The blast furnace is one of the most energy and capital intensive processes in iron and steelmaking. Complex phenomena and difficulties in taking measurements have led to using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) numerical simulations for optimization and better understanding of processes within blast furnaces. However, increasingly complex CFD results are difficult to interpret and communicate among blast furnace personnel with varying backgrounds. Efforts have been made in the past to combine 3-D and virtual reality (VR) with CFD to improve communication and understanding, but these have only been applied to blast furnaces in a very limited fashion.
Faculty and students have worked together with industry experts to create a comprehensive virtual blast furnace that combine CFD simulations of the various complex processes within the furnace with 3-D and VR visualization. The virtual blast furnace includes the charging process, burden descent and gas distribution, coke and coal combustion, and bottom hearth inner profile. The methodology is developed to convert the CFD data to the VR system by several different software applications and customized functions. The methodology allows the user to navigate, switch between data sets, step through time-steps and so on.
By converting the numerical data to a VR environment, the development of a virtual blast furnace allows researchers, plant engineers, operators, and other personnel to bring their experiences directly into the design and optimization process. The virtual blast furnace model has also been used in actual training process.