Steel is in a battle to retain market share as automotive engineers face tough decisions about how to reduce weight. Steel producers have introduced advanced steels that are lower weight and higher quality than the mild steels they replace. However, engineers are not happy with the quality control on much of the steel the receive, based on comments made on a recent Design News survey conducted by RBI Research in Waltham, MA. A few examples:
“The material that I have been getting lately is not rolled into a true rectangular profile. One side of the longer edge is often slightly curved, near the shorter edge.” The criticism refers to AISI 1018 cold-rolled steel (low-carbon, manganese-rich).
”Need a better micro structure.” Referring to 8620 steel, a hardenable chromium, molybdenum, nickel low-alloy steel often used for carburizing.
”(I need) better consistency of crystalline structure for low alloy steels.” Referring to low alloy (2.25%Cr - 1.0% Mo) steels
”Need better resistance to corrosion from H2S and organic sulfur and corrosion from naphthenic acids in crudes /bitumens.” Referring to A516 series of carbon steel and TP 316/317 types of 18-8 stainless steel.
”Need better avaialblity of cold-heading quality of 8640 alloy steel in diameters needed to produce 1-inch to 1 ½-inch fasteners.
”Better finish. Less scale.” Hot-rolled steel.
”Better varnish for magnet wire.”
”Get increased surface hardness along with better corosion resistance.” Referring to stainless steel generally.
Admittedly, some of the problems relate to poor quality from Asian suppliers, where definitions of specifications can vary widely, to be generous. One survey respondent said: “There needs to be a clear expectation with regards to rusting/corrosion with type 304 and others as it relates to Cr and Ni content. The ‘junk’ from China is usually at the minimum for Ni.”
But many comments indicated there is a significant problem in consistency from all sources, either in grain structure, or chemical composition or in forming. More than 200 engineers participated in the survey, and they were promised confidentiality. Thanks to our readers who participated. A detailed report of the composite findings will be published in the Design News Trend Watch supplement in August. I’m going to cherry pick more of the specific comments in this blog over the next few weeks. Hopefully, some suppliers are reading, and take notes on potential improvements.
BMW has already incorporated more than 10,000 3D-printed parts in the Rolls-Royce Phantom and intends to expand the use of 3D printing in its cars even more in the future. Meanwhile, Daimler has started using additive manufacturing for producing spare parts in Mercedes-Benz Trucks.
SABIC's lightweighting polycarbonate glazing materials have appeared for the first time in a production car: the rear quarter window of Toyota's special edition 86 GRMN sports car, where they're saving 50% of its weight compared to conventional glass.
Design engineers play a big role in selecting both suppliers and materials for their designs. Our most recent Design News Materials Survey says they continue to be highly involved, in some ways even more than the last time we asked to peek inside their cubicles.
Daihatsu is one of the first carmakers to customize car exteriors using 3D printing's mass customization capabilities. Effect Skins -- small exterior bumper and fender panels in different colors and textures -- can be ordered for its Copen convertible.
Several new products in this group of new adhesives, coatings, and sealants are formulated to protect sensitive electronic components, or to seal components of commercial and military aircraft. Others are designed to operate in tough, messy, dirty oil & gas operations, or for rotary applications and motors.
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