ULSAC Programme Reports

  • 42% lighter than the average benchmarked frameless door
  • 22% lighter than the best-in-class benchmarked door (framed door)
  • 46% lighter than the average benchmarked frameless door
  • 27% lighter than the best-in-class benchmarked door (framed door)

UltraLight Steel Auto ClosuresThe Ultralight Steel Auto Closure (ULSAC) Program is a study undertaken by the global steel producers to demonstrate the effective use of steel in producing lightweight, structurally sound steel automotive closures that are manufacturable and affordable. ULSAC began as a concept development program, producing lightweight designs for doors, hoods, decklids and hatches that are up to 32% lighter than the average benchmark.

The program continued to the manufacture of steel frameless door demonstration hardware that achieves dramatic results in mass reduction and performance, yet is manufacturable in high-volume at affordable costs.

 Background
The UltraLight Steel Auto Closure (ULSAC) program demonstrates the effective use of steel in producing lightweight, structurally sound automotive closure panels that are manufacturable in high volume and affordable. ULSAC began as a concept development program, producing innovative concept designs for doors, hoods, decklids and hatches that are up to 32 percent lighter than benchmarked averages and 10 percent lighter than best-in-class, while meeting stringent structural performance targets.

These results were obtained through innovative steel design combining ultra-high strength steels with manufacturing technologies such as tailored blanks, hydroforming and laser welding.

Like the UltraLight Steel Auto Body (ULSAB) study, the ULSAC program was commissioned by an international consortium of 31 sheet steel producers to assist their automotive customers with viable lightweighting solutions. The ULSAC Consortium contracted Porsche Engineering Services, Inc. (PES), Troy, Michigan USA, to provide design and engineering management for both the Concept and Validation Phases of the program.

Validation Phase – Door with Stamped Outer
Following the successful Concept Phase, the ULSAC program proceeded to the validation of a frameless door design. The ULSAC Consortium chose to build and test the frameless door as a demonstration because it is representative of a range of closure concepts developed during the Concept Phase. The frameless door embodies most of the advanced concepts in structure, technology and steel usage developed in the Concept Phase designs and demonstrates their feasibility. Successful manufacture of the frameless door dramatically demonstrates the value and structural efficiency in combining innovative design, advanced technology and steel.

In May 2000, the ULSAC Consortium released the Validation Phase results for a complete frameless door structure. The door structure featured a high and ultra high strength steel tubular frame and a stamped outer panel of 0.7 mm BH 260 steel. The complete door structure weighed 10.47 kg (normalized mass, 13.27 kg/m2). This is 22 percent lighter than the framed door best-in-class benchmark and 42 percent lighter than the average frameless door Validation Phase benchmark. This was achieved without compromising safety or structural performance and at no cost penalty.

Validation Phase – Door with Sheet Hydroformed Outer
Additional mass reduction also was investigated in the Validation Phase by manufacturing the outer panel, using the sheet hydroforming process. The process was intended to gain uniform stretch in the middle of the panel while maintaining dent resistance and oil canning performance at a lower mass.

Sheet hydroforming for complex parts, such as door outer panels, is a process under development. With completion of the Validation Phase, much more has been learned about the performance of differing grades and thicknesses and how stamping and hydroforming compare in dent resistance and oil canning, as well as overall door performance and cost, for the ULSAC door design.

A similar range of materials utilized for the manufacture of the stamped outer panels was used for the production of the test doors with sheet hydroformed door outer panels.

Oil canning and dent testing determined that 0.6 mm thick Dual Phase (DP) 600 steel material was the best choice among the sheet hydroformed outer panels to use in the demonstration hardware (DH) door structure. The validation door with a sheet hydroformed outer panel weighs 9.77 kg and meets all structural performance and safety targets at a slight cost increase of $3.72 per door, assuming an annual vehicle production volume of 225,000. With the 0.7 kg further reduction in weight, this door is 27 percent lighter than the best-in-class benchmarked door and 46 percent lighter than the average frameless door benchmark.

This research was conducted to explore the potential of the sheet hydroforming process for further mass reduction in auto body outer panels. The results indicate that, with further development to reduce cycle times, a sheet hydroformed outer panel could be used to effect additional weight reduction over the already significant achievement of the ULSAC door with stamped outer panels.

ULSAC Consortium Member Steel Companies:

Aceralia Corporación Siderúrgica, S.A.
AK Steel Corporation
Bethlehem Steel Corporation
BHP Steel
China Steel Corporation
Corus
  Dofasco Inc.
Ispat Inland, Inc.
Kawasaki
  Kobe Steel, Ltd.
  LTV Steel Company, Inc.
  National Steel Corporation
Nippon Steel Corporation
NKK Corporation
Pohang Iron and Steel (POSCO)
  Rautaruukki Oyj
  Rouge Steel Company
Salzgitter AG
SIDERAR S.A.I.C.
Stahl-Informations-Zentrum
Stelco Inc.
  The Tata Iron and Steel Company, Ltd. (TISCO)
  ThyssenKrupp Stahl AG
  U.S. Steel Group
USINOR Group
voestalpine STAHL GmbH
WCI
Weirton Steel Corporation

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