Due to the recent surge in electrode prices, reducing cost has become an important aspect of the business. This can be achieved through detailed tracking and management of electrodes segments. Previously existing technologies only tracked generic electrode additions into the EAF and did not consider the electrode specifications or the type and quality of scrap steel that is being melted.
The objective of this initiative was to build a tool to track each electrode section in real time by its own unique serial number during the steel melting process. Each electrode section will be linked to a set of specifications and have real-time usage tracking.
The user interface is graphically similar to the physical electrode mechanism with touch screen capabilities. The screen would enable the end user to select the electrode section that is being put into use at the EAF and enter in other electrode attributes such as supplier, size, length, and weight. Users can also identify broken electrodes on the screen and select reasons for the break. Furthermore, a functionality was developed to handle mass electrode inventory updates into the MES system.
The tracking process is primarily based on data received from the steel mill’s L2 PLC systems in integration with the L3 MES system. Through this interface the MES system would receive a boolean signal – indicating that the Electric Arc Furnace has been powered on – thus indicating that the electrodes are in use and actively engaged in melting scrap steel. This signal is used to track the amount of time the electrodes are physically in use. The type of scrap and the chemistry of steel will also be tracked through the existing MES system. This information will be tied to the electrodes based on when they are in use at the EAF.
Tracking electrodes and their specifications will quickly create a large pool of data. This data can then be used to identify and analyze the primary reasons behind electrode wear & tear and breaks. The data also has the potential to predict electrode breaks – this will help steel producers replace these electrodes before they physically break, hence reducing downtime in the process. Currently, the primary cause of electrode breaks is non-conducting scrap metal. This data can to some extent be traced back to a certain scrap pile and further back to a scrap supplier. Premature electrode breaks will help identify scrap suppliers that are responsible for providing low quality scrap.
Such insight gives steel makers a tool that can help them make more informed decisions in terms of selecting electrode and scrap metal suppliers, and the way in which electrodes are used. As more data is collected from steel mills with varying practices, it will undoubtedly turn up trends which will open numerous optimization pathways that have not yet been discovered.