Ferrous Tube / Pipe
Ian Melin-Jones

Ian Melin-Jones

Friday, 20 July 2018 08:21

Industry 4.0: an opportunity for all

Industry 4.0: innovative ideas that use technologies to improve quality and efficiency of production process and of all businesses. Evolution towards the industry of the future is not a subject for great companies only, but instead an innovation path about production process in all its aspects. BLM GROUP systems provide advanced solutions to face this important phase of change.

The industry of the future is based first on the use of modern production systems, with advanced technological solutions to meet the requests for integration, interconnection, automation, ease of use and remote control. All of them are subjects on which BLM GROUP has been developing on for years.

Smart Factory

The feature of the “smart factory” is undoubtedly the IT connection among the production centralized control system and the other business entities: the warehouse to know the exact availability of material to be machined, the workshop to know the actual availability of production systems, possibly the business ERP. The entire factory of the future becomes a combination of interconnected elements that exchange data.

BLM GROUP fulfils this need with ProTube Enterprise, a MES (Manufacturing Execution System) able to integrate into factory management process communicating with the IT system, the warehouse and the production systems. With ProTube Enterprise multi-part and multi-technology job orders can be created and managed, production is planned by distributing work programs to the various workshop systems and production process is monitored in all its phases.

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Communication among systems

BLM GROUP controls all tube machining process and makes the most of this opportunity, made of knowledge and experience, to optimize production process. When to realize a part, it is necessary to use several technologies, such as cutting and bending, downstream system (usually the tube bending machine) communicates with the upstream system (a Lasertube or a sawing machine) sending data about geometric changes that will apply to tube so that these can be considered during machining. The result is a correct part the first time.

It is now part of the famous concept All-In-One, characterizing the BLM GROUP offerings and that aims at a full automation of multi-technology management of components, from design to realization. Besides systems communicating among each other, the Artube CAD/CAM can process bent and cut components, automatically identify the various machining and generate machining programs for the systems involved.

Machine intelligence

Modern production systems have functions that free operator from complex operations and decisions. We could say that systems are becoming “smarter”, meaning that they are able to make automatic choices in a fast and efficient way.

The Active Tools of the BLM GROUP Lasertube systems are a good example of this evolution. Active Piercing, optimizes the piercing phase by checking parameters of laser beam in function of the information coming from sophisticated sensors in the work area. Active Scan monitors, with its cameras, the real section dimensions of the tube being machined and automatically adapts machining position to obtain the desired result also in presence of imperfect tubes. Active Speed automatically adjusts cutting parameters to the instantaneous speed to optimize cutting quality; operator is exempted from complex evaluations or choices that, without this functionality, would require a deep process knowledge.

In general, this concerns operations that require great expertise in using the Lasertube system, expertise that today BLM GROUP has passed to its systems by means of functions and automatisms that make the process more efficient and reliable.

Manufacturing process automation

Today, production process automation is available to all. BLM GROUP has been producing work islands for a very long time. These islands consist of bending and end-forming systems connected by robots in complex work sequences. Today, the possibility to connect different systems in a single automatized production cycle have increased in number and have better flexibility.

At Tube & Wire 2018 BLM Group showed a tube bending line from coil with a 3-RUNNER system, a SMART and an E-FORM, illustrative of these concepts, but also laser systems can be connected automatically to other processes. We think of the possibility of robotized loading of LT FREE system starting from a crate containing parts to be machined positioned at random or of robotized unloading of parts of a Lasertube system.

Remote management

Another aspect specific of the industry of the future is the possibility to be connected to production processes in any situation and in any place, using the internet. BLM GROUP responds to this need with different services.

Operation of the system can be monitored from remote on your own mobile device using Syncro. Tool Designer is an effective instrument to quickly obtain via the web the drawings of the bending fixtures necessary to realize a specific bent part. E-training is the instrument by Web Conference through which it is possible to obtain dedicated training courses on specific subjects.

Sanoh UK Manufacturing has invested in new shredding technology that will pay for itself in less than 18 months, due to the cost savings it will achieve for the wider business.

The company invested in an UNTHA RS40 shredder to tackle the surplus metal it generates during the production of brake and fuel pipes for the automotive industry. These component parts must be formed into specific shapes to suit the ergonomics of different vehicles, which naturally creates ‘offcuts’ of extremely obscure shapes.

2018 07 18 110950With the metal collected in skips for off-site recycling – at a cost of £120 per week – this practice already ensured a robust environmental approach for Sanoh. But the diverse profile of the ‘waste’ meant that a large proportion of the skips were simply filled with fresh air.

By shredding the material to a <40mm particle size, Sanoh can now load each skip with approximately 5 times more material. Skips are now collected only once a month, with the resulting financial savings meaning the RS40 will have paid for itself in less than 18 months.

Achieving throughputs of up to 500kg, the flexible RS40 is also capable of shredding wooden pallets and crates that can similarly be volume-reduced to magnify the fiscal benefits of the investment. The machine can be reconfigured to tackle plastic waste too, which all adds up to space-saving advantages across the site.

Commenting on the shredder procurement, Sanoh UK Manufacturing Purchasing and Materials Manager Barry Channon said: “We have long had a strong environmental conscience so, unlike some organisations, we didn’t decide to invest in the equipment to make us more ‘green’. Instead we sought a smarter way to handle and store our waste, to ensure a tidier site plus more money on our bottom line. That’s before we’ve factored in any potential revenue yield from the sale of the recyclates we’ve homogenously shredded.”

The installation of the four shaft RS40 shredder follows a research process which began online. The deciding factor in opting for this machine was a successful trial using Sanoh’s own material, at UNTHA UK’s North Yorkshire shredder test centre last year.

Offering a concluding thought, Barry said: “The business case for reducing the volume of waste is strong. I’m glad we now have this highly-configurable machinery in place.”

The reconstruction of Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works’ (MMK) blast furnace No.1 has been completed in the run up to the Day of the Metallurgist. The history of the company dates back to the launch of this blast furnace in 1932. The new equipment will enable the company to significantly reduce its ecological pressure on the environment.

2016 04 07 064954The cost of the large-scale project, which was carried out in under six months, was RUB 5.4 billion, of which RUB 2.35 billion were allocated for the cost of equipment, while the rest was allocated to the construction and assembly of the works and other costs. As part of the reconstruction process, a technical refitting of the furnace was carried out, which involved the complete dismantlement and replacement of all the old elements in the furnace. It was the first time in MMK’s practice that part of the furnace was built by the company ‘Danieli Corus’ with copper horizontal fridges.

There has also been a change in the configuration and the construction of the casting beds, as they are now two-tiered. As a result, in the intermediary space it is now possible to fit transportation flumes for pig iron and slag and aspiration system air ducts, without taking up additional space at the site, which improves the architecture of the blast furnace, and also solves the problems relating to work and environmental conversation. 

The aspiration system enables the immediate removal of dust-laden gases from their site of production, which as a result prevents the emission of pollutants into the working space of the unit and the atmosphere. The key technological equipment for the processing of pig iron and slag has been replaced by modern hydraulic equipment developed by the company Dneprohydromach, which also provided the gas-cleaning equipment for the aspiration system in the casting beds.

The removal of dust in the stock houses will be carried out with the help of the equipment from the company ‘Ekotex’. It is a system designed for the trapping of solid particles from the aspiration and technological gases, which are produced during the preparation of burden for the blast furnaces. The introduction of the aspiration system in the casting beds will effectively reduce the volume of harmful emissions released and improve working conditions for our metallurgists. The reconstruction of blast furnace No.1 and the construction of the aspiration system will reduce dust emissions by 600 tonnes a year.

Also as a part of blast furnace No.1’s reconstruction project, the reconstruction and the further equipping of the premise adjoining the casting beds, was undertaken. A block of additional rooms for casting beds which can accommodate the pump-and-accumulator station and priming pump station; and which is equipped with an electrical, ventilation and compressed air rooms. A modular compressor station was built, which serves as the connection for the complex of casting beds to the existing networks. PO Montazhnik was the general contractor for the reconstruction of blast furnace No.1, and the general project developer was Magnitogorsk’s Gipromez.

Blast furnace No.1, which on 1 February 1932 produced the first pig iron in Magnitogorsk, was built by the American company ‘McKee’ (Arthur G. McKee & Co). At the end of the 1990s it was fully reconstructed, in fact it was rebuilt from scratch. After this her volume increased to 1,370 m³, and her productivity reached 1.2 million tonnes per year (3000 tonnes of pig iron on a daily basis).

About MMK 

MMK is one of the world's largest steel producers and a leading Russian metals company. The company's operations in Russia include a large steel-producing complex encompassing the entire production chain, from the preparation of iron ore to downstream processing of rolled steel. MMK turns out a broad range of steel products with a predominant share of high-value-added products. In 2017, the company produced 12.9 million tonnes of crude steel and 11.6 million tonnes of commercial steel products. MMK Group had sales in 2017 of USD 7,546 million and EBITDA of USD 2,032 million.

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