The steel industry now makes more than 3,500 different grades of steel, including many that did not exist a decade ago.
ArcelorMittal and other steelmakers have been producing more and more grades of advanced high-strength steels, mainly to serve automakers who are looking to cut weight out of vehicles to reduce emissions and improve mileage.
“Based on our customer needs, steel is constantly evolving,” ArcelorMittal USA Market Development Manager Matt Spurgeon said in a news release. “We need to develop new products to remain competitive in the marketplace. At the same time, environmental concerns increase the demand for lighter weight parts, which is also a driver for new steel grades.”
The ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor steel mill in Burns Harbor, for instance, now makes more than 170 grades of steel. Some of the new grades are developed through the process of trial and error.
“The number of melt grades isn’t necessarily an indication of product for sale expansion,” ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor 160" Plate Mill Process Metallurgist Frank Feher in the news release. “In many cases regarding plates, a new grade may be developed for fine-tuning the chemistry of something that is already being produced to make properties more robust.”
More than 35 new grades have been developed in the last 12 years alone by researchers like those at ArcelorMittal Research and Development in East Chicago.
“Steel offers unique solutions to customers," ArcelorMittal USA Market Development Manager Scott Blazek said in the news release. "They can adopt a higher strength steel grade, reduce the thickness and therefore the weight of the part, while enhancing or maintaining the engineering performance of that component. All of this is achievable while also reducing the total cost of the steel in that part. Only steel offers this combination of cost and weight savings, with enhanced strength.”
Tougher new government emission standards around the globe have driven a lot — but not all — of the product development.
“Based on our customer needs, steel is constantly evolving,” Blazek said. “We need to develop new products to remain competitive in the marketplace. At the same time, environmental concerns increase the demand for lighter weight parts, which is also a driver for new steel grades.”
The advanced high-strength steel market totaled $25.23 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach $40.85 billion by 2023, according to the Markets and Markets business-to-business research firm. Vehicles like the Kia Telluride and the Cadillac XT6 have been incorporating more advanced high-strength steel into their designs.
“The trend toward lightweighting will continue to evolve,” Spurgeon said. “Each market has its specific requirements and we tailor our products and processes to the requirements of those industries.”