In late June 2019, the Steel Institute VDEh hosted the “European Steel Technology and Application Days” Congress in Düsseldorf, together with the metallurgical trade fair known as METEC.

Regarded by many as “THE steel technology congress”, this was a forum not to be missed – and so it proved for Hub Director Paul Zulli, who attended as a representative of the Steel Research Hub community.

Overview

State-of-the-art technologies and developments across steel manufacturing as well as advancements in steel materials and their applications were presented, with over 550 technical presentations in 120 technical sessions.  Most areas were covered including perhaps the two most disruptive issues facing the steel industry:

  • Low Carbon Steelmaking; and
  • Industry 4.0.

Low Carbon Steelmaking

The European Union (EU) has established a significant policy initiative through setting a substantial decrease in CO2 emissions of 80-95% by 2050, relative to 1990.

Steel, with its manifold applications in energy, automotive and households, is a “CO2 mitigation enabler, but must also compete with other materials currently on the market or in development”. The industry must remain at least one step ahead.

Hence, an EU steel industry initiative is underway to evaluate specific processing system, and to establish the development guidelines and roadmap to 2050 under two broad technological pathways:

  • Smart Carbon Usage (use of circular economy principles); and
  • Carbon Direct Avoidance (use of hydrogen and renewable energy).

The significance of Low Carbon Steelmaking was demonstrated from the initial presentations and comments in the Opening Session, through to those made during the LCS Workshop on the final day.

It was evident that an integrated, holistic framework involving political and cross-sector industrial elements was necessary to develop “climate” solutions for what is a societal problem.  This is because of the significant infrastructure and high renewable energy demand required if such solutions are to be implemented.

Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 solutions will play a crucial part in modern, efficient and advanced steel manufacturing operations.

State-of-the-art instrumentation and ubiquitous automation technologies already exist, allowing the collection and storage of live and historical data from multiple sensors. These data – the prerequisite for applying various digital solutions – represent the raw material of the Industry 4.0 age and the innovative means for more sophisticated process control, predictive maintenance, etc to be put into practice.

At the Congress, the Industry 4.0 theme was pervasive – covered both at the discipline (e.g. computational engineering) and core process/product technology levels.

Excellent examples of new insights into the integration and implementation of Industry 4.0 in the steel industry were provided, together with the overall requirements and enabling technologies to realize specific outcomes demonstrated through case studies.  These case studies ranged from:

  • Condition monitoring and smart maintenance;
  • Smart sensors for monitoring wear of key refractory cooling components;
  • Process optimization and predictions incorporated into operator guidance systems; and
  • Machine learning and a digital twin approaches to manufacturing.