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Engineering Materials

Metals Still Rule in Lightweighting

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Rob Spiegel
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Re: Thank you
Rob Spiegel   6/7/2012 9:21:06 AM
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Thanks Ann. Sounds like steel still has a strong foothold in automotive. If steel can continue to develop stronger, lighter alternatives, it sounds like the steel industry can hold its own in cars.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Thank you
Ann R. Thryft   6/6/2012 4:32:46 PM
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Rob, there are definitely industry differences. Generally speaking, aerospace has been using composites, both glass and carbon fiber-based, for decades, first in military planes and more recently in commercial aircraft (as well as in spacecraft). Whereas in cars it's more recent and confined primarily to race or specialty cars. Regarding metals, steel doesn't figure much in aircraft because of its weight; the primo metal there is aluminum. Metals in most commercial planes still average over 50%. In Detroit cars, metals are a much higher proportion, primarily because of the cost of composites and the difficulty in adapting their manufacturing to highly automated, high-volume automotive production. All of this is a moving target.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Thank you
Rob Spiegel   6/6/2012 2:53:55 PM
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Ann, is there an industry component to whether new composites or legacy metals tend to win the lightweight argument? Seems that aerospace likes components. In the auto industry is there more bias toward steel? Or am I reading this incorrectly?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Thank you
Ann R. Thryft   6/6/2012 11:52:07 AM
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Dave, thanks for the feedback. I was impressed with the thorough, detailed approach this study took to the materials decision making process. There's been a lot more news about composites than about metals and, in fact, many of the R&D efforts I've reported on are new materials. Also, I've had a tough time getting many metals companies to talk to me about lightweighting, especially in the steel industry, especially for automotive applications. So thanks for the info about carburized steel. What I'm especially interested in is structural applications and AHSS, as well as titanium and magnesium in aerospace and/or automotive apps.

Dave Palmer
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Thank you
Dave Palmer   6/6/2012 11:18:40 AM
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@Ann: Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article.  There are some people who think that "lightweighting" means "make it out of plastic." This tends to go hand in hand with an idea that aluminum and steel are "old materials," while plastics and composites are "new materials."

The fact is that aluminum and steel technologies are hardly standing still.  If you want evidence, just look at the new carburizing steels which QuesTek has developed.  These alloys were developed from the ground up, starting with computational models.   This is an exciting approach, which I think will bear even more fruit in the future.

Rob Spiegel
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Legacy materials fight back
Rob Spiegel   6/6/2012 9:17:56 AM
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It has been interesting to see steel fight back against new materials. Legacy materials and systems benefit from technology as well as new materials. Another example is the internal combustion engine. It may get so efficient that it edges out hybrids and EVs for consumers wanting to go green.

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