The Unmanned Era Of The Current Steel Plant

This article will express The Unmanned Era Of The Current Steel Plant in 3 parts:

Which countries or regions in the world have established unmanned steel plants?

Application Cases of China’s Unmanned Steel Plants

What was the impact of automation in the steel industry on workers?

Typical equipment used in unmanned steel mills


Which countries or regions in the world have established unmanned steel plants?

Nowadays, we are all familiar with terms such as artificial intelligence, unmanned, and big data. Of course, many industries have started unmanned, and steel mills are no exception.

At present, countries or regions in the world that have established unmanned steel plants include Germany, Japan, South Korea, the United States, and China.

Then, Volkswagen’s “unmanned factory” is a typical example, with only a few workers in a production workshop. Japan’s Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Group is also promoting the construction of unmanned steel plants and plans to achieve the world’s highest level of production efficiency and quality by 2025. South Korea’s POSCO is also using smart technology and robots to increase production automation. U.S. Steel is also accelerating the digital transformation to build smart factories. China’s steel industry is also actively promoting digital transformation and intelligent upgrading. Some well-known enterprises such as Meishan Steel, Ford Motor, Foxconn, and Gree have established unmanned or intelligent factories or workshops.

Intelligent manufacturing is the key to the transformation and upgrading of traditional industries and the realization of high-quality development. The integration of industrialization and industrialization in the steel industry has always been a precedent in the industrial field. It has a good information foundation and has basically realized automatic full-process control. We are in a critical period of transformation from automation to intelligence.

Starting from specific on-site applications, we will explore an application model suitable for the steel industry, and promote the steel industry to achieve higher, faster, and better development in industrial interconnection, 5G applications, and artificial intelligence.

industrial automation and robotics


Application Cases of China’s Unmanned Steel Plants

Recently, many steel companies have made new innovations and improvements in unmanned automation. Let us take a closer look

Shagang Group’s unmanned steel plant process

1. Successively built a number of unmanned vehicle renovation projects in warehouse areas such as slabs, coils, and scrap steel

There are 8 cranes, 4 straddle cars, 5 walking beams, 1 high-speed trolley, and two packing areas in the post-rolling warehouse of the acid rolling workshop of Shagang, facing the complex process of material supply, transfer, storage, and other operations in the warehouse area and collaborative scenarios, how to ensure the safety of human-computer interaction during packaging operations in the process of unmanned transformation, and based on the operation process in the warehouse area, automatically generate scheduling instructions to ensure that the driving in the warehouse area is in a coordinated state, so as to realize the smooth operation of various businesses in the warehouse area Orderly operation and efficient management are the main technical difficulties of the project.

1) Unmanned operation: automatic control system

The automatic control system includes the automatic control system of the driving body, the transmission control system, the positioning control system, the anti-collision system, the spreader control system, the anti-sway control system, and the data system, etc., which can realize unmanned driving, precise positioning and automatic hoisting of the driving Steel coil and other functions.

2) Efficient collaboration: automatic warehouse management system

As the control core of unmanned vehicles, the automatic warehouse management system adds various automation equipment interfaces on the basis of the conventional warehouse area management system, as well as functions such as automatic operation management in the warehouse area, traffic scheduling, unmanned control, and remote monitoring. Data loss is ensured in the event of a system failure. At the same time, through the data interaction between the primary and secondary units of acid rolling, continuous annealing, galvanizing, silicon steel and tin plating, the corresponding information will be obtained to realize the seamless connection of data between different production lines.

3) Safe operation: ground management system

The ground management system can realize the ground safety management of the unmanned operation of the entire reservoir area through the construction of electronic fences and automatic barrier gates, ensuring the absolute safety of unmanned driving.

4) Real-time monitoring: video monitoring system

The video surveillance system can monitor the real-time movement of the vehicle by installing a video surveillance camera on the vehicle, and grasp the on-site operation of the vehicle in real-time.

Through the unmanned upgrade and transformation of the original crane, it will eventually realize the positioning, warehousing, loading, lifting, and automatic inspection of the steel coils produced by the crane in the workshop, improve the automation level of operations, reduce the intensity of manual work, and ensure Safer, more efficient and more economical operation of the reservoir area.

  • Real-time tracking of automatic operations, fine management of warehouse areas
  • Centralized management and control reduce staff to increase efficiency and reduce manpower input
  • Guarantee the lifting quality of steel coils and avoid damage to steel coils
  • Extend the equipment maintenance cycle and reduce the failure rate
  • Standardize operations to improve driving efficiency


2. Shagang introduced continuous casting unmanned steel pouring project

After the continuous casting unmanned steel pouring project is put into use, the robot will replace the manual installation and disassembly of the long nozzle, cleaning, oxygen burning, and temperature measurement and sampling of the tundish, which will greatly reduce labour intensity, reduce the number of operators, and improve work efficiency. After the project is put into operation, Shagang will spread and promote it in other continuous casting workshops to comprehensively promote the process of unmanned continuous casting.

The silicon steel workshop of Shagang Cold Rolling Plant strives to build a full-process intelligent manufacturing production line. At present, it has basically formed an information system with relatively complete functions from basic automation, process control system, manufacturing execution system, and enterprise resource planning to decision support. Transfer, realize the digital control of the whole production process, break through the “information island” formed between different systems and personnel in different positions in the past, and realize “one-click order organization production”.

In Shagang, a series of seemingly impossible “unmanned” dreams have become reality through intelligent manufacturing methods. The first domestic fast online automatic temperature measurement and sampling robot in front of the furnace is “like a fish in water” in the electric furnace steelworks. , Teaching, the robot automatically loads the temperature measurement sampling probe according to the set movement trajectory and automatically completes the detection and sampling of the electric furnace molten steel. The whole process only takes 25 seconds, fast and accurate, and can directly display the molten steel temperature and element composition curve data on the computer screen.

Since 2011, Shagang has launched the “machine replacement” plan. At present, more than 100 robots have been installed to realize automatic slag addition by robots, automatic spraying by manipulators, and rapid online automatic temperature measurement and sampling by robots. In the next 3 to 5 years, Shagang will have 1,000 to 1,500 robots on duty one after another. These robots will be distributed in positions with repetitive simple labor and harsh working conditions such as high temperature and high dust, which can not only reduce manpower, labour intensity, and safety accidents but also greatly improve operation accuracy and product quality.


Wuhan Iron and Steel Co., Ltd. – Fully automatic from molten iron admission to rolling

Relying on 5G+ industrial Internet, Wuhan Iron and Steel Co., Ltd. is comprehensively promoting digital transformation and smart manufacturing. Up to now, a total of 55 smart manufacturing projects have been established, with a total investment of 2.62 billion yuan, and an investment of 1.6 billion yuan has been completed. A large number of smart manufacturing achievements such as management and control centers have emerged as the times require.

In the management and control centre, hot rolling control centre, and 2250 mm hot rolling production line, the “smart brain” realizes the visual management of the whole process from raw material entering the factory to the finished product leaving the factory and the value-added service of the whole life cycle. Human operation; the operation room is all centralized, and the employees are far away from the work site. “One-key steelmaking”, “smart transportation” and “smart inspection” have become a reality here; data integration and real-time collection; robots are loyal and pious, and they work hard in 3D positions All in all, part of the scene has been reduced or even unmanned.

5G empowerment, all operating positions will use robots

Relying on the construction of a 5G network, 5G+ unmanned driving, 5G+ intelligent hot metal dispatching, 5G+ UAV line inspection… These 5G+ industrial Internet application scenarios have successively landed in the “smart” factory area of Wuhan Iron and Steel Co., Ltd.

Wuhan Iron and Steel Co., Ltd. launched the iron-steel interface intelligent management and control platform with the core of realizing intelligent molten iron scheduling and aiming at improving the operation efficiency of the iron-steel interface, reducing the temperature drop of molten iron, and optimizing the configuration of operating positions. After the platform is put into use, it realizes a dedicated network and smart hot metal dispatching, comprehensive energy saving of 10%, and a staff reduction of 50 people.

Relying on the 5G network, Wuhan Iron and Steel Co., Ltd. has also realized the real-time monitoring of the running status of locomotives and molten iron, and video transmission at crossings to locomotives. In the future, it will rely on the 5G private network to realize control functions such as integrated locomotive positioning, unmanned driving, and automatic hook removal.

5G empowerment will help Wuhan Iron and Steel Co., Ltd. realize the centralized control room on-site, use robots in all operating positions, remote operation and maintenance monitoring, and implement the goal of “four uniformity” in all service links, transforming into an intelligent, efficient, and safe chemical factory. Relying on 5G+ industrial Internet, Wuhan Iron and Steel Co., Ltd. will enter a new era of smart manufacturing of “cloud computing” and “dream factory”.


Guangxi Iron and Steel’s first full-process unmanned high-line finished product warehouse 5G unmanned crane was put into use

The country’s first full-process unmanned high-line finished product warehouse 5G unmanned crane was officially put into operation in Guangxi Iron and Steel Rod and Wire Factory, which became the largest application scene of Guangxi Iron and Steel Group’s 5G technology in the physical field, and accelerated the promotion of Guangxi Iron and Steel Group’s whole-process unmanned Humanized intelligent manufacturing process.

In the centralized control room of Guangxi Iron and Steel Rod and Wire Factory, the staff pressed the command key and saw that the 5G unmanned crane on the monitoring screen “grabbed” a coil of steel smoothly and accurately, lifted it to the designated position of the saddle, sucked the coil, Lifting, lifting, and unloading are done in one go. After the transfer is completed, the system automatically updates the position and quantity information of the coils

The 5G high-line warehouse intelligent crane system uses a unified monitoring and dispatching platform, which can comprehensively track the process of coil storage, driving operation scheduling, stacking, and storage, to realize unmanned transfer equipment and logistics information in the storage area. Digitalization and centralized management. Among them, the 5G unmanned crane relies on the characteristics of 5G low latency, high speed, and large broadband to provide a “zero” delay experience for the command issuance and execution of the crane. Through remote command control, the finished product is hoisted from unloading to Specify the storage location and automatically carries out the loading operation at the specified location. The warehouse management system interface is designed as a 3D screen, which can be rotated 360° for free observation and can more realistically restore the actual scene on site. It can remotely control the driving in real-time and from multiple angles, and complete the whole process of coil hoisting and storage.

After the system was put into use, the staff of Guangxi Iron and Steel Rod and Wire Factory transferred from the site to the centralized control room for control, which improved the working environment of the employees and reduced labour intensity. At the same time, the average time to complete the unmanned single-lifting warehousing task is 2 minutes, which is 25% more efficient than manual operation. It can also realize the automatic lifting task of “one person and two vehicles”, which reduces operating costs and improves the work efficiency of the factory. and intelligent management level.


Unmanned automatic slag-picking crane put into use in Kunming Iron and Steel Yugang

The slag-picking operation of the ironworks of Kunming Iron and Steel Yugang Co., Ltd. has successfully realized unmanned automatic slag-picking operation, which can reduce labour costs by about 400,000 yuan per year.

The working environment of slag-picking driving in ironworks has been surrounded by water slag steam for a long time. Manual operation is labour-intensive and inefficient, and at the same time affects the health of operators. The slag-removing crane has successfully realized intelligent unmanned operation, which has effectively improved the production and operation environment of employees, improved labour production efficiency, reduced labour costs, and improved the efficiency of production and operation management.


Shaogang’s unmanned large-bale continuous casting platform has a successful hot test

Realize online loading and unloading of cylinders by robots, and online loading and unloading of shrouds by robots, which is an important step for intelligent continuous casting machines.
This project is the first in the country, and the success rate of changing the water port is 100%, far exceeding similar foreign products. The degree of difficulty is very high. The project is equipped with 3 industrial robots, which can automatically complete 13 operations in the ladle pouring area. It is a super-large platform.


What was the impact of automation in the steel industry on workers?

Unmanned steel mills have officially appeared on the historical stage. The emergence of automatic equipment such as intelligent driving in steel mills, automatic inspection systems, and automatic hanging rollers has made the production process of steel mills safer, more stable, and more efficient. Humanization shows that the future unmanned trend is irresistible, and perhaps in the near future, a large number of workers will be eliminated.

So, is dehumanization a good thing or a bad thing for workers? After the realization of unmanned, where should workers go?

Many people feel that it is unfriendly to workers when they hear that there is no humanization. In fact, on the contrary, the benefits of unmanned steel mills outweigh the disadvantages for workers.

We all know that in the past, a factory required almost 100 people. Can you imagine the scene where everyone’s clothes are soaked in the high temperature in summer? The emergence of intelligent machines frees workers from heavy labour. They only need to ensure the smooth operation of the entire system in the control center and direct the unmanned vehicles to work through calculations.

In other words, the development model of “steel + intelligent manufacturing” not only makes steel manufacturing more intelligent but also reduces the labor intensity of employees and improves work efficiency.

But some small partners believe that although unmanned will not eliminate all workers, some workers will inevitably lose their jobs. In fact, you don’t have to worry about this problem. After all, the unmanned factory has just begun, and workers will not be replaced so quickly.

Although artificial intelligence is very powerful, in the factory, intelligent machines can only help us to work easily, but there are still many jobs that require workers to do.

Technological change will take some low-end menial jobs, and eventually create higher-end human jobs.


Typical equipment used in unmanned steel mills

1. Unmanned driving in steel mills


unmanned steel plant



The unmanned driving system project in steel mills is mainly to realize the real-time tracking of the location of iron ladles and steel ladles through the implementation of the integrated management system of iron ladles and steel ladles in the steelmaking plant and to integrate the iron ladles and steel ladles into the steelmaking plant Logistics data, improve production organization and refined management level, achieve safe and stable operation of driving, automatically adjust area limits, without manual intervention in the middle. It has functions such as automatic cruise, centralized vehicle control, remote monitoring, space-earth communication, video linkage, automatic deviation correction, and safe path to achieve the goal of “unmanned operation and human monitoring”.

Since the crane moves in real-time in the factory area and has a wide operating range, considering the difficulty in distance calculation and construction using wired communication between the onboard computer and the dispatching room, Shanghai Junjin provided a wireless network layout plan for this system.

In order to accurately track the location of iron-clad steel ladles and facilitate real-time management and scheduling, onboard computers and card readers for dispatching are installed on the crane, and RFID tags are installed along the way. When the ladle is transferred to the factory area, it can accurately locate the current position, manage the driving route, and improve production efficiency.


2. Intelligent robot system

The integrated application of industrial robots has become a major move to promote intelligent manufacturing to serve the production. At present, a large number of intelligent robots such as coding and sampling that replace manual operations under high-intensity and harsh operating environments have been employed.

1) Automatic Label Welding Robot/Automatic wire rod tagging robot


intelligent wire rod mill, labelling robot, AI in steel industry


The automatic label welding/ wire rod tagging robot is used in the production of bars and wires. At the production site, the mechanical arm is waved smoothly, taking the plate, positioning, and welding. The whole set of actions will accurately weld two finished labels on the end face of the steel bundle in less than 30 seconds. Meet the high-paced production needs of various companies for rods and wires.


2) Number-spraying robot

The multi-mode automatic printing system of the number spraying robot realizes the automatic recognition of the printing requirements of different steel coils by the number spraying robot and the automatic switching of the printing mode, which effectively improves the production line operation rate. It not only makes the printing accuracy rate reach 100% but also frees the coiling operators of the production line from the complicated operation procedures, allowing them to have more time and energy to focus on product quality.


3) Automatic casting powder adding robot

Casting powder-adding robot can work 24 hours a day at the forefront of production – above the mouth of the mould, adding mould slag to the casting process of the mould at all times, which plays an important role in ensuring the thickness of mould slag liquid slag and billet quality.

The use of the automatic slag-adding robot has greatly reduced the error of manual slag-adding, the thickness of the slag layer and the thickness of the liquid slag can be guaranteed at any time, and the lack of slag on the liquid surface of the crystallizer has been greatly reduced, the use effect of the mould slag has been improved, and the Quality defects or sticking caused by slag problems.

At the same time, with the use of the automatic slag-adding robot for the crystallizer, the manual labour intensity is reduced, and the employees can monitor the production with more energy and attention, and timely check the hidden dangers in the production.


4) Cooling bed sampling robot


industrial robot


The cooling bed sampling robot system of the bar production line is a fully automatic high-tech product, which can completely replace manual labor to meet the operational requirements of bar sampling, and can realize the functions of fully automatic identification, grabbing, cutting, and sample collection. The sampling robot consists of a 6-degree-of-freedom manipulator and a controller, which can flexibly adjust its posture to complete the sampling operation. It can be used with a double-head saw and a meter weight meter to realize the automation of the whole process of sampling and testing.


3. Bar counting and separating system

The steel bar online counting and separating system uses machine vision technology to identify and locate the steel bar online, automatically stitches the images, and finally realizes the bar counting function. When the steel bar reaches the set number, it will track the location of the steel bar and the steel bar in real time. , control the steel divider to automatically divide steel.


4. Laser Doppler Velocimeter

The Laser Doppler Velocimeter system is suitable for the manufacture of various metal products such as bars, pipes, wires, plates, strips, hot rolling, cold rolling, etc. It can accurately measure speed and length online in real-time and can measure billets at a temperature of 1000 °C.


5. High-line roller ring detection management system

The special equipment designed for the rolling line uses AI technology and 3D depth cameras to realize automatic roll ring detection and life cycle management and conducts roll diameter identification for each new roll ring or rolled roll ring after grinding, physical size monitoring, Coding, data recording, sorting, and sorting data, combined with robot automatic loading and unloading, and three-dimensional intelligent library, can clearly give the required data when assembling and optimize the configuration of the roller ring.


6. Intelligent inspection

With the characteristics of uninterrupted, high frequency, and strong environmental adaptability, it can avoid safety risks for operation and maintenance personnel and is more efficient, comprehensive, safer, and smarter. It is used in power distribution rooms, substations, under-heating furnaces, coke oven basements, Iron front gas cabinets, belts, cable duct gallery

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