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Meeting the automotive challenge


Formerly known as Noble International Gent BVBA, ArcelorMittal Tailored Blanks became a 100% ArcelorMittal subsidiary in 2009. The name change bears justice to the company’s focus on laser-welded blanks for the automotive industry – and its integration into the globally operating ArcelorMittal Group.

As a leader in automotive steel, the company supports carmakers worldwide in meeting present and future demands on passenger safety, weight savings and the reduction of CO2 emissions.

“Tailored blanks are used for a multitude of applications, mostly in the automotive industry,” says Philippe Baudon, CEO ArcelorMittal Tailored Blanks. “Our focus is on the development of products that are lighter and more crash-resistant, the very qualities the industry is looking for in combination with favourable pricing. As competition in the automotive market is ever-increasing, new solutions must be provided at no or very limited extra cost.”

By definition, a tailored blank is a sheet of steel that combines several grades, various thicknesses or different coatings, the different parts being laser-welded together.

Available in different types with simple or complex geometries, laser welded blanks provide a value-added solution to car manufacturers and respond to their exact requirements.

These products combine very well with hot stamping, a technology that is experiencing significant growth: Its principle is to heat the sheets to about 900°C before stamping and to control cooling. By changing the metallurgical structure, it provides very high strength on the finished part. ArcelorMittal, thanks to its Usibor® product, is the leading steel supplier for this technology.

In the automotive industry the focus is on the body and the closures of a vehicle. One of the latest innovations is a door ring, a breakthrough concept in welded blanks to reduce weight and improve crash performance. Developed to the same purpose, tailored blanks are available in combination with a full range of advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) today.

“We have always worked in close cooperation with the automotive industry, taking customers’ requirements into account at the very design stage,” comments Mr. Baudon. “Over the past decades, the need for fuel efficiency and safety has driven the automotive industry to continuously reduce the weight of the body in vehicles. We support vehicle manufacturers in meeting the challenges they face, helping them to reduce fuel consumption and emissions while improving the vehicle structure at the same time.”

Meeting the automotive challenge, ArcelorMittal Tailored Blanks offers an ever-expanding spectrum of solutions involving various grades of steel such as high-strength steels, coated steels and drawing quality grades. The company’s tailored blanks concept consists of two or more separate blanks combining the best properties of different steel grades.

The aim is to place the best material in the perfect thickness at the best place for a specific application defined by the customer.

“We receive the steel in rolls and shape it into tailored blanks so that each of the steel’s best attributes such as thickness, strength or coating is located precisely where it is needed within the part,” says Mr. Baudon. “To this effect we use two basic procedures: first blanking, that is cutting shapes in the coils we receive from the steel mills, then welding them together with a high-power laser. By optimizing the design in close cooperation with customers, we avoid waste and develop material and cost-saving possibilities.”

Tailor-made welded blanks produced by ArcelorMittal Tailored Blanks offer competitive price, relatively low weight and inherent safety. Accordingly, they offer substantial potential for vehicle safety improvement and weight reduction while lowering overall production costs at the same time.

“In crash tests our steel has shown the best performance,” confirms Mr. Baudon. “In development, we benefit from the strong focus on research and development within the ArcelorMittal Group, which enables us to continuously improve our products and provide automotive manufacturers with new technologies and solutions.”

Successor to Mittal Steel, a business originally set up in 1976 by Lakshmi N Mittal, ArcelorMittal was created by merger of Arcelor and Mittal steel in 2006.

With 119 million t of annual production capacity and 245,000 employees across 60 countries, the group rightly prides itself on being the world’s leading steel and mining business.

Its steelmaking operations involve more than 20 countries on four continents and represent around 6% of the global steel output. Part of a powerful group serving all major steel markets including automotive, construction, household appliances and packaging, ArcelorMittal Tailored Blanks is the world leader in laser-welded blanks and operates design and production facilities in most parts of the world.

Its CEO was appointed nine months ago, yet he has been with ArcelorMittal for 26 years already and filled various managerial positions in different countries.

“Our global presence allows for the flexible adaptation to market requirements and fluctuations in market demand,” he adds. “In response to the economic crisis in Europe, we have intensified our activities in Eastern Europe, a development which is exemplified by the foundation and inauguration of our new plant in Slovakia. Cooperation with our clients in Central Europe has never ceased, however, and secured the continuity that allows us to respond to the recovery of the market.”

At present ArcelorMittal Tailored Blanks operates ten production sites in Europe and Australia as well as three joint ventures in India and China. ArcelorMittal Tailored Blanks NV is the central holding and responsible for an organization that generates a total turnover of 370 million EUR per year with 600 employees.

“We keep investing in innovation and production facilities across the globe as well as expansion projects into new and emerging markets,” emphasizes Mr. Baudon. “At present we are expanding our works in the UK in response to growing demand. Plans for the establishment of new units in Turkey and Brazil confirm our customer-oriented business approach. The geographical closeness of our sites not only supports the cooperation with customers, but also contributes to cost-efficiency and sustainability through reduced transport needs.”

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