October 17, 2016

Arkansas State and Big River Host Workshop on Future of Steel

Last week Big River Steel and Arkansas State University co-hosted the Collaboration Workshop: Redefining R&D in Metallurgy. Leaders from academia, manufacturing, government and the steel industry who are committed to helping define the next generation of steels gathered together to share expertise and identify areas where additional resources can speed the development and acceptance of advanced high strength steels (AHSS).

What does the future of steel look like?

Experts from the automotive, OCTG (oil country tubular goods) and line pipe, structural tubing, and steelmaking domains each voiced their current challenges and future goals. Though all these industries share common ambitions, they have separate operations and labs for innovation and development. Thus, creating a lack of awareness regarding others’ actions and progress. As you can imagine, there was a common theme in the room – every industry would benefit from a unified effort that brings the independent work together to make it cohesive.

What is a collaborative lab?

A place where all industries, along with students, can come together to work on new research and designs. As most industries currently operate, when a new steel is developed there is a lengthy process of approval and testing before it can be used in production. How can we work together to close the gap in this system?

Think of this example: the automotive industry is in need of higher strength, high ductility steels that are fracture resistant. If steel manufacturers were involved in the process of crash testing material performance in vehicles, they’d have the ability to foresee problems early on. This would greatly increase the opportunity for efficiency, safety and collaboration.

Not to mention, having a collaborative lab that is innovating on a whole new level will allow the United States to stay competitive on a global scale. This partnership is vital to the success of the industry.

What’s next?

Many capabilities for this type of collaborative plant already exist. However, there are gaps in lab capability and a lack of action in bringing them all together to make advanced materials. Jody Shaw, Applications Development at Big River Steel, remains hopeful that changes will come soon. He points out that, “Progress was made at this workshop just by having industry experts clearly identify the unmet needs in steel and pilot plant capability. Everyone who attended voiced a commitment to accelerating the deployment of new and advanced steel products in the marketplace necessary to meet the needs of the 21st century.”

As Arkansas State University is deepening its commitment to educating the engineers of our country, we at Big River Steel continue to push the boundaries of what steel can do. Together, we have an unprecedented opportunity to introduce a new, collaborative approach to R&D that benefits us all. Jody says that next steps include Big River Steel working with Arkansas State University and all interested stakeholders to further define the goals and mission of such an initiative and then identify the resources required to bring it to reality.