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Advanced materials, metallurgy and estimating

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 - 07:00
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Welcome to the future and what the future holds for the collision repair industry. Today’s vehicles are constructed out of materials found on the Space Shuttle, and more computers and electronics than the spacecraft used in the first 30 years of space exploration. Today’s collision repair damage assessors (estimators) need to lead by example and set the bar higher. Too many times we see that many are just data entry people with no real knowledge of vehicle construction, design, technology or repair protocols. I cannot tell you how many times I am speaking to a group and ask how many estimators are here by a show of hands, and most of the class hands go up.  Then ask how many have I-CAR training and still most of the hands stay up, recently I ask and a few more hands go down.  But then I ask how many are ASE certified, and I only wind up with only a few hands left up.  Then I ask how many are on a Certified OEM Program from a European OE or Tesla, and that is when I realize that is why the hands of those few are still up. The European OEMs and Tesla are forcing their program shops to excel and train. Cadillac seems to be doing the same thing with the CT-6 Program. But this is not the masses, it is the minority that is excelling and making the effort.  The masses need to change their way of thinking and get on board with training and education or be left behind. 

2016 Honda Accord

Metallurgy and Advanced Substrates

Metallurgy is the study of the structure and properties of metals, their extraction from the ground, the procedures for refining, alloying, and the forming of components from them, such as: full frames, monocoque stampings, structural parts and body panels for automotive use. This includes both steel and aluminum of various grades of strength. Damage assessors (estimators) need to understand these scientific principles and vehicle design to better determine the full extent of sustained damage. Additionally, damage assessors will also need to understand what the strengths of these materials are to determine repair vs. replace decisions, what may or may not be sectionable, or requires full component replacement. 

Classifications for steel are different between the USA/Asian and the Europeans vehicle makers for the same materials.  Let’s look at the comparison:

USA and Asia Europe
Low Strength (Mild Steel) Standard Steel
High-Strength Steel High-Stregth Steel
Higher-Strength Steel
Ultra-High-Strength Steel
Ultra-High-Strength Steel Highest Strength Steel
Maximum-Strength Steel
Ultimate-Strength Steel

Although the classification names might differ, if we look at the material strengths, pounds per square inch (psi) of MegaPascal (MPa) we have a better understanding of the material we are working with. 

Low Strength/Standard Steels are steels that are 270MPa/39,160psi

High-Strength Steel are steels that are between 271MPa/39,305psi to 700MPa/101,526psi for the USA/Asia.  The Europeans also use the 271MPa to 700MPa range, but split this classification into three different sub-categories.  The low grade is called High-Strength and ranges from 271MPa to 400MPa/58,015psi, the next is the medium grade High-Strength called Higher-Strength and ranges from 401MPa/58,160psi to 550MPa/79,770psi and the top level in this category is the Ulta-High-Strength Steel and that ranges from 551MPa/79,915psi to 700MPa. 

Ultra-High-Strength Steel in USA, Asia and Europe is any material stronger in strength then 700MPa.  Once again this category is broken into three sub-categories. The lower grade Ultra-High Strength Steel, Highest Strength Steel ranges from 701MPa/101,671psi to 900MPa/130,534psi, the medium range Maximum-Strength Steel ranges from 901MPa/130,679psi to 1500MPa/217,556psi and the highest category is the Ultimate-Strength Steel is 1501MPa/217,701 and higher.  This category is also referred to as Advanced-High-Strength Steels.

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