By on September 16, 2009

Steel is heating up... (

The NYT covers some of the advancements in the steel that goes into cars. One surprise? “North America doesn’t have to take a back seat to anyone,” when it comes to steel content, according to an analyst who specializes in automotive steel. Apparently the steel industry has been feeling the heat from aluminum, composites and other materials, and they’re fighting back with super-strong high-tech alloys that can still be stamped or molded. Still, the pull between high-quality components and cost-cutting never ends. And as thestreet reports, a looming trade war with China could soon make the steel game even crazier.

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12 Comments on “Know Your Materials...”

  • avatar

    What is continued other than a page view?

  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    Nothing… we just got a new template, and apparently it’s a bit temperamental. Sorry for the extra click!

  • avatar
    Andy D

    It is good to know the US still has a steel industry of any sort.

  • avatar

    Chinese steel is notorious for being utter crap. Rusted before it gets off the ship. Any steel bolts I’ve used from Chinese suppliers have had the heads pop off the threaded bodies at ridiculously low torques. The rumor is that the Chinese add filler crap like tires to their steel batches to increase weight and decrease cost. Here’s an article from a couple years ago talking about construction steel.

    Oh, and I really like this NYTimes article. I feel that the advancements in material science in the last 50 years is what has led to some our greatest technology which we now take for granted. Whats really exciting are the whole new material breakthroughs in nanotechnology, ceramics, and composites taking place now.

  • avatar

    There are several ways to lower the weight of a car (and get better fuel economy and performance). The most obvious is make the cars smaller. But the real future route is with more advanced materials with advanced engineering like these new steel alloys. I look forward to a new auto that is approximately the same size as its predecessor but weighs LESS utilizing these new materials.

  • avatar

    “North America doesn’t have to take a back seat to anyone
    I am not surprised at all. There is a lot of good stuff going on out there in the USA if you look for the positive.
    Oh, when I clicked “more of this” I got a page saying I was banned, Who knew?
    have fun with the new software.
    Andy D
    Look around, you may be surprised at what you see.

  • avatar

    US steel is definitely up there with the best of the world. Chinese steel sometimes isn’t even all steel. An audit of a Chinese skyscraper construction site last year found out that the steel they were using had a density that was less than what steel should have been. That’s scary when you consider they were building A SKY SCRAPER!

    In much of the rest of the world you get A36 grade structural steel as a standard (36 ksi Ultimate Stress), while in the US you only get plate steel and angle iron in such low grade steel anymore for building construction. As steel is recycled it loses the impurities that didn’t get filtered out the first time and so through recycling steel you get a higher grade of steel. Much of what is used in the US is recycled so even the A36 steel used today is closer to 50 ksi than 36 min it’s rated for.

  • avatar

    As steel is recycled it loses the impurities that didn’t get filtered out the first time and so through recycling steel you get a higher grade of steel.

    Aren’t the Chinese buying up our scrap steel (and paper) to build and package more stuff for us to buy? I remember reading a LA Times articles about companies in the US buying scraps and getting them shipped back to China cheap because of all the empty containers going back to China from the US.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    It was a fun read.

    I wondered what it was like to be NY Times reporter happily calling around to steel companies to get them explain advances in their field. Collecting good news instead of bad.

    I’m no steel expert but they barely touched the surface of how today’s steel and steel car parts can be so superior to Model T era if the customer wants it to be.

  • avatar

    American steel is as good as anyone’s, and better if you want it – and price-competitve – but the same could not be said 30 years ago. But US capacity is way down, also.

  • avatar

    Interestingly, some of the really exotic steels are used for bicycle frames. Most high end steel bikes use air hardening steels which get harder after welding, as well as heat treated tubing for more strength and less weight. The absolute top end use maraging stainless steels like Reynolds 953 which grows martensite crystals over time. Of course a 953 framed bike costs about as much as a cheap car but…

  • avatar

    . . . . it performs better, rides better, and is more enjoyable to live with in the long run.

    Bicycles is another one of those places where the obituary for steel was written way too early. Yeah, the Tour de France bikes are carbon fiber, but an amazing percentage of high end bicycles sold in the US are still steel framed. And quite a few of those still use the traditional lugged construction.

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