MaRSCH – On-line Materialklassifikation mittels Radar in Schlacken

On-line material’s classification for slag with Radar

Duration of the project01.10.2022 – 30.09.2024
Partners involvedmecorad GmbH

Technical University U Bergakademie Freiberg -Institute of Iron and Steel Technology
 
Institute for Nonferrous Metallurgy an Purest Materials
Funding reference033RK103A
Objective and content of the projectto be announced
Link to the German Federal Ministry of Education and ResearchGerman Federal Ministry of Education and Research
Programme managed by Projektträger JülichProjektträger Jülich
Webpage of the projectto be announced

Joint project for the research of slags starts

To answer this question, a new funded research project was set up.
In the project “MaRSCH – On-line material classification by radar in slags”, the TU Bergakademie Freiberg and the startup mecorad are using state-of-the-art radar to detect the composition of different slags and to determine their specifics. In this way, a process is to be developed over the next two years to determine the properties of molten-liquid phases of slags and their individual levels in real time.

TU Bergakademie Freibergs Institute for Iron and Steel Technology and Institute for Non-Ferrous Metallurgy and High-Purity Materials are contributing their expertise to the project. The mecorad GmbH puts in its know-how in radar development and the highly complex field of signal evaluation.

“Surveys on the properties and recycling of metallurgical slags are a current research focus. Using radar sensors for this and their testing directly at our test facilities is an exciting new issue for us.” says Dr Thilo Kreschel from the Institute of Iron and Steel Technology at TU Bergakademie Freiberg. 

Professor Alexandros Charitos from the Institute of Nonferrous Metallurgy and High Purity Materials adds: “Modern sensors are the basis for digitalisation in the metallurgical industry and will contribute to the efficiency of processes. Our partner mecorad will develop this radar technology for sophisticated applications in metallurgy as part of the project. We are happy to be involved and look forward to working together over the next two years.”   

As happy is mecorad, Dr. Marc Banaszak admits: “The expertise of the colleagues here at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg and the opportunity to test the research results with them in the laboratories are a real stroke of luck for us. We hope the joint project will lead the way for automation of the separation of slag phases prior to disposal.”

The project is being funded as part of the “KMU innovativ” programme on behalf and with funds from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. PT Jülich Research Center joins the project as the executing organization.

Find more information on the KMU innovative programme on the programme site.

Fundings for improvements in continuous casting processes

Our new development can provide geometrical information of slab casting processes directly from below the mould exit in the cooling zone.
While existing systems only check the dimensional accuracy at the end of the straightening zone, mecorad succeeds in measuring the width of the cast strand at a distance of around four metres below the mould level, while the surface of the red-hot strand is just solidifying.  Accuracy of measured width is well below one millimetre.

Furthermore, the determined data is processed real-time by mecorad´s intelligent software application and can be connected via interfaces into the customers applications. This direct feedback means that the casting process can be far better matched to the tolerances to be maintained. Time-consuming reworking, as well as material- and thus cost-intensive overcasting, are significantly reduced. The measured values generated also allow casting models to be further improved and compared across plants.

The new development was presented for the first time together with Aperam Châtelet Belgium at the European Steel Technology and Application Days 2021 in Stockholm.

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Measurement solutions for hot metals forming

We at mecorad looked at our customers’ specific situation in the up- and downstream processing of hot steel and metal, which is – as you might imagine – extremely challenging.

The following considerations led the way to our choice and might help you with your decision:  

  • What level of accuracy has to be realised?
  • What about prevailing environmental conditions? Is there dust, steam, heat? A vacuum? 
  • Are there any specific characteristics of the object’s material? 

To answer the above issues, one has to take at least a short look at the pros and cons of the measuring principles.

In this article, we limit our comparison to the contactless methods of laser, ultrasound and radar. These three are often chosen and – compared to isotopic solutions, such as X-ray – do not imply hazardous radioactive exposure of the worker and workplace.  

Ultrasound

Ultrasound sensors measure distances by using the time-of-flight principle.

Ultrasound waves are pulses of sound at a frequency between 20 kHz and 1 GHz, higher than humans can hear. Bursts of these waves are emitted in a certain time cycle from a sensor and move in the air at the speed of sound. Hitting an – in our case metallic- object, they are reflected by the object’s surface. These reflected echoes return to the sensor. By measuring the time shift of the reflected echo, the distance covered is determined and displayed to the user.

Ultrasound is very suitable for complex objects, even transparent or highly shining ones within homogeneous material, where there is only low sound absorption.  That is why it is often used for quality control to mark defective structures of the material, inclusions, or impurities within a certain material.

However, moving in a heterogeneous environment, the speed of the waves can be interfered by several conditions, such as instable temperatures or a change in the air composition surrounding the object. 

Metal processing usually is not a clean room. So imagine your rather dusty workspace. Or think about the steam of the cooling water. The ultrasound waves are distracted at the micro water drops in the air, leading to an interruption of the transmission and reflection of the signal. The measurement results are no longer precise. Hot objects, like glowing steel slabs, also cause heat convection in the surrounding air by themselves. These convections again interrupt the ultrasound signal. 

Laser

The word laser is the acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. Laser beams consist of electromagnetic waves that move at the speed of light (approx. 300000 km/s).

Today, there is a range of laser use cases with a variety of measurement tasks. Lasers can be used for detection, counting of objects, etc. A well-known example for electro-optical measurement of distances and the derived calculation of speeds is even used by the police for speed control. 

In our industrial context, measurements are based on one of the following principles: triangulation, phase shift or time-of-flight, the last as explained before.

Laser sensors are highly precise under determined conditions and therefore often used for measurement tasks in industrial environments. But they lack, if dust or deposits block the view, so the beam can not be emitted properly. And nobody wants to check or clean the laser sensor every once in a while, right? 

Also, at open flames or glowing objects, measurement with standard red-light-laser supplies incorrect signals. The reason for this is the similar frequency of infrared radiation of the laser and the color spectrum of the glowing surface. The dimensions of the object are not recognized correctly, the laser might measure into the surface. In these cases, blue-light laser with a huge spectral distance might be a solution, but they are rather expensive and not the first choice for other measuring tasks. 

Wet, dusty or smeared surfaces have strongly changing reflective properties, declining measurement accuracy, as well. The distance between a laser sensor and the measuring object is restricted to very little variations to deliver robust signals.  And huge water drops, as one can find in the steel industry´s cinder wash, refract the laser signal. 

Radar

Radar measurement is based on electromagnetic waves. The sensor emittes the high-frequency signal, which also propagates at the speed of light, and calculates the distance to an object by measuring the reflection of the signal from that object.  

Radar measurement captures a spot that can be focussed by lenses or antennas. Comparable to focussing a flashlight on a wall, this spot can be more or less focussed. Because of this, even when obstructions occur in the direct line of sight, the sensor still captures the rolling stock.

Radar waves are insensitive to adverse environmental conditions such as high temperatures or polluted air.  Fog, for example, is much more permeable to radar radiation than to visible laser light. Even under zero-view conditions or while measuring through vapour, water drops, dust, cinder and open flames, the beams are still being controllable at high accuracy. 

Though radar – compared under laboratory conditions – may not be as precise as laser, it is from our point of view, the most suitable solution for measurement of width, thickness and length of hot metal. 

That is why we use it in our innovative IIoT measurement solutions.

A startup story- Product development for the steel industry

The spin-off from Chemnitz University of Technology received start-up funding and start-up support from TUClab and SAXEED in addition to equity financing.

Two years after winning the TUClab award, mecorad founder and managing director Dr. Marc Banaszak met Dr. Joseph Heß, project manager of the TUClab, and Dr. Susanne Schübel, managing director of the start-up network SAXEED, at the TCC Technology Center Chemnitz to speak about current projects and mecorad`s development. Things got hot when Marc Banaszak’s team used the new demonstrator to show that the sensors measure precisely even under extreme heat as it is the case in steel production.

“In mid-2020 we found ourselves in the middle of the corona pandemic and accordingly it was challenging for most of the young companies and start-ups that we work with as part of the TUClab to survive in the market. So it is all the nicer to see how mecorad, which we have promoted and supported, has developed further despite this difficult time,” says Heß.
The order books are now filling up again and the demonstrator presented shows that mecorad is ready to make an important contribution to the digitization of the steel industry. “After the visit, I am very convinced that the company will bring everything that is necessary for this,” adds Hess.

 In 2018, mecorad came up with the idea of ​​helping the operators of steel and hot rolling mills to improve their processes with high-precision measurement solutions and applications based on them. In addition, they wanted to support the companies in networking their production to the end customer. The need was and is there, because both the reduction of CO2 emissions from these energy-intensive industries and digitization are currently among the greatest challenges for the steel and metal industry.

Today – three years later – mecorad can provide high-precision measurement solutions that lead to higher product quality and reduce losses in production value. Funding within the framework of the TUClab of the TU Chemnitz prepared the ground for this success.  “So far, the rolled steel has not been measured at the process points, but after it has cooled down and in some cases by hand. Our in-house developed radar sensors can measure the still hot material to be formed in real time and use calculation algorithms to output the values ​​to be expected after cooling.” says Banaszak. If the data generated in this way deviates too much from the production plan, the plant operator in the rolling mill can take countermeasures directly and precisely and thus reduce scrap, overtime and thus also CO2 emissions. In order to integrate the data obtained in real time into the IT systems requested by the customers, mecorad also offers tailor-made solutions. The company is helping to digitize steel production along the value chain.

At the meeting in the TCC, Banaszak demonstrated the reliability of the sensors developed by mecorad using a burner at the new demonstrator. The construction of the demonstrator was part of an MEP grant with which the European Union and the Free State of Saxony promoted the market launch of their product line “wtl series for rolling lines”. The funds come from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the budget of the Free State of Saxony decided by the Saxon State Parliament.

Demonstrator installated in our office in Chemnitz

This is the smallest possible setup for measuring geometric data of hot metal forming goods. Results are delivered in real time directly to a display or into PLC for in-line interventions, or even directly into the IT sphere of a customer. With our IIoT applications information can be integrated into any of the customer’s systems.

The demonstrator is part of our MEP grant, supporting the start of the wtl series for rolling lines. The funds come from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the budget of the Free State of Saxony decided by the Saxon State Parliament.

Funding information

Green steel moving forward

This year, for example, Mercedes Benz announced plans to “launch green steel in various vehicle models on the market as early as 2025”1 in cooperation with a start-up. The aim is to save as much CO2 emissions as possible already during the production of the cars and their individual components instead of compensating them later on.

Volvo Cars presented its collaboration with a Swedish steelmaker to jointly develop fossil-free, high quality steel for use in the automotive industry2.

In 2020, 78 million vehicles were manufactured

And looking at the high amount of steel used for car production, this might have a huge impact on the progress of green steel development:

2020 marks a crisis year in automotive manufacturing. Due to the pandemic, only 78 million vehicles were produced, a drop in production of 16 % compared to the previous year3.
On average, 900 kg of steel4 is used per vehicle, summing up to an amount of 70,2 million tonnes of steel for the automotive industry in 2020 alone. Assuming around 1.83 t of CO2 emissions per tonne of steel produced, the production of steel for automotive manufacturing alone causes 128.46 million t of CO2, not including logistics routes and assembly at the OEMs plants.

Therefore, the movement towards green – or at least greener – steel seems as a well-considered step that will sooner or later find imitators. Steel manufacturers supplying to the automotive industry should keep that in mind while having a closer look at their processes and also checking their reportings. 
There are smart solutions to support a smoother running and more efficient production with a reduction of yield losses, for example at casting and hot rolling operations, adding up to a better performance.  By integrating corresponding IIoT applications, production reporting can also be supported.

Processing geometry data of hot forming goods

Is a caliper what you use for measuring your hotmetal forming goods? And do you have to wait for hours after they were rolled, until you get measurement results?
Imagine, you would know the exact data when the goods are still hot.  
Or that you would know if there´s a need for a slight alignment of the rolls to achieve the best results while the process is ongoing.
Furthermore: imagine, all necessary data would be delivered to the involved peoples´ devices in real time.
That´s not imagination, but a smart and reliable combination of radar and IIoT technology. Combined in what we call mecorad`s wtl series.
This IIoT solution not only measures geometries of hot forming goods in real time through radar sensors. It also provides you with the information necessary, right when and where you need them: Through interfaces the data can be delivered to different departments, such as stock, quality control or sales.