Since the mid 1970’s, public concern’s about global warming, energy use, and consumer safety have prompted automakers to make changes in the way they design and produce vehicles. As a result, steel firms who produce parts for the auto-industry have also had to adjust the way they do business. One of the most groundbreaking innovations of the past thirty years has been the introduction of tailor welded steel blanks. The production and use of these customized pieces in the steel and auto industries has reduced production costs, allowed automakers to build lighter and therefore more fuel efficient vehicles, and greatly improved the crash performance of cars.
Tailor welded blanks were originally produced by the German firm ThyssenKrupp Steel AG in 1985. Before the introduction of Tailor Welded Blanks, automobile parts were stamped one by one based on the the different thicknesses and material compositions of each part. The stamped parts were then welded together to create a complete piece. ThyssenKrupp improved this process by laser welding different materials with different thicknesses into a single “blank” piece before stamping. Then, the blank could be stamped into one complete automobile part. This process greatly reduced production costs because it allowed steel makers to stamp complete pieces rather than stamping and then welding together smaller parts to create a complete piece. These new tailor welded blanks also had tremendous benefits for automakers. They greatly improved the structural rigidity of automobile parts, giving cars that had parts stamped from tailor welded blanks better crash test ratings. Improvements in the structural rigidity of parts also meant that parts that had previously been reinforced no longer needed the extra support, reducing the overall weight of vehicles by decreasing the number of parts.
Shortly after ThyssenKrupp Steel’s development of tailor welded blanks, steel producers across the world began to adjust the way they produced parts to meet automakers demand for parts stamped from tailor welded blanks. Today, nearly all major automakers produce cars with parts made from tailor welded blanks, and as a result major steel makers have adapted in to order to maintain business relationships with automakers.