Use of Industrial Robots in Chinese Iron and Steel Enterprises

What is the use of robots in steel industry?

The labor cost of the iron and steel industry is increasing year by year, and the use of robots to replace manual labor is the general trend and future direction of the development of the iron and steel industry.

In the steel industry, industrial robots have several advantages in replacing manual operations

1) For highly repetitive and labor-intensive operations, robot operations can greatly reduce the intensity of labor and avoid injuries caused by repetitive labor;

2) For standard operations such as quality inspection, temperature measurement, and sample inspection, robotic operations can avoid misjudgments, wrong judgments, and inaccurate measurements caused by human errors, which is conducive to the realization of standardized operations;

3) For some operations in the iron and steel industry that have toxic and harmful gases and high-temperature and harsh environments, using robots to replace manual operations can protect workers from harsh environments and improve operating standards and labor efficiency;

4) Realize the digitalization and informatization of traditional crafts through industrial robots, and use the communication capabilities of robots to realize the “non-landing” of data flow, which greatly improves the speed and accuracy of information transmission on the production line.


use of robots in steel industry, steel coil marking


1. The use of robots in HBIS Group Co., Ltd

The robots applied by Hesteel Tangshan Iron and Steel Co., Ltd. to the production line are mainly for high-intensity and high-repetition tasks such as balers, marking machines, and unpacking machines.

At present, multiple production lines of HBIS are equipped with technologically advanced unpacking machines and packing machines:

1) The high-strength automobile sheet acid rolling, continuous annealing, and 456 galvanizing production lines are respectively equipped with an inlet unpacking machine and an export packing machine;

2) Cold-rolled one-two-three galvanizing lines, five-continuous rolling, and one-two heavy coils are equipped with balers;

3) The stainless steel hot rolling 1580 line is equipped with 2 balers;

4) The 1700 and 1810 lines of Yigang are equipped with export balers. The application effects of the unpacking machine and the packing machine are mainly manifested in replacing the heavy manual labor, improving labor efficiency, and saving labor costs; realizing standardization of the position and quantity of packing belts, effectively improving the operation standard, and avoiding damage to the surface of the steel coil by human operation damage.

In addition, the medium and thick plate slab, stainless steel slab, and No. 1 steel 1700 line are equipped with spraying robots.

HBIS’s unmanned crane system applied to high-strength automobile plates is the first application case of unmanned cranes in the steel industry in China. The unmanned crane system applied by HBIS to the high-strength automobile plate integrates informatization, automation, and process control. The technology effectively connects the isolated cars, cranes, over-span cars, obstacles, steel coils, walking beams, etc. in the warehouse area closely together, realizing the automation of production business processes in the warehouse area, unmanned operation of cranes, The steel coil materials in the storage area are tracked in a full-life cycle.

The unmanned crane system effectively connects the raw material logistics, raw material storage area, and production line, and realizes the whole process automation of steel coil storage and delivery in the storage area, APS production scheduling, MES production execution control, and automatic production process of pickling line. The whole process is fully automatic, providing basic information support for other information systems of smart factories.


unmanned crane


The use effect of the high-strength automotive plate unmanned crane system is mainly manifested in the:

1) Connect information flow; 2) Simplify logistics management; 3) Reduce operating costs; 4) Improve crane efficiency; 5) Improve system security; 6) Reduce logistics costs.

HBIS is introducing slag scavengers on the high-strength auto sheet galvanizing line. The introduction of this robot can replace the manual slag removal operation and reduce the operator’s stay time in high-temperature and high-noise dangerous areas; the frequency and position of slag removal can be set, which can reduce zinc consumption by more than 15% compared with manual slag removal.

Moreover, HBIS is working on the stainless steel slab warehouse and finished product warehouse automatic crane project, which is expected to be put into use by the end of the year. In addition, HBIS plans to introduce robots for electric furnace temperature measurement and sampling and molten steel composition analysis in the steelmaking area and mold slag adding robots in the continuous casting area.


2. Robots used in Beijing Shougang Co., Ltd.

2.1 Laboratory area

1) Raw fuel automatic sampling robot

Realize automatic sampling of raw fuel, and cooperate with pneumatic sample delivery system to realize unmanned sampling of raw fuel.

2) Physical and chemical testing automatic analysis center

Cooperate with the pneumatic sample delivery system and automatic analysis instrument to realize the automatic taking and opening of the sample box, sample transfer, preparation, surface identification, analysis, and filing.

2.2 Steelmaking area

1) Refining automatic temperature measurement and sampling robot

Realize the height and temperature measurement of molten steel in the refining process, and sampling at fixed points and depths.

2) Fully automatic inspection center for steelmaking

Cooperate with the pneumatic sample delivery system and automatic analysis instrument to realize the automatic taking and opening of the sample box, sample transfer, preparation, surface identification, analysis, and filing.

2.3 Hot rolling area

The automatic numbering robot realizes the automatic numbering on the surface of the steel coil.


steel coil manufacturing


2.4 Cold rolling area

1) Automatic unbundling robot

It is suitable for the production process of removing steel coil straps. It can automatically identify the direction of the tape head and the number of straps, and automatically unwind, cut, and collect the straps.

2) Spot welding robot for steel coil inner ring

It is suitable for the production process where the core is easy to collapse after the steel coil is rolled off the production line. It can automatically find the leading position, and compact and spot-weld the collapsed core, which is beneficial to unmanned crane operation and uncoiling operation in the next process.

3) Automatic labeling robot

Stick labels on the surface of the inner and outer rings of the steel coil, and cooperate with the scanning system of the crane clamp to realize the automatic verification of the steel coil information.

4) Steel coil sleeve automatic handling robot

Suitable for production processes that require batch access to metal sleeves. Realize automatic classification and stacking of incoming sleeves, automatic matching, transportation, and loading according to the production plan.

5) Continuous withdrawal automatic sampling robot

It is suitable for the production process of sampling from the beginning and the end of the steel strip and spraying code marks. Realize automatic sorting and stacking of samples, laser coding, and automatic collection of waste boards.

6) Steel coil edge quality inspection robot

It is suitable for the production process of testing the quality of steel coil edges. By imaging the side of the steel coil and using image analysis technology, the quality judgment of the edge of the steel coil is realized.

7) Fully automatic sample preparation robot in silicon steel performance laboratory

Through the cooperation of multiple robots, laser prototyping machines, and laser coding, the automatic handling, processing, coding, and classification of silicon steel samples are realized.

8) Zinc pot slag removal robot

The zinc slag is automatically removed from the zinc pot, replacing the traditional manual work, and preventing the human body from being harmed by high-temperature, toxic, and harmful areas on site.


3. Shanghai Meishan Iron and Steel Limited by Share Ltd

3.1 Configuration and use of slag adding machine

1) At the beginning of 2014, the 3# and 4# continuous casting machines (two machines, two streams, vertical and curved slab continuous casting machines) of Meishan Iron and Steel Co., Ltd. adopted pneumatic light-mounted automatic slag-adding machines (4 sets);

2) In February 2018, Meishan Iron and Steel 2# continuous casting machine (two machines, two streams, vertical and curved slab continuous casting machine) adopted a robot-type automatic slag-adding machine (2 sets);

3) Usage of slag-adding machine: At present, the utilization rate of Meishan Steel’s 3# and 4# continuous casting machines is ≥98%, and that of Meishan Iron and Steel’s 2# continuous casting machine is ≥99%;

4) Usually, the slag-adding machine is not put into use: for process reasons (package change, water outlet change, mixed pouring switch), equipment reasons (equipment failure, parameter adjustment);

5) The use of slag adding machine, combined with mold liquid level control, liquid level abnormality automatic disposal model, mold remote width adjustment, continuous casting automatic voice broadcast system, mold automatic argon blowing system, and casting speed automatic navigation, is the most important project for Meishan Iron and Steel Smelting Co., Ltd. The steel plant has laid the foundation for unmanned steel pouring in the MD area.

3.2 Basic situation of slag adding machine

The robot automatic slag-adding machine is mainly composed of the following parts: robot system, running mechanism, mold slag storage/transportation device, control system, etc.

Robot system: the robot adopts ABB company IRB4600 type. The selection mainly depends on factors such as action stroke, load, and space conditions. From the perspective of usage, the motion and repeat positioning accuracy of the robot far exceed the actual process requirements.

The robot body is installed on the traveling mechanism, driven by a motor, and driven by a rack and pinion. During production, the traveling mechanism moves the robot from the waiting position to the slag-adding position, and returns to the waiting position after casting is completed and slag-adding is completed.

3.3 Advantages of slag adding robot

1) Reduce the labor intensity of the operator and liberate the operator from repetition and monotony;

2) Helped realize unmanned mold area (unmanned steel pouring);

3) Automatically adjust the amount of slag added according to the process requirements;

4) The track of slag addition can be adjusted to ensure a stable slag layer and uniformity;

5) In general, the slag-adding robot is a relatively successful design and application in the steelmaking and continuous casting field.

4 Existing problems in the application of industrial robots in the steel industry

1) The individual needs of iron and steel enterprises.

Although iron and steel production is a process industry, it is not a standardized process industry, and the degree of individualization in equipment, technology, workshops, and operating standards is relatively high. This means that the application of industrial robots in the steel industry needs to solve the constraints of complex environmental conditions and meet various individual needs.

2) The foundation of enterprise informatization is uneven.

The development environment and background of my country’s iron and steel enterprises are different, resulting in a large gap in the development level of iron and steel enterprises, and the enterprises are at different stages of development. my country has the world’s most advanced iron and steel enterprises like Baosteel, but at the same time, there are also a large number of relatively backward iron and steel enterprises, which have many deficiencies in production equipment, on-site management, informatization level, energy conservation, and environmental protection, etc., especially in In terms of informatization, most iron and steel enterprises do not have the basis for the application of industrial robots.

3) The contradiction between labor and efficiency.

On the one hand, due to the reduction of steel production capacity, the steel industry as a whole is facing a gradual decrease in labor demand, and there is an overall surplus of employees in the industry. At the same time, many iron and steel enterprises are still facing difficulties in recruiting workers for positions with high skills, harsh working conditions, and heavy physical labor. The application of industrial robots will inevitably replace a large number of jobs. On the one hand, this means that the steel industry has a huge application space for industrial robots. On the other hand, this replacement process will also affect social employment to a certain extent, thereby affecting social stability.

4) There is a shortage of high-end IT talents.

The informatization talent team of iron and steel enterprises is mainly transferred from relevant personnel in departments such as automation and equipment, or professionals in smelting and rolling. Although some professional informatization talents have been added in recent years, overall informatization The shortage of talents, the overall low level of the team, and the lack of theoretical knowledge and innovation ability have always been important constraints for the development of intelligent manufacturing in iron and steel enterprises.

5) The first application scenario is the industry-leading iron and steel enterprises’ demand for robots. The starting point is to use robots to improve production efficiency and operational accuracy, thereby improving the economic benefits of the enterprise. This demand is rigid and can bring immediate results, but the number of similar enterprises in my country is relatively small.

6) The second application scenario is to use robots to replace jobs that are difficult to recruit, mainly focusing on jobs with heavy physical labor and safety risks in the working environment. Since it is impossible to recruit people, this demand is also a rigid demand, and it will become more urgent as recruitment becomes more and more difficult.

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