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Thermography optimises steel flow of ladle systems

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Vesuvius Group develops, manufactures and markets high performance specialty ceramics, refractory products and flow control systems for the iron and steel, non-ferrous metal and glass manufacturing industries.

Headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, the group employs some 9,000 people in more than 60 manufacturing locations worldwide.

Vesuvius devotes more than two percent of its one-billion-Euro annual turnover to improve the processes, products and systems of the industries it serves.

Vesuvius Systems, a division of Vesuvius Group SA, located in Ghlin, Belgium, designs, develops and markets steel flow control systems for steel-making plants.

Flow control products:

Flow control systems link the various stages of steel production. Liquid steel, the production of which starts in a converter or an electric furnace, is tapped into a ladle through a furnace gate.

Further production steps required to produce high-grade steel, such as a vacuum treatment of the liquid steel take place exclusively in the ladle.

Such ladle metallurgy is also called secondary metallurgy. After passing the ladle’s secondary metallurgy process, the ladle’s content is poured in the tundish of a continuous casting machine through a ladle slide gate valve.

Then the hot steel is casted from the tundish to the continuous casting machine moulds, channelled through tundish slide gate valves which assure an accurate level control of the moulds for the steel.

The flow control systems are designed by material science specialists such as metallurgists, fluid-dynamics and ceramics experts. Supported by project management, these devices are installed and commissioned in the steel making plants.

Time for thermography:

Casting system slide gates and other casting systems are designed and developed at the Vesuvius Group’s flow control research and development centre which is located in Ghlin, Belgium.

Among its customers are major steel makers such as MITTAL and Arcelor. Although relying on an extensive know-how, experience and advanced modelling tools and techniques, the Vesuvius Systems development engineers are confronted to some factors which are difficult to measure and define: “We needed a tool to monitor the thermal development of the installations during our testing” says Fabrice Sibiet, R&D Project Engineer and camera operator.

“We don’t know what’s happening inside. And that is one of the reasons why we have opted for an infrared camera.”

A distinct advantage of the infrared camera is that it provides temperature reading across the entire surface area of the flow control system instead of just at a few single points provided by contact-based thermocouples.

ThermaCAM P65 camera is available from FLIR Systems Australia.

The ThermaCAM P65 camera, together with the ThermaCAM Reporter software package, allows clear following and analysis of the temperature cycles inside the flow systems.

In addition, the camera is used to understand potential problems of the flow system during trouble shooting investigation.

Thermography also serves to monitor the oil level and temperature of the hydraulic parts on the ladle gate and to detect the intrusion of water and air into the hydraulic system which can cause fluid degradation and installation damages.

Another important field of application for thermography is refractory product development. These refractory materials are needed, among others, to withstand molten metal during the casting process.

They are exchanged after a few hours of operation. Their quality and performance feature are vital to a clean, safe and streamlined production process.

“We foresee an increasing use of thermography to improve refractory material quality", says Damien Delsine, R&D Project Engineer. “These materials are heat-proof of course, but they also tend to be thermal shock-sensitive”.

The ThermaCAM P65 is appreciated for its build-in visual camera, its image quality and its versatility. It allows the Vesuvius Systems research and project engineers to substantially contribute to a productivity and quality increase of the vital parts which they develop for the metallurgic industry.

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