It is the heat that counts – anybody who has ever done a cake knows that. In furnaces used by the steel industry, the temperature plays also an important role. It is a significant cost driver and it is crucial for the product quality. One of these furnaces can consume as much energy as thousands of households. Andreas Steinboeck from Vienna University of Technology developed a temperature controller for steel furnaces, which reduces both energy consumption and CO2 emissions. For his PhD dissertation, he now received the Mechatronic Award 2011.
Optimal control of temperature
Steel blocks weighing up to 40 tons, so-called “slabs”, are reheated to approximately 1100 degrees Celsius before they can be rolled out to plates and sheets in the rolling mill. The industrial furnace is fired with gas and reheats 280 tons of steel per hour. This process consumes as a much energy as a town with 25 000 residents. Andreas Steinboeck from the Automation and Control Institute of Vienna University of Technology developed a temperature control system for a slab reheating furnace of Aktiengesellschaft der Dillinger Hüttenwerke – Europe’s leading heavy-plate producer. “A particular challenge is that the temperatures of the slabs cannot be measured while they are continuously transported through the furnace,” says Andreas Steinboeck.
The novel control system defines the local furnace temperatures so that the desired final slab temperature is reached as accurately as possible. In mathematical terms, this is a rather complicated task: Based on a tailored nonlinear dynamical model, the future temperatures of both the furnace and the steel slabs are predicted and the temperature is optimized. Andreas Steinboeck’s work has been supervised by Professor Andreas Kugi.
New concept already in operation
The new temperature controller has already proved to be effective in practice: At the plate producer Dillinger Hütte, Andreas Steinboeck’s concept has now been in continuous operation for several months. Since commissioning, the accuracy of the slabs reheating process and the throughput of the furnace has improved. The new controller is a stepping stone to environmentally friendly steel manufacturing: It reduced the energy consumption by 9.7% and the annual CO2 emissions by 9 500 tons. Encouraged by these successful results, Dillinger Hütte plans to use the new controller also for the other slab reheating furnaces of its rolling mill.
The Mechatronics Award
For his PhD thesis, Andreas Steinboeck received this year’s Mechtronics award on November 17, 2011 in Linz. Since 2006, the prize is annually awarded in five categories to present outstanding research results in the field of mechatronics to the general public. An international jury selects the best dissertations from Austrian universities and the scientific community of the Austrian Center of Competence in Mechatronics (ACCM). The prize is sponsored by the Confederation of Upper Austrian Industry, the Upper Austrian chapter of the Austrian Association of Engineers and Architects, the Mechatronics Cluster and the ACCM.
Internet: Aktien-Gesellschaft der Dillinger Hüttenwerke:
The Mechtronic Award:
Dr. Andreas Steinboeck
Automation and Control Institute (ACIN)
Vienna University of Technology
Gußhausstraße 25-29, 1040 Wien