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Wednesday, October 7th, 2009 - 2:19 pm

ArcelorMittal looks to Purdue Calumet Center for help optimizing production

By Erika Rose

When engineers at steel manufacturer ArcelorMittal were having problems on one of their strip processing lines, they turned to Purdue University Calumet’s Center for Innovation through Visuzaliation and Simulation (CIVS) for help.

Helping ArcelorMittal's White (left) troubleshoot a processing concern commands attention from Zhou, research engineer Bin Wu (far right) and students.

Helping ArcelorMittal's White (left) troubleshoot a processing concern commands attention from Zhou, research engineer Bin Wu (far right) and students.

“We were concerned about the thermal uniformity in the line,” ArcelorMittal Research and Development Senior Research Engineer Kurt Johnson said. “This particular line coats a steel coil substrate with aluminum. Part of the process, before it gets coated, is to heat up the strip to soften it.

“We were concerned about the possibility of heating the edges hotter than the center of the strip. We were trying to isolate which part of the process – was it the heating?, cooling? Or when it went into the pot? – that was causing this temperature difference?”

Johnson said initial computational fluid dynamics work at the Center helped calibrate the model and compare the simulation’s results to the actual data. Once that occurred, the next step was to simulate the furnace performance using different processing parameters in terms of thickness, width and speed of the strip going down the line to determine thermal uniformity.

Doing such experimentation on the production line, while engineers gathered data and tried to make educated guesses, takes time away from producing the standard grade type material. The opportunity to use Purdue Calumet’s computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation technology eliminates the disadvantage of experimenting with costly resources.

Another improvement Johnson and his team hope to achieve by using the CFD technology is that of optimizing production by maxing out the speed at which the product rolls down the line; that is something that cannot be done effectively via live experimentation .

The end result, Johnson is confident, will yield a higher margin for the product and provide a competitive leg up for his employer.

ArcelorMittal East Chicago Research and Development Director of Process Research David White put the impact of Purdue Calumet’s CIVS facility in perspective when he said, “We believe that simulation is a very powerful and economic tool for process advancement. The (Purdue Calumet) Center’s new 3D visualization capabilities will bring process understanding and speed of solutions to an even higher level.”