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NanoSteel and AK Steel deliver next-gen advanced high-strength steel to GM

NanoSteel, a leader in nanostructured steel materials (earlier post), announced the delivery of its first advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) to General Motors for initial testing. GM Ventures invested in NanoSteel in 2012. (Earlier post.)

Designed to provide automakers with a new standard in material performance, the sheet steel is poised to accelerate vehicle lightweighting initiatives focused on affordably meeting rising global fuel-economy regulations. Production of the material, targeted to the $100 billion-plus automotive steel market, is the result of a multi-year joint development program between NanoSteel and AK Steel Corporation—an industry-leading innovator in steel product development.

NanoSteel’s commercially produced automotive sheet steel overcomes the historical tradeoff between strength and formability by delivering exceptional levels of both properties at the same time (approximately 1200 MPa tensile strength and 50% elongation).

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The high strength allows designers to create parts utilizing thinner-gauge material (less weight) while the high elongation allows manufacturers to produce the newly designed parts without expensive processing techniques, employee retraining or additional capital costs. The unique combination of properties also allows engineers the design freedom to create novel part shapes, which further reduces weight.

Many advanced materials with outstanding properties end up abandoned because they are too hard to use or too expensive to make. NanoSteel’s advanced high strength steel is designed to be both easy to produce—using conventional alloying elements with standard slab casting equipment; and easy to use—enabling the stamping and forming of parts at room temperature without additional manufacturing infrastructure or investment, such as that required for ‘hot’ stamped parts.

—NanoSteel CEO and president David Paratore

In 2015, AK Steel announced a $29-million project to enable production of the next-generation AHSS. The project included modifying the Hot Dip Galvanizing Line (HDGL) at AK Steel’s Dearborn Works, using new process technology to produce both coated and cold-rolled Next-Generation Advanced High Strength Steels on the same line.

Dearborn Works was selected for this project due to the configuration of its existing galvanizing line and state of the art technology. Commissioned in 2011, the HDGL allowed for efficient modifications to produce these Next-Generation Advanced High Strength Steels. The modifications enabled AK Steel to install the new technology to produce coated and cold-rolled products at a fraction of the cost of a new production line.

NanoSteel was born out of six years of research conducted at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in Idaho Falls and funded by internal INL grants, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the United States Department of Defense. Upon its incorporation in 2002, NanoSteel was awarded an exclusive world-wide license to the technology and material discoveries developed from the INL research. NanoSteel has conducted on-going research and development at the company’s R&D laboratory in Idaho Falls to build upon that foundational technology.

Today, R&D at NanoSteel focuses on two key product lines, automotive sheet steel and additive manufacturing powders.

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