Siemens robot improves safety, efficiency

Jan 31, 2012 | 07:00 PM | Myra Pinkham

Tags  Simetal LiquiRob, robotic technology, Siemens VAI Metals Technologies, Phil Ponikvar, Myra Pinkham

Using robots in industrial environments is far from a new idea. But while they’ve been used in automotive assembly plants for years, they are rarely used in steel mills.

Austria’s Siemens VAI Metals Technologies GmbH would like to see that change through the use of its Simetal LiquiRob flexible robot-aided measuring solution, which has already been installed in about 10 steelmaking facilities in Europe, Asia and South America, with three to four North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) producers reportedly considering the new technology.

Siemens, an international supplier of steel mill technologies, provides the automation for the Simetal LiquiRob using industrial robots from several European producers.

Phil Ponikvar, business segment manager for mechanical equipment at Siemens Industry Inc., Canonsburg, Pa., acknowledged that the steel industry has been somewhat reluctant to use robotics. However, he said, it’s a technology whose time has come, especially given the number of injuries and fatalities in the hot end of steelmaking facilities each year, as well as steelmakers’ desire to provide high-quality steel products that closely conform to increasingly stringent end-user requirements.

When the Simetal LiquiRob technology was developed about five years ago, Ponikvar said, it was mainly to improve safety in the hot end of steelmaking plants by having a robot do some of the normal day-to-day, heat-to-heat operations within the steel plant, such as taking temperatures or chemical samples in the furnace or in the casting machine tundish.

In a steel mill environment, particularly where liquid hot metal is produced or manipulated, operators are continually exposed to dangerous working conditions. This is true for workers both at electric-arc furnace (EF) and basic oxygen furnace (BOF) operations, as well as those at continuous casters, secondary metallurgical plants and converters. ....

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