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Steel Production Application Wins Top Innovation Award

November 21, 2006

A fast sensor that makes steel production more efficient was the top prizewinning development among those honored with 2006 Heraeus Innovation Awards.


(from release) Heraeus presented the first prize (2500 euros) in its 2006 Heraeus Innovation Awards, to Johan Knevels of Heraeus Electro-Nite (Belgium). His clever sensor featuring an electromagnetic measurement system is capable of determining the fill level of ladles with molten steel within seconds.

"Innovations open up new markets, secure existing markets, and can even save companies," said Dr. Frank Heinricht, Member of the Board of Management of Heraeus Holding GmbH. "This is why we consider the Innovation Award the right way to effectively promote innovations at Heraeus," he added, mentioning several developments awarded the Innovation Award in the past that have already established themselves as successful products in the market. They include the online RIC method for the manufacture of large fused silica glass preforms for optical fibers for the telecommunications industry and a multiphase catalyst to destroy ozone damaging laughing gas in fertilizer production.

The Heraeus Innovation Award was first awarded in 2003. All Heraeus researchers and developers worldwide are eligible to participate. This year, a total of 13 developments were submitted. Heraeus conceived the Innovation Award to make innovations that are often hidden in the company visible and at the same time appropriately honor the achievements and talents of the researchers and developers. In 2006, Heraeus allocated some 58 million euros to research and development. The funds are being put to use efficiently by more than 350 R&D staff members in 25 development centers worldwide. The precious metal and technology group currently has 3,900 patents.

1st Prize: "Smart Sensor" sets standards in steel production (Heraeus Electro Nite)

In steel production, the product goes through a variety of different processes. Liquid iron is transformed into steel in converters. The finished steel is tapped by emptying the converter vessel into giant ladles (more than 400 tons capacity) and is then transferred to the next cleaning process. This is precisely where the steel sensor developed by Johan Knevels sets new standards. Optimal filling of the ladle is of critical importance in the tapping process. However, a definite freeboard must be kept available between the top edge of the ladle and the surface of the steel for the next step. An added impediment is that slag is carried along when the steel is poured, making it more difficult to visually estimate the fill level.

The new measuring sensor from Heraeus Electro-Nite solves this problem. Carried on a lance, the single-use sensor automatically pierces through the slag layer at high speed until it reaches the surface of the steel. Using an electromagnetic measuring method, the sensor first measures the distance of the top layer of the slag. The measuring signal declines abruptly as soon as the sensor head contacts the layer of steel. These two signals make it possible to determine the distance from the surface of the steel to the edge of the ladle within two seconds. If the allowable clearance has not been reached, more steel can be automatically decanted into the appropriate ladle during the next filling. Productivity is thus increased by as much as five tons more steel per ladle. This saves time and costs. The latest member of the Heraeus Electro-Nite sensor family is already being used with great success in the steel industry.

Heraeus, the precious metals and technology group headquartered in Hanau, Germany, is a global, private company in the business segments of precious metals, dental health, sensors, quartz glass and specialty lighting sources. With revenues of more than EUR 9 billion and more than 10,600 employees in over 100 companies, Heraeus has stood out for more than 150 years as one of the world's leading companies involved in precious metals and materials technology.


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