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Data-Driven Process Metallurgy – UTCAS at Kanthal

At Kanthal’s steel plant in Hallstahammar, Sweden, most of the company’s high-temperature and resistance materials are produced. In their modified CLU converter, supplied by UHT in 1996¸ Kanthal’s large array of special steel is refined to meet the company’s high standards. As in any special steel or stainless steel production, there are considerable values in terms of metallic throughput processed at Kanthal. It is vital that material losses and operational costs are minimised while simultaneously meeting the processing objectives.

Together with UHT, Kanthal decided to evaluate how the converter unit could be run more efficiently, focusing on processing time, refractory wear and use of raw materials. The collaboration included upgrading Kanthal’s steel production management system, UTCAS, to the latest version, including metallurgy and data support.

Johanna Mörtberg, process developer and metallurgist at Kanthal, explains the challenges of refining Kanthal’s special steel alloys:
– Many of our highly specialised alloys are refined in the CLU converter unit. Our challenge is to find optimal processing conditions that will enhance refractory life, save time and is easy to operate.

She finds that one of the processing benefits of UTCAS is its temperature and carbon level prediction. She continues to describe how many of Kanthal’s complex alloys create a reactive and toxic environment for the refractory.

– Sampling takes a lot of time which means more refractory wear and something we want to keep to a minimum. With UTCAS, I can visualise and improve the design of a process based on calculations and previous data regarding process gases, alloying, reduction, and slag forming material that gives the operator a reliable procedure without unnecessary sampling.

According to Johanna, Kanthal regularly produces new or rare grades. With UTCAS, she can compare previous standard operating practices (SOP), or grade recipes as she calls them, to find the best route for the new grade based on existing data. Before releasing the SOP for production, it is simulated in the digital twin built into UTCAS. The simulation makes it possible to test how the SOP handles different scenarios, thereby minimising additions and reducing waste.

– New steel grades are for the most part similar to the ones we frequently produce. I am then able to tweak our previous recipes, or SOP:s, in UTCAS to match the new grade. But sometimes, they prove to be quite a challenge and almost have to be treated as a small development project.

Johanna continues to explain how the replay function in UTCAS allows her to review each melt and trim the process parameters further to find the optimal temperature control and decarburisation rate.

The data-driven approach to process metallurgy that Johanna describes also requires a reporting system which is easy to handle for the operators and integrated with the user interface. In UTCAS, the operators get a visualised image of the process procedure that the metallurgist has designed for each practice. Based on the design, the operators can make informed decisions on how to control the flow of process gases and add the correct amount of raw materials during processing.

Johanna points out that optimising process gas flow, raw materials, and refractory wear is not only cost-beneficial.

– We want to be able to produce high-quality steel with as little impact on the environment as possible. By finding process routes for converter refining that reduces the use of resources, we can reduce the material cost per ton steel product and decrease the environmental impact per ton steel seen from a life cycle perspective, Johanna concludes.

Johanna Kanthal

Johanna Mörtberg

Data-Driven Process Metallurgy – UTCAS at Kanthal

At Kanthal’s steel plant in Hallstahammar, Sweden, most of the company’s high-temperature and resistance materials are produced. In their modified CLU converter, supplied by UHT in 1996¸ Kanthal’s large array of special steel is refined to meet the company’s high standards. As in any special steel or stainless steel production, there are considerable values in terms of metallic throughput processed at Kanthal. It is vital that material losses and operational costs are minimised while simultaneously meeting the processing objectives.

Together with UHT, Kanthal decided to evaluate how the converter unit could be run more efficiently, focusing on processing time, refractory wear and use of raw materials. The collaboration included upgrading Kanthal’s steel production management system, UTCAS, to the latest version, including metallurgy and data support.

Johanna Mörtberg, process developer and metallurgist at Kanthal, explains the challenges of refining Kanthal’s special steel alloys:
– Many of our highly specialised alloys are refined in the CLU converter unit. Our challenge is to find optimal processing conditions that will enhance refractory life, save time and is easy to operate.

She finds that one of the processing benefits of UTCAS is its temperature and carbon level prediction. She continues to describe how many of Kanthal’s complex alloys create a reactive and toxic environment for the refractory.

– Sampling takes a lot of time which means more refractory wear and something we want to keep to a minimum. With UTCAS, I can visualise and improve the design of a process based on calculations and previous data regarding process gases, alloying, reduction, and slag forming material that gives the operator a reliable procedure without unnecessary sampling.

According to Johanna, Kanthal regularly produces new or rare grades. With UTCAS, she can compare previous standard operating practices (SOP), or grade recipes as she calls them, to find the best route for the new grade based on existing data. Before releasing the SOP for production, it is simulated in the digital twin built into UTCAS. The simulation makes it possible to test how the SOP handles different scenarios, thereby minimising additions and reducing waste.

– New steel grades are for the most part similar to the ones we frequently produce. I am then able to tweak our previous recipes, or SOP:s, in UTCAS to match the new grade. But sometimes, they prove to be quite a challenge and almost have to be treated as a small development project.

Johanna continues to explain how the replay function in UTCAS allows her to review each melt and trim the process parameters further to find the optimal temperature control and decarburisation rate.

The data-driven approach to process metallurgy that Johanna describes also requires a reporting system which is easy to handle for the operators and integrated with the user interface. In UTCAS, the operators get a visualised image of the process procedure that the metallurgist has designed for each practice. Based on the design, the operators can make informed decisions on how to control the flow of process gases and add the correct amount of raw materials during processing.

Johanna points out that optimising process gas flow, raw materials, and refractory wear is not only cost-beneficial.

– We want to be able to produce high-quality steel with as little impact on the environment as possible. By finding process routes for converter refining that reduces the use of resources, we can reduce the material cost per ton steel product and decrease the environmental impact per ton steel seen from a life cycle perspective, Johanna concludes.

Johanna Kanthal

Johanna Mörtberg

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