UK partnership develops techniques for steel production

03 Aug 2015

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) together with several SMEs along with Tata Steel UK and a UK academic space science partner have designed, manufactured and tested a state of the art defect detection system that enables the fast measurement of defects present in the online casting of steel.

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The project, which finished in March 2015, set out to improve the efficiency of the manufacturing process within the UK steel industry through the early detection and identification of cracks and defects in cast hot” steel. Defects can occur at a number of different stages in the steel manufacturing process and depending on the required steel (via the addition of different alloys) produce potentially’ an array of cracks and defects such as pinholes, transverse, corner, edge, star and spider cracks, all of which are highly detrimental to the performance and lifetime of the steel. To overcome these challenges, the project successfully developed and demonstrated an innovative non-destructive laser based system that is able to detect and ultimately identify process defects in a continuous manner and at temperatures in excess of 800°C. The pilot production scale unit has been successfully installed at Tata Steel’s casting plant in Scunthorpe and provides the opportunity to significantly enhance steel quality, yields and lifetimes as well as minimising manufacturing costs and material wastage.

The system developed by the consortium analyses defects by using laser based technology and is able to perform at the speed required for steel casting at pre-industrial scale. The techniques have previously been developed for space based applications, including recognition of features on the surface of Mars and the installation at Tata Steel provides the infrastructure to adapt the system for high temperature steel based applications. The system also provides users with the ability to test the economic feasibility of such materials via in-depth data analysis and specialist process algorithms.

The technology and learning developed is not only applicable to steel production but also other processes for high value applications such as glass, ceramics, titanium alloys and other metals to name but a few.

Professor Jan-Peter Muller, Head of Imaging at UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory said: We are delighted with the outcome of the HTP-Control project, a true collaboration where the individual partners have benefited enormously through the bringing together of the whole innovation value chain, from world class research to technology innovation through to industry drive. The project has demonstrated true spin-off” by taking technology that was previously used in the space sector for Mars exploration and applying it to the manufacture of steel. The technology developments achieved are significant for the UK and should benefit a number of high value manufacturing sectors.”

Speaking of the project Neville Slack, Programme Manager at CPI commented: The project has been of great benefit to CPI and has provided the opportunity to apply these novel defect detection techniques in a number of new projects and also across a range of industries. One example is our continuing collaboration with IS Instruments within other projects and specifically the development of on-line Raman Spectroscopy within the Process Industry in sectors such as pigments, Graphene, pharmaceuticals”.

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