In addition to enhanced formability, Advanced High-Strength Steels (AHSS) provide crash energy management benefits over their conventional High-Strength Steel (HSS) counterparts at similar strength levels. Higher levels of work hardening and bake hardening at a given strength level contribute to this improvement in crash performance.
The energy required for plastically deforming a material (force times distance) has the same units as the area under the true stress-true strain curve. This applies to all types of plastic deformation – from that which occurs during tensile testing, stamping, and crash. The major difference between these is the speed at which the deformation takes place.
As an example, consider the press energy requirements of two grades by comparing the respective areas under their true stress – true strain curves. The shape and magnitude of these curves are a function of the yield strength and work hardening behavior as characterized by the n-value when tested at conventional tensile testing speeds. At the same yield strength, a grade with higher n-value will require greater press energy capability, as highlighted in Figure 1 which compares HSLA 350/450 and DP 350/600. For these specific tensile test results, there is approximately 30% greater area under the DP curve compared with the HSLA curve, suggesting that forming the DP grade requires 30% more energy than required to form a part using the HSLA grade.
The high degree of work hardening exhibited by DP and TRIP steels results in higher ultimate tensile strength than that exhibited by conventional HSS of similar yield strength. This provides for a larger area under the true stress-strain curve. Similarly, when panels are formed from these grades, the work hardening during forming leads to higher in-panel strength than panels from HSS of comparable yield strength, further increasing the area under the stress-strain curve, ultimately resulting in greater absorption of crash energy.
Finally, the high work-hardening rate better distributes strain during crash deformation, providing for more stable, predictable axial crush that is crucial for maximizing energy absorption during a front or rear crash event.
Many AHSS are bake hardenable. The relatively large BH effect also increases the energy absorption capacity of these grades by further increasing the area under the stress-strain curve. The BH effect adds to the work hardening imparted by the forming operation. Conventional HSS do not exhibit a strong BH effect and therefore do not benefit from this strengthening mechanism.
Figure 2 illustrates the difference in energy absorption between DP and TRIP steels as a function of their yield strength determined at quasi-static tensile testing speeds.
Figure 3 shows calculated absorbed energy plotted against total elongation for a square tube component. The absorbed energy remains constant for the DP and TRIP steels but the increase in total elongation allows for formation into complex shapes.
For certain parts, conventional steels may have sufficient formability for stamping, yet lack the required ductility for the desired crash failure mode and will split prematurely rather than collapsing in a controlled manner. AHSS grades improve energy absorption by restoring a stable crush mode, permitting more material to absorb the crash energy. The increased ductility of AHSS grades permit the use of higher strength steels with greater energy absorbing capacity in complex geometries that could not otherwise be formed from conventional HSS alloys.
Stable and predictable deformation during a crash event is key to optimizing the steel alloy selection. The ideal profile is a uniform folding pattern showing progressive buckling with no cracks (Figure 4).
Achieving crack-free folds is related to the local formability of the chosen alloy. Insufficient bendability can lead to early failure (Figure 5). Research to determine proper simulation inputs with physical testing for verification.
High Strain Rate Property Test Methods
for Steel and Competing Materials
Tensile testing occurs at speeds that are 1000x slower than typical automotive stamping rates. Furthermore, automotive stamping is done at speeds that are 100x to 1000x slower than crash events. Stress-strain responses change with test speed – sometimes quite dramatically.
The m-value is one parameter to characterize this effect, since it is a measure of strain rate sensitivity. Generally, steel has more favorable strain rate effect properties compared with aluminum, but this is also a function of alloy, test temperature, selected strain range, and test speed. L-20
These reasons form the background for the need to characterize the intermediate and high strain rate behavior of AHSS.