Sub-millimeter levels of accuracy

July 31, 2014
In this installment of What Works, U.K. steel and aluminum mills find perfect alignment.

Rolling mill machines can be many stories high and include components weighing hundreds of tones. Specializing in production plants, technologies, and systems for the metallurgy sector, Siemens Metals Technologies employs around 9,000 people. It currently has projects in the iron and steel industry, as well as the flat-rolling sector of the aluminum industry in more than 100 countries and serves more than 500 customers that represent 70% of global steel production.

Siemens Metals Technologies' expertise in rolling mills dates back to 1830 when the company Davy Brothers was founded in Sheffield, England. By 1914, the company was specialized in steel works plant and machinery. A merger with an American counterpart in 1937 led to Davy-United Engineering whose principal activity was manufacturing rolling mills and related equipment. Today, Siemens Metals Technologies offers a complete range of technologies, plants and services covering the entire life cycle in the metallurgical industry to customers all over the world.

"A typical modern steel plant has an output of about 450 tonnes per hour,” explains Craig Flower, design engineer in the Metal Services department of Siemens in Sheffield. “Interrupting production for inspection or alignment is very costly, so we need to work very fast. When we began considering our options for 3D measuring devices, one of our team suggested we look at Faro. We saw the equipment demonstrated at the Sheffield Arena Expo, and Faro also gave us an on-site demonstration. We started off with a FaroArm Platinum in 2008 and added a Faro Laser Tracker ION in July 2011."

Both devices have been used for inspection and alignment jobs all over the United Kingdom. For example, steel plates coming off a mill need to be trimmed using a double-sided shear with perfectly parallel blades. “We had an alignment job where the blades were very difficult to access,” says Flower. “Using conventional methods, the measurements and alignment would have taken several days. Using the Faro ION, it took less than one day.”
Another case where conventional methods can be tricky is when perpendicular alignments are required is in aluminum mills. The downcoiler needs to be exactly 90° to the aluminum sheets. Working conventionally with a theodilite is much harder than doing the same job with a tracker.

"We were recently measuring the housing windows of a large steel plate mill,” says Flower. The housing windows hold the roll chocks for the bearings and they are typically over 2 m apart. The traditional approach, using stick micrometers, is prone to error as most sticks will sag and be inaccurate over such distances.

"The ION on the other hand allows us to very easily measure these distance to extremely high accuracies," says Flower. “Siemens is a global technology leader, so our customers really expect us to have state-of-the-art solutions. The combination of Faro hardware and software is a great productivity boost. The measurements are easily exported from CAM2 Measure 10 software to Excel for comparison, to CAD software for reverse engineering or as a PDF report for our customers.”

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