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New lightweight steel wheel design equivalent in mass to aluminum; up to 40% cost savings

The Steel Market Development Institute’s (SMDI) Wheels Task Force recently presented the results of its latest lightweight steel wheel project. The analysis developed a new steel wheel design solution that is equivalent in mass to a comparable aluminum wheel, but at a 30 to 40% cost saving. SMDI is a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Lightweight steel wheel concept. Click to enlarge.

This project applied concept design and analytical methods to an existing high-volume wheel to achieve a lightweight design that can be adapted to various vehicle platforms. The overall process applied included:

  • Topology/topography optimization that provided design inspiration for aesthetic shapes and spoke patterns; definition of the optimal wheel construction from a choice of full face, bead seat and drop well wheel; and definition of the optimal load path shape for the chosen number of spokes.

  • Gauge and shape optimization to refine the wheel geometry to maximize performance while minimizing mass.

  • Consideration of a wide range of materials including advanced high strength steels.

  • Final material selection of SAE J2340 490Y grade steel for both rim and disc.

  • Ideation and depiction of alternative accessory wheel trim and dress items options.

The results of this study provide a lightweight design methodology in a format that can be used by automotive wheel designers to help improve designs at a significantly reduced weight and cost.

Funded by members of SMDI’s Wheels Task Force, the steel wheel project engineering work was conducted by Troy, Mich.-based Altair Engineering, Inc.


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