Steel that is thinner, stronger and usable
Steel is one of the main materials that Shape Corp. uses, more specifically Docol® steel. The collaboration with steel supplier SSAB has been ongoing for many years, and SSAB has developed stronger and thinner grades of steel as the needs of their customers change. This long-term quest for strength reflects the higher demands for safety and efficiency. At the same time, the thinner steel has the same safety aspects as the thicker one, but the advantage of weighing less and therefore makes it possible to lower the weight.
“I believe one of the first steels we used from SSAB was the Docol 1300M. This was primarily for bumpers,” Oxley continues. “We had been using 980, so it was a big leap to 1300. This was about 50 percent stronger, so we had to come up with innovative ways to be efficient and take advantage of the material.”
Stronger material is great, but you have to be able to make use of it. This is one of Shape Corp.’s major advantages: they are able to find innovative ways to form the steel into the correct shapes.
“SSAB’s Docol 1500M grade of steel was part of one of my first projects,” says Oxley. “We made geometric innovations and new bumper profiles. We made designs to fully utilise the strength of this material. Our customers accepted this solution, and today it is used in manufacturing facilities in the US, EU, Mexico and China.”
Improving safety while lowering costs
One of Shape Corp.’s most impressive innovations is the roof rail tube, the overhead section of the passenger compartment frame.
“There were similar applications in the market, but they used lower strength steel,” says Oxley. “We had an idea of using bending technology with higher strength steel, which was also lower cost.”
The process makes use of Shape Corp.’s technology to roll form and bend in a unique application. The stronger steel would improve safety for the passengers while the lower cost would improve OEMs’ bottom lines. The smaller profile would allow for better driver visibility, more interior space and give a better packaging of airbags. Yet they needed the right type of steel to work with.