Steels Used in the Automotive Industry

This content has been provided by Deutsche Edelstahlwerke (DEW).

Material innovation in the automotive industry is driven by a demand for lighter, safer, more environmentally-friendly, and affordable choices. To this end, steel has emerged as an essential material due to its wide yield strength range, high modulus of elasticity, good corrosion resistance depending on its chemical composition, and good heat resistance. These properties coupled with relatively low costs have made them the preferred and most prevalent material in the automotive industry, accounting for approximately 65% of the vehicle in weight.

With growing consumer awareness of environmental issues, a drive for lightweight components began to take precedence. Lighter vehicles result in greater fuel-efficiency translating to reduced CO2 emissions. An approach that is often taken to decrease the overall weight is to manufacture lightweight materials in order to lighten each component. However, weight reduction of components is often difficult to put into practice due to modified processing methods as well as the need for increased cross-sectional areas due to the different resulting mechanical properties. Thus, the development and advances in high-strength steels, which offer good machinability and an excellent cost/benefit ratio. 

The versatility of steel has made it an indispensable material for the automotive industry, ranging from tool steels to engineering steels to stainless steels. Steel spans all stages of the automobile manufacturing process from the early prototyping stages to the end product.

Cars on assembly line

Tool Steels 

Formadur 400/ Formadur 400 Superclean 

The Formadur 400 Superclean belongs to the family of plastic mould steels and is a pre-hardened steel designed especially for large and complex moulds with deep engravings such as on the body sheet in automobiles. This includes car components such as bumpers, tailgates, fenders and spoilers. The modified chemical composition, secondary metallurgy, and heat treatment of this special steel lend itself to excellent polishing and texturing properties.  

Thermodur 2383 Supercool 

The Thermodur 2383 Supercool is a hot work tool steel for structural component moulds. This special steel is designed for press hardening applications for the production of high-strength components and parts. The Thermodur 2383 Supercool features outstanding thermal conductivity, good wear resistance, good through-hardenability, good high-temperature strength, and long-time tempering resistance. It is used in automobiles for high-strength body parts and allows for easily adjustable strength to weight ratios for the construction of lightweight car bodies.

Thermodur E 40K Superclean

The Thermodur E 40K Superclean is a high-quality special steel with high thermal shock resistance and toughness for die casting moulds. The homogeneity of its microstructure and isotropic mechanical properties confers exceptional toughness and wear resistance at high temperatures.  This makes them well-suited for the die casting of structural elements.

Formadur PH X Superclean

Formadur PH X Superclean is a precipitation-hardened high-strength steel that is corrosion-resistant due to its minimal carbide content. It is a highly polished injection mould for car components such as clear headlights and mirror shells.

Assembly of car parts

Engineering Steels 

Bainidur 1300 

For continuous innovation, prototypes of new components are frequently made e.g. for optimising design, heat treatment, thermochemical surface treatment, and distortion. For new components, additive manufacturing can be used for the prototyping process and help customers translate an idea into an optimised process and into final products. Bainidur 1300 as a metal powder is used in additive manufacturing for such applications; it is preferred over the standard maraging grade 1.270 due to its tolerance of a broad range of cooling conditions while maintaining a uniform bainitic structure. It offers very good machinability, no risk of distortion, good impact strength, and maintains a consistently high level of quality in its manufactured parts. The same material can be used from cradle to grave for prototypes, series production, and spare parts. 

Stainless Steels

Stainless steels are a family of steels known for their high corrosion-resistance and are subsequently used in many functional components in an automobile. They are notably found in many engine parts, where high quality and heat-resistant steel is necessary for intake and outlet valves because hot corrosion may occur. In airbag safety systems, a gas cartridge is pressurized to approximately 300-600 bars with an inert Ar-He mixture. The material demands of the cartridge are such that it must have a minimum lifetime of 15 years and that it should maintain a minimum low-temperature toughness at  -60°C. Acidur 4307Acidur 4305Corrodur 4104 are all types of stainless steels used for these gas cartridges. As well, high-pressure fuel injection systems require high low-temperature toughness, good corrosion resistance, good weldability, and good machinability. The martensitic material Acidur 4057 is a prematerial for such housings in the production stages. 

Article by Deutsche Edelstahlwerke (DEW)

Deutsche Edelstahlwerke (DEW) is one of the world’s leading producers and processors of special steel long products and belongs to the Swiss Steel Group. In the three materials groups – engineering steel, tool steel and stainless, acid and heat resistant steel – Deutsche Edelstahlwerke offers international customers a uniquely wide range of product dimensions, from drawn wire with a diameter of 4.5 mm to open-die forgings with a diameter of 1,100 mm. As a partner with technical competence in steel, Deutsche Edelstahlwerke develops innovative, individual special steel solutions for complex high-tech applications and offers services ranging from steelmaking to extensive steel processing and steel finishing.

Four of the best

Deutsche Edelstahlwerke is the leading producer of long high-grade steel products. The products range from drawn wire with a diameter of 5.0 mm all the way to forged products with a diameter of 1100 mm.

This wide product range makes our offering unique in the world and gives our customers a decisive advantage: with us, they can get everything from a single source.

Tool steels

As one of the world's largest producers of tool steel, we supply exactly the steels that our customers need for their individual products, with properties accurately tailored to the respective application.

Stainless, acid and heat-resistant steels

Stainless, acid and heat-resistant steels from Deutsche Edelstahlwerke are always in demand when extreme technical requirements are imposed on the material. Because of their outstanding chemical corrosion and mechanical properties, these steel grades are particularly used in the chemical industry, mechanical engineering, the food processing industry, power engineering, medical equipment, traffic engineering and the offshore sector.

High-grade structural and anti-friction bearing steels

Automotive engineering, mechanical engineering and gearbox construction would today be almost inconceivable without high-grade structural steels and anti-friction bearing steels from Deutsche Edelstahlwerke. Made-to-measure processing and service properties are achieved by precise setting of the chemical composition and by special production and test conditions.

Special materials

Ferro-Titanit is the name of the carbide-alloyed materials of Deutsche Edelstahlwerke produced by powder metallurgy, uniting the properties of steel and cemented carbides.

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The versatility of steel has made it an indispensable material for the automotive industry; it spans all stages of the automobile manufacturing process from the early prototyping stages to the end product.