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Best Innovation: Process


ArcelorMittal Dofasco
At ArcelorMittal Dofasco, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in order to support an increase in steelmaking productivity, there was a need to significantly decrease the KOBM vessel refractory repair time. The innovative ArcelorMittal Dofasco KOBM Selective Slag Coating Practice was developed to achieve this efficiency.

The new practice has resulted in significant reduction of vessel refractory repair time, record bottom life, and a better working environment for furnace operators. Increased productivity could be accomplished with a significant decrease in vessel refractory repair time.

There were four main areas of investigation in scope to support this innovation: understanding the fundamentals of slag coating; investigating the characteristics of KOBM processes and KOBM vessel wear; analyzing traditional coating practices and identifying issues; developing and implementing a KOBM selective coating practice. No capital investment was required for this practice change.
This innovative new process demonstrates that selective coating practice can be effectively conducted in the KOBM process through control of the slag depth, slag chemistry, vessel position, rock angle and times. The practice results in a 60% reduction of vessel repair time and a 65% reduction in the consumption of gunning materials. Elimination of all internal refractory repairs except for the maintenance of furnace mouth and tap hole is possible. The process also demonstrates the capability for two-bottom operation instead of three-bottom one-vessel campaign (bottom life of over 2,000 heats).

The greatest benefit of this innovative process is that the significant concern associated with KOBM refractory performance impacting steelmaking productivity is fully eliminated.

Falk PLI
Falk PLI, Portage, Indiana, deploys laser tracker technology to improve client schedule, budget and risk mitigation in their day-to-day operations, focusing on improving quality, decreasing down time and increasing productivity in the metals industry by raising the industry tolerance expectations on equipment fabrication, installation and alignment. Key to the innovation is implementation of modern 3D laser measurement best practices.

On December 22, 1987 the United States was awarded patent number 4714339 for a laser tracking system. In the same year President Reagan approved the DOE to design and build the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) in Ellis County, Texas. Five years later laser trackers were implemented on a capital installation to align the SSC Linear Accelerator.

Falk PLI introduced 3D laser measurement to the metals industry in 1998. In the first major use of 3D laser tracker technology on a slab caster, Falk PLI deployed the technology in July 2000 at Ispat Inland’s No. 1 slab caster straight mold conversion. The project significantly improved client quality and the 3D laser tracker technology significantly reduced the installation time. The implementation of 3D laser metrology has also been applied in casting, hot rolling and cold rolling.

The return on investment for using this technology has been orders of magnitude in a single year. It has cut installation time, down time and quality rejects. More recently, the innovation helped reduce a client’s HSM winding issues by over 50%.

GrafTech International Ltd
GrafTech International Ltd, Brooklyn Heights, Ohio, has implemented an operational improvement plan to maximize the productivity of its electrode manufacturing facilities. The results of this multi-year production efficiency plan started to be realized in 2017 and are continuing during 2018.

The company began shifting production from six electrode facilities to three electrode facilities in 2012 – a process it completed in 2016. That concentrated production at the largest-scale, lowest-cost plants with most upside potential.

Elimination of artificial constraints, exploiting latent production capacity, empowered GrafTech’s highly experienced general managers. Baking cycles and firing curves were re-evaluated throughout the system for all product sizes while improving quality.
In a systematic operational enhancement program, GrafTech worked with an operational consulting firm to execute six-month turnaround projects at each plant: a process that liberated additional bake and graphitizing production capacity throughout the system, further shifting bottlenecks.

GrafTech is now completing a highly targeted capital program as a final step in operational repositioning. As a result of the cumulative effect of these prior operational improvement activities on plant bottlenecks, GrafTech has been able to achieve a large production capacity increase within its plants quickly, with specific, highly targeted capital investments.

The debottlenecking plan total cost of approximately $37million, or approximately $1,000 per metric ton of capacity, compares with estimated industry green-field new graphite-electrode production capacity costs of approximately $10,000 per metric ton and approximately 5-10 years of lead time from initial permitting to full production for a green-field facility.

In 2017, the company’s Calais, France and Pamplona, Spain plants exceeded previous annual record production levels by 15% and 12%, respectively, and production at the Monterrey, Mexico plant was 12% higher than the highest annual production level during the past 10 years. The company’s operational repositioning is expected to result in an incremental 35,000 metric tons of annual production capacity by the end of 2018. GrafTech expects to produce more from its three operating plants in 2018 than previously produced from six plants in 2012.

HyCal Corporation
HyCal Corp, Gibraltar, Michigan, recently commissioned what it describes as the first and only hydrogen quench continuous anneal line in the world made to produce AHSS and UHSS grades primarily for use in the automotive industry. Designed by thermal technology company Ebner, the line uses hydrogen as a quenching medium, resulting in very consistent properties and flatness.
The highly adjustable, optimized blend of hydrogen used for quenching produces AHSS/UHSS grades with residual stress-free prime yield and exceptional flatness. No post CAL processing is required to correct shape, so no stresses are added to the steel. Material is ready to use right off the line.

HyCal’s innovative proprietary simulator, SimCal, can be used to develop precise thermal recipes to achieve properties on various grades to determine the exact recipe based on the incoming substrate and the desired final grade. This is a very valuable tool to develop new grades and third-generation products.

HyCal believes that lightweighting is here to stay, and that for steel to remain the material of choice for OEMs, it will require lighter and stronger products. The company’s objective was to produce the most advanced and consistently superior steels on the market. HyCal offers this service on a pure 100% toll processing basis.

HyCal was formed on the basis that, in the United States, there are only two CAL lines capable of producing the higher grade AHSS/UHSS, but both of those lines are water-quenched. The company contacted Ebner to explore the use of hydrogen instead in mid-2015. Erection started in May 2016 and HyCal ran its first coil in December 2016. The 100% hydrogen quench process produces AHSS and UHSS with the most consistent properties across the entire strip profile as well as excellent flatness.

SimCal allows lab testing of thermal recipes on small samples without the need of running a master coil, thus greatly reducing yield losses while also speeding up grade development.

As a pure toll processor, HyCal has enabled every mill without CAL capabilities to participate in the AHSS/UHSS market.

Independent Steel Alliance
The Independent Steel Alliance (ISA), Atlanta, Georgia, is a member-owned purchasing cooperative launched in 2013 by a group of independent rebar fabricators in the United States and Canada. ISA’s members came together to leverage their collective purchasing volume to enhance financial performance, as well as improve their businesses through strategic partnerships and peer-based networking. This represented a dramatic shift in the process by which independent rebar fabricators went to market as buyers.

A core principle guiding ISA’s activity is that strategic partnerships must be mutually beneficial between the buyers and their suppliers for the relationship truly to deliver value. ISA invests considerable effort in facilitating these partnerships for the benefit of all parties.
The origins of ISA go back several years before its formal launch in 2013. Independent fabricators began meeting within the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute (CRSI) to discuss ways in which they might work together for mutual benefit. It took several years of meetings to develop the foundation upon which the purchasing cooperative was formed. From its inception, ISA strived to be a business investment, first and foremost, rather than a trade association.

Perhaps the most important achievement to-date is bringing together a group of independent companies, who in many instances are also direct competitors. These companies were able to develop a cooperative business model that does not interfere with day-to-day competition, but still enables cooperative benefits to be realized – benefits otherwise unavailable to the companies individually. The goal of ISA is to allow members an opportunity to earn direct financial returns through support of ISA’s network of strategic partners. Additionally, ISA has become a significant industry leader and advocate on behalf of independent rebar fabricators, who previously had none.

In its first five years of operation, ISA members collectively generated a cumulative 167.9% return on investment against their annual investment. Co-op ROI for 2017 alone was over 350%.

Steel Dynamics, Inc, Butler Flat Roll Division
Steel Dynamics Butler, Indiana, wanted to increase the productivity of Galvanizing Line No. 1 but was limited by the capability of the furnace. Thicker strips required the line to run slower to heat the strip uniformly. The top end speed of the line was fine, but many products could not run that fast because of the furnace limitations. Increasing the furnace capability would also allow for increased flexibility of the line as it would enable it to run cold rolled product as well. The line lacked a cleaning section, so it was used only for pickled hot band products.

SDI made plans to add a cleaning section to expand the line’s capability to include cold rolled products. To address the furnace limitation, a plan was developed to extend the furnace. The addition of this capability to the line would require a major outage. SDI carefully considered other potential improvements that could also make use of the outage time. The major outage also offered an opportunity to address electrical obsolescence issues.

The extensive mechanical and electrical work undertaken was substantial and completed successfully. The ambitious and multiple project goals have been realized. Line limitations have been addressed. Obsolescence of the automation and drive system has been fully addressed.

Improvements in production, operational flexibility and efficiency have been realized. A new dual-purpose drive concept has been proven and provides a path to an eventual all-AC line. Integration of the subsystems into the main automation system and near real-time web reporting provide tools to allow SDI Butler to continue to improve its results going forward.

Software and hardware engineering for the new automation system, project management and dual-purpose drive development were all performed by TMEIC Corp.

TimkenSteel Corporation
Process efficiency is always important, and the TimkenSteel Material Services (TMS) facility in Houston is taking it to a new level. The newly developed high-speed pull bore process, created by senior technology manager Ted Williams and his team, combines two machining processes into one by pull boring and honing a bar simultaneously – ultimately saving TimkenSteel’s customers a lot of time.

TMS’s innovative push bore technology has allowed it to sell value-added steel into oilfield applications traditionally served by cold-drawn tubing such as blast joints and stator tubes. Now, with the high-speed pull bore process, TMS has another edge in inside-diameter (ID) finishing capability, which is critical to increasing its presence in tubing for oilfield completion applications.

Pull boring enlarges and straightens the inside diameter (ID) of an existing seamless mechanical tube. The pull bore process is often necessary to meet the tight drift tolerances for oilfield parts, but typically requires stock removal of 0.300in or more to provide a good bite for the tool. Honing provides an extremely tight ID tolerance (often within 0.005in) as well as a low (smooth) RMS, a measure of surface roughness.

Traditionally, pull boring and honing are performed on different machines. The high-speed pull bore innovation combines these processes on a single machine, allowing for lighter removal, and increasing efficiency. The benefits of using the high-speed pull bore process include safety, quality, efficiency and cost.

Manufacturing processes inherently have non-value-add work as part of the cost. By combining the necessary capabilities of two processes into one, the high-speed pull bore machine allows TMS to reduce time spent on non-value add activities like material movement and machine loading and unloading. As a result, it can offer better lead times to customers as well as increase the volume of work when the market improves.

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