When one door opens, another door opens, it is said. In ArcelorMittal's case, when one door was in danger of closing, the company designed a new door.
Concerned about federal fuel economy standards that require vehicles to average 54.4 miles per gallon by 2025, ArcelorMittal's researchers got to work on designing a new ultralight car door that weighs 27 percent less than existing steel car doors.
When talk of the new fuel economy standard began, industry observers thought automakers would switch to aluminum for car bodies because it's a lighter metal.
To fight for market share, ArcelorMittal's engineers went into the auto body design business, not to compete with auto industry designers but to show options and ArcelorMittal's commitment to that market.
ArcelorMittal's "S-in-Motion" project, which involved the East Chicago research and development center as well as others, won the Society of Innovators' Chanute Prize for Team Innovation last fall.
"By applying the present solutions, a car door can be 30 percent less expensive than an aluminum door," said Greg Ludkovsky, vice president of global research and development.
Northwest Indiana's economy stands to benefit from ArcelorMittal's commitment to R&D, as this project shows. Automakers are important customers for local steel mills, accounting for an estimated 20 percent of the steel industry's orders.
The new car door designed by ArcelorMittal, along with other auto parts, will help the company continue to supply the automotive industry when government-mandated fuel economy tightens to 54.4 miles per gallon.
This project alone shows the value of continued investment in R&D to help businesses secure their future.