Steel Not Standing Still

ArcelorMittal is making investments in advancing the state of steel—and steel-making.

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The ArcelorMittal (usa.arcelormittal.com) Indiana Harbor complex in East Chicago, Indiana, is the largest integrated steelmaking facility in North America, and the steel maker is continuing to make investments in the mammoth facility, on the order of more than $200-million. The so-called “footprint project” has been underway for a few years now, says Carrie Lauritzen, metallurgist and quality design engineer. “We’re positioning Indiana Harbor to be the premier line for hot-rolled products for the company.” And the company, incidentally, is said to be the world’s largest steel and mining company. 

Among the investments are $60-million for a new caster at the No. 3 steel shop and extensive upgrades at the 80-inch hot-strip mill, “The Mighty 80.” Two of the facility’s three walking-beam furnaces have been rebuilt, enhancing the ability to “walk” a steel slab through the furnace as it’s being heated with no friction from the support structure. This prevents gouging and virtually eliminates delamination-related defects as the slab is 
subsequently hot-rolled, finished and coiled. Other recent installations improve quality control and inspection and include instantaneous profile gages supplying continuous profile measurements, shape and profile meters, and automated surface inspection. “We believe the 80-inch hot strip mill is capable of the tightest chemistry control and cleanliness in the industry,” Laurintzen says.

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“Co-Engineering”
Although construction materials consume the majority of Indiana Harbor’s output, (6.4-million slab tons per year), automotive takes up a notable amount, approximately 33 percent, according to the company. According to company executives, ArcelorMittal engineers are embedded in the design and engineering facilities of the global automakers to further lightweighting, fuel efficiency and safety improvements, a process it dubs “co-engineering.”
At the ArcelorMittal R&D center, also in East Chicago, Brian Aranha, executive vice president and head of strategy for global automotive and R&D acknowledged, “living in a world of global oversupply, how we innovate is a key differentiator.” The center has a multitude of labs where work is being done on a variety of subjects, including welding, denting, formability, corrosion testing and process improvements.

“S-in motion” is a project that ArcelorMittal has been working on since 2010 and through it has introduced 63 steel parts for a standard, C-segment vehicle. The materials include a range of different press hardened steels (PHS), advanced high strength steels (AHSS), and long products for chassis and suspension components. Together, these 63 solutions offer a body-in-white (BIW) weight reduction of 20 percent, and a 6.23-gram drop in CO2 emissions per kilometer, when compared to the 2009 baseline vehicle, according to the company.
In September 2014, ArcelorMittal announced the S-in motion Steel Pick-Up, which offers sets of steel specifications to reduce the average weight of pick-up trucks. One uses currently available AHSS and PHS grades such as Usibor 1500 and Ductibor 500 and can reduce BIW weight by up to 23 percent compared with a 2014 baseline vehicle. Reducing the average weight of pick-ups by this amount saves more than 14 grams of CO2-equivalent emissions per kilometer.

Other program advances include the industry’s first laser-welded hot-stamped door ring and the ultra-lightweight steel door. In fact, 13 unique automotive steel solutions now exist under S-in motion, providing automakers with the ability to produce lighter, more cost-effective parts without sacrificing safety, style or performance and while being environmentally responsible, as well.

Co-engineering, R&D priorities and continuing company consolidation are all being assembled under what ArcelorMittal is calling “Action 2020,” where the company’s goals are to remain cost-competitive with no loss of volume/market share. Higher productivity and better yields are the key.

Recycling and sustainability gains are big parts of the plan’s efforts. Up to 29 percent of each ton of steel is made from steel scrap and that percentage will grow as process efficiencies continue to improve. No. 3 Steel Producing at Indiana Harbor is the only steel shop in the U.S. considered a zero-discharge steelmaking operation. Process water from the ladle metallurgy facility (LMF) and caster goes through a treatment facility and gets reused to cool the gas collected by the basic oxygen furnace hoods. The system reuses about 500,000 gallons of water each day, water which previously was discharged into the Indiana Harbor ship canal and subsequently Lake Michigan. All that water is returned to Lake Michigan cleaner than when it was taken, the company says.