Thanks to new high-speed computers and newly available strain rate data, engineers now can replicate crash behavior of high-strength steels in crush-zone and safety cage structures, says a paper presented by Jody Shaw, manager of technical marketing, U.S. Steel Group, at the recent International Body Engineering Conference in Detroit.

Computers previously have had a difficult time simulating the behavior of high-strength steel crash management structures, which debuted just a few years ago. That made development more costly, slower and less reliable.

"This opens the door to further weight reductions with the use of advanced high-strength steels," claims Marcel van Schaik, manager, advanced materials technology for the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI). "The closer the crash models conform to real life, the more information they provide the engineer as to whether the design is safe or how it might be optimized for better performance."

The benefit of steel in a crash situation, its supporters say, is that it deforms rapidly, which means it becomes stronger and absorbs more energy. Porsche Engineering Services Inc. is using strain- rate sensitivity during the design phase of the UltraLight Steel Auto Body-Advanced Vehicle Concepts program.

Research on high-strength steel strain rate data was conducted by the Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee and funded by AISI and the U.S. Dept. of Energy.