New imaging tech promises to save UK steel industry
Mon 11 Apr 2016
As India’s Tata Steel launches the formal sale of its UK plants, researchers have developed an innovative imaging technology with potential to recover the competitiveness of the UK and European steel industry.
The team, based at the University of Bath, designed the ‘Shell Thick’ system as a way of monitoring the key stages in the production of the metal. The project involves an induction tomography technique which assesses the solidification process by providing a reliable, real-time method of measuring the molten steel to pick up on any defects.
Induction tomography is an emerging, non-invasive imaging technique which has already been applied in several use cases including medical diagnostics, geophysical exploration and civil engineering.
Applied to steel manufacturing, the new system forms a contactless ring around the molten steel and takes continuous recordings as the metal solidifies. The technology maps the electrical conductivity of the different states of the metal and outputs a visual image of its structural composition.
According to the scientists, this ability to continuously monitor and alter the cooling metal will allow the steel industry to improve the quality, safety, productivity, costs and increase competition.
The UK’s steel industry is currently a struggling sector, suffering widespread job losses due to its inability to compete on the global stage, particularly against the highly subsidised steel industry in China.
Tata Steel is today beginning the sale process for its loss-making British plants, which employ around 15,000, citing a global oversupply of steel, weak domestic demand and high costs.
The researchers hope that their new imaging technology may help the UK and European steel industry to become more competitive and increase job security for the future.
“This is an exciting and yet very challenging project that will have a great impact in helping in the competitive production of high quality steel, which is very important for the sustainable future of the UK and European steel industry,” said project lead and associate electronic and electrical engineering professor, Dr Soleimani.