How Aircraft Quality Steel Drives the Auto Industry Further
November 15, 2012 -
As one of most durable and heat-resistant alloys, 4130 grade steel is a well-known component of aircraft engines, landing gear assemblies and airframes. Unlike some other forms of steel, aircraft quality 4130 grade steel is often "case-hardened" by introducing additional carbon into the surface layer during heat treatment. This reduces its susceptibility to normal wear and tear through exposure to high heat and repetitive motions.
For decades, 4130 alloy steel has been helping pilots get off the ground. In recent years, it has also become a crucial component of automotive suspensions, transmissions and powertrains. As the country's auto industry works to meet mandatory emissions-reduction goals over the next decade, lightweight 4130 grade steel is likely to become increasingly prevalent in new cars.
Since lightweight aircraft quality steel can resist temperatures of up to 700 degrees without losing its strength, it's commonly used in the connecting rods, lugs and bearings that keep car engines functioning smoothly. Since it's especially strong and has fewer internal inclusions that can weaken lesser metals, 4130 grade steel is also a key component of the clutches and flywheels that must withstand thousands of repetitive motions each year.
Meanwhile, its natural resistance to corrosion is especially useful in suspension components like axles, trailing arms and "a-arms." Like wheel housings, these frame components are typically exposed to high amounts of dust and moisture. Case-hardened 4130 alloy steel is designed to extend these parts' useful lives by repelling corroding agents and resisting oxidation.
Recent rumors that the automotive industry will rely on aluminum rather than steel to lower its future vehicles' curb weights may be premature. 4130 steel is significantly stronger than aluminum thus smaller parts can be designed. The value that this durable, corrosion-resistant alloy offers far outweighs any marginal weight increase that it confers.
In fact, the Steel Market Development Institute recently commended Ford for its novel use of 4130 grade steel in the new 2013 Fusion. Thanks in part to its lighter weight 4130 steel components, the new Fusion also earned Green Car Journal's coveted 2013 Green Car of the Year award. Going forward, other automakers are sure to follow Ford down this exciting new path.