to a 50% weight reduction compared to metals, meaning greater fuel
efficiency, higher performance, and good impact protection. It also offers a Class A finish
and good moldability for unique designs and curves, and the ability to be molded with
low-pressure aluminum tools.
Advanced Materials in Automotive:
Advanced materials for automotive manufacturing are helping automakers build lighter,
more fuel-efficient vehicles. With the lighter and stronger steel, aluminum, and
magnesium components, the current crop of cars and trucks can meet stringent crash
safety standards, while also improving fuel economy to help achieve the more strict
government Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) mileage requirements looming on
the horizon.

Proponents for newer high-strength metals all make the case for using their respective
materials in automobiles of the future, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. Steel
still accounts for roughly 60% of the metal used in an average vehicle in North America.
The percentage of aluminum has continued to grow, reaching an all-time high of 8.6% of
curb weight in 2009 North American vehicles, according to a recent study by Ducker
Worldwide (Troy, MI) commissioned by The Aluminum Association Inc. (Washington,
DC). While accounting for a much smaller relative percentage of vehicle content than
either, magnesium weighs much less than steel and aluminum, but it still presents some
processing issues and is mostly limited to die-cast components.

Advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) are becoming much more widely deployed by
automakers for structural parts where thinner, stronger metals not only help save weight,
but also offer substantially improved crash protection. Compared to conventional steels,
AHSS are said to enable lowering a vehicle's body-in-white structural mass by up to
25%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI). AHSS is a series of high-
strength steels containing microstructural phases other than ferrite and pearlite. Most
AHSS have a multiphase microstructure, and these phases include martensite, bainite,
retained austenite, and/or austenite in quantities sufficient to produce unique mechanical
properties, according to the Auto/Steel Partnership (A/SP), a consortium of the Detroit
Three automakers and five North American steel producers. The A/SP recently issued its
revised Advanced High-Strength Steel Applications Design and Stamping Process
Guidelines. Available at its Web site, www.a-sp.org, the case study manual on AHSS
helps designers and engineers specify and apply specific grades of AHSS.

Automotive manufacturers began using high-strength, low-alloy (HSLA) steels in a


significant way in the late 1980s, recalls Dave Anderson, director of the AISI's
Automotive Applications Council. "By the end of the '90s, you could almost look at a car
and say, 'Here's where the HSLA steel parts are on the car.' They had become pretty well
standardized. The physics of the vehicle applications are pretty much the same, because
they were used in crash-worthy parts, and everyone was working on the same crash
standards—that was more or less the state of the industry in 2000. We have been moving
from the base grade of those advanced high strength steels, which I call the 600 grade,
and we've been marching up in strength and in number of pounds used ever since."
Development of AHSS, and more recently dual-phase and ultra-high-strength steels
(UHSS), has resulted in steels with very high tensile strengths, rated between 600 and
1100 MPa, due to higher percentages of martensite. With higher strengths in steels,
there's a trade-off in the formability and machinability of the much harder metals. "The
evolution of steel in automotive is really dependent on what our customers are designing,
and what they need," notes Roger Heimbuch, executive director of ASP.

"In the 2000s, there were worries about cost, fuel efficiency, crash, rollover, side
intrusion, and front integrity, so you don't get damage into the passenger compartment,"
Heimbuch says. "That's when we started introducing the multiphase steels—the dual-
phase, the TRIP [Transformation-Induced Plasticity steel], the complex phase—and those
were produced by varying the chemistry, as well as by the thermomechanical process at
the mill, and then through the subsequent forming operation and bakehard operations at
the auto companies. So we've got very strong material that can help reduce weight, but
meet all crash and energy-management performance requirements."

Aluminum automotive components can be found nearly everywhere in cars and trucks
today. Lighter than steel, aluminum is very ductile, highly recyclable, and can easily be
formed into parts, including those used for powertrain applications such as engine blocks
and heads. The material makes dramatic reductions in motor-vehicle weight possible.

Honda and BMW are now the aluminum-content leaders, according to the Ducker study,
replacing General Motors and Nissan, with both companies averaging more than 340 lb
(154 kg) of aluminum per vehicle. GM, Honda, Toyota, BMW, Hyundai, and
Volkswagen all increased the aluminum content of their North American vehicles from
2006 to 2009. On a component basis, the study cites engine blocks and steering knuckles
as exhibiting the largest increase in growth over the last three years, with penetration of
aluminum blocks reaching nearly 70%, the largest driver of aluminum growth in this
decade. More than 22% of vehicles currently made in the US have aluminum hoods, an
all-time record, according to the study.

"The use of aluminum in the automotive industry has grown every year for
the past 30 years," observes Kevin Lowery, of Alcoa Inc. (Pittsburgh) and
chairman of the Aluminum Association's communications committee, Auto
and Light Truck Group.

Aluminum space frame technology appears in many upscale cars, including


the Corvette, the Audi TT, Ferrari, and the Acura TL, notes Lowery. "The
space frame is like the skeleton of a car," Lowery states. "It's essentially the
structural aspect of the car. More and more OEMs are understanding that
you can get high strength from aluminum. You can work with aluminum
and design it such that you can eliminate multiple pieces or multiple parts,
if you're involved early enough in the design phase. And in addition to the
high strength, you'll get the weight savings."

Magnesium use in automotive shows promise, with much research on


applicability to auto applications. The metal is predominantly used in die-
cast parts including four-wheel-drive transfer cases, transmission cases,
engine cradles, steering-wheel components, seats, and instrument panels. While
magnesium is abundant and is about a quarter of the weight of steel and two-thirds the
weight of aluminum, it can present processing problems. "Die-cast is probably the
primary production methodology at this juncture," notes Greg Patzer, executive vice
president, International Magnesium Association (IMA, Wauconda, IL). "Work is being
done in sheet and forming, but by far, die cast is the way most things are produced."

Research into automotive use of magnesium continues with work by the Pacific
Northwest National Laboratory (Richland, WA) under cooperative efforts sponsored by
the US Department of Energy and the United States Automotive Materials Partnership
(USAMP), part of the United States Council for Automotive Research LLC (USCAR,
Washington, DC). USCAR is a joint research collaboration of GM, Ford, and Chrysler. In
addition, a collaborative project between the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial
Research Organization (CSIRO, Australia) and USAMP is researching use of the
magnesium AMSC1 alloy in a new sand-cast magnesium engine research project. That
research shows the advanced magnesium alloy offers not just a higher strength-to-weight
ratio, but also offers greater noise and vibration dampening than either aluminum or steel.

Use of magnesium, aluminum, and even titanium alloys, as well as the ultra-high-strength
steels, will be covered at the upcoming Materials Science & Technology conference to be
held in Pittsburgh October 25–29, sponsored by ASM International (Novelty, OH), and
three other materials societies.

Composites in automotive also are a key research area within ASM, as the Ground
Transportation Committee is studying alternative approaches, including glass, ceramics,
and nanotechnology, as well as electronic, magnetic, environmental, and energy issues.
Composite materials are used widely in more cost-conscious platforms, like family
sedans. These materials include the polymer-based composites used in body panels for
some Saturn models, and fiberglass composites.

Process issues can often arise with materials that present problems in formability and
machinability. "My understanding was that people were starting to move away from
magnesium, for a couple of reasons," says Don Graham, manager of turning products and
educational services, Seco Tools (Warren, MI). "It was all the rage about 3–5 years ago,
and a lot of people were working on magnesium components. Then, for various reasons,
they began moving back to aluminum.

"Magnesium typically is in cast components that require no machining, and if they do


require machining, typically it's drilling," Graham says. "When it comes to magnesium,
we find that the best cutting-tool material to be a polished, positive-rake, uncoated
carbide insert, typically a micrograin carbide. Using a hard, uncoated carbide insert with
a polished surface, very positive rake, is good. Typically you use
highpressure coolant, which helps to keep temperature down."

For machining harder materials, Seco developed its Duratomic grade of


inserts. These tools have a special coating that, combined with high
cutting speeds, can improve machining processes for higher-tensile-
strength alloys. The coating allows chips to slide more easily, with a
lower coefficient of friction, lower heat generation, less built-up edge,
better surface finish, and less wear.

Machining dissimilar metal components for an electric motor on an


electric vehicle program required developing a new machining strategy, according to
Brian Hoefler, product development manager, Valenite LLC (Madison Heights, MI). The
company has been working on electric motor prototypes for a Detroit Three automaker
that sourced the first 50 parts to Valenite, which is producing the components in its lab.

"In a traditional electric motor, you have copper windings," Hoefler notes. "They've come
up with a way to use cast aluminum surrounding the metal plates, in order to create the
same electric motor without having to wind it with copper. There's a process where they
stamp out the metal, stack it, then cast the aluminum around it, and we machine it so it's
basically a generator shaft for an electric motor."

To machine the dissimilar metals, Hoefler says he employed a fairly traditional tool. "We
used a traditional diamond material on the sections that are mostly 6–8% silicon-
aluminum, and then in the composite area, we actually used our new microform
technology, and had great luck with it. We invented microform for something else; it just
so happened it ran very well in the composite area. So we made a proposal to have a
strategy for machining the parts, and we met with the OEM here at our facility. We
showed them how it worked, and they're going to give us some prototype orders, just to
relieve the burden on them to produce them."
Much of the company's automotive work is producing valve seats for engines. "Our tools
for producing valve seats on engines are among the Detroit Three's global best practices
so every engine that they produce in the world uses our valve seating tools," Hoefler
notes. "We have some boring technology that we've developed in the last couple of years
that enables boring cylinders within 3–4 µm."