Nearly 1,700 automotive and steel industry representatives descended on Livonia, MI today for Great Designs in Steel, a one day conference hosted by Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), exploring and highlighting innovation steel design solutions for autos.

Sean GDIS 475 pixelsSean Donnelly, right, President and CEO of ArcelorMittal Dofasco and Chair, Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) talks automotive and steel industry changes, challenges and opportunities with Andrew Humphrey, host of Tech Time and reporter with WDIV TV in Detroit at SMDI’s Great Designs in Steel.

ArcelorMittal Dofasco President and CEO, Sean Donnelly, kicked off the day with a keynote discussion with Andrew Humphrey, Tech Time host and reporter with WDIV TV in Detroit, MI. Sean highlighted the changes, challenges and opportunities in the steel industry over his 35-year career which started at Dofasco as a production engineer. Sean is also the Chair of the Steel Market Development Institute and during the keynote session he shared personal comments on his career as well as current challenges and opportunities within the automotive and steel industries.

One of the biggest themes to emerge is the development of Life Cycle Analysis which analyzes the true impact of a product from its manufacturing, through use phase and end of life recycling. “Life Cycle Analysis has certainly got my attention,” Sean told the audience. “It’s a global issue to discuss as an industry as we consider climate change and the impact materials have on this phenomenon. What we are really talking about is the total carbon footprint, from digging the iron ore to the driving phase and then the recyclability of autos. Life Cycle Analysis calculates the carbon footprint of that entire process. Climate change is a global issue and steel is a global solution.”

Light-weighting of steels to enable more fuel-efficient autos is driving most of the technical work that’s underway in the steel industry, Sean says. “It is incumbent on steelmakers to develop the products that can achieve this. We’re doing this with the various grades we have developed as we proceed down the elongation / strength banana curve to develop more formable higher strength steels. At the same time, there are the enabling technologies that we assist automotive OEMs with – the manufacturability of the steels such as joining, welding and fit as well as surface quality which are extremely important to proliferate the use of the steel in the vehicles.”

In late 2016, ArcelorMittal announced it was expanding its catalog of advanced automotive steels, with some already being offered up for OEM qualification including press-hardenable Ductibor 1000 and Usibor 2000, the newer, stronger version of its aluminum-silicon-coated, press-hardenable steel. In addition, ArcelorMittal is expanding its MartINsite line of martensitic steels, adding two new grades – M1700 and M2000.

“I recall in my early days in Galvanizing, making steel at that time at 120 ksi (about 800 Mega Pascals, MPa) tensile with about 1 to 2 per cent elongation,” Sean remembers. “It was so stiff you could barely wrap it up on the mandrel and coil it up. We’ve come a long way from those kinds of steels, to these new generation of advanced high strength steels, and more recently the third-generation of advanced high strength steels. If I look back 35-years to imagine the third-generation steels today, I probably couldn’t have predicted what they could become. Looking ahead, the high strength and high formable steel grades are the next big thing and I can’t imagine how advanced they will be.”