Materials scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology are research participants in two of the six projects that make up the Advanced Process Control Program, a cooperative effort between the American Iron and Steel Institute and the Department of Energy. The development of process control systems for steelmaking could save U.S. producers an estimated $300 million annually.
The goal of the program is to improve the competitiveness of the North American steel industry in the global marketplace. The development of advanced process controls will enable industry to achieve more efficient production of consistently higher-quality finished steel products. Current technology does not permit the continuous on-line measurement of many critical product properties.
The NIST researchers are participating in collaborative efforts between industry, government and universities in projects on microstructure engineering in hot strip mills and for on-line non-destructive mechanical properties measurement.
Under the microstructure engineering project, NIST will develop a predictive tool or process model that can quantitatively link the properties of hot-rolled products to the process parameters of a hot strip mill. With the predictive model, producers will be able to compute the microstructural evolution of steel that takes place during processing. This will enable producers to achieve desired qualities, such as strength, during processing rather than attempting to obtain it by inspection.
U.S. Steel Group, Pittsburgh, Pa., is a cooperating participant in the microstructure engineering project. The other research participant is the University of British Columbia.
The on-line, non-destructive mechanical properties measurement project will focus on the development of non-destructive evaluation sensors using magnetic and laser- induced ultrasonic technology for the continuous on-line measurement of yield and tensile strengths, elongation and strain hardening exponents, important characteristics in sheet-metal forming for the manufacture of automobiles and appliances.
The cooperating steelmaking participants are LTV Steel Co., Cleveland, Ohio, and Weirton Steel Co., Weirton, W.Va. The Industrial Materials Institute of Canada also is a research participant.
According to Tom Yolken, chief of the NIST Intelligent Processing of Materials Program, the lack of control systems to obtain product information in real time does not provide any opportunity for on-line corrective action. Product inspections must be made after manufacture to separate good material from the bad. Steel producers now have mounted a major effort to reduce waste and improve quality, says Yolken.
The overall administration of the five-year, $23 million program is under the American Iron and Steel Institute. DoE will provide 70 percent of the funding, and AISI will provide the rest.
Other projects in the AISI/DoE program are the development of optical sensors and control for improved basic oxygen furnace operation, improved liquid steel feeding for slab casters, phase measurement of galvannealed steel and temperature measurement of galvannealed steel.
Bethlehem Steel Corp., Inland Steel Industries Inc. and National Steel Corp. are the other U.S. steelmaking cooperating participants in the Advanced Process Control Program.
As a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.