How does the EU promote the digital transformation of Steel?

eu steel

eu steel

“The concept of digitalization has been widely disseminated in the ear of Industry 4.0. In particular, the European Industrial Strategy in March 2020, clarified the future vision of the new European industrial strategy: an industry with global competitiveness and a world-leading position, Industries that pave the way for climate neutrality, and industries that shape Europe’s digital future. In addition, digital transformation is also a key measure for the EU to implement the ‘Green New Deal’.” February 18, 9:30 central time in Italy (16:00 Beijing time 30 points), Liu Xiandong, director of China Baowu European R&D Center, introduced the digital transformation of the EU steel industry in detail at the AI robot and auto parts manufacturing application seminar hosted by China Baowu European R&D Center and undertaken by Baosteel Metal Italy Baomac The current main challenges and development status, and a brief analysis of the application prospects of robots.

Looking at three categories of projects from the perspective of four dimensions challenges

Liu Xiandong said that the EU’s digital transformation is currently facing challenges in four dimensions: vertical integration, horizontal integration, life cycle integration, and horizontal integration. Among them, are vertical integration, that is, system integration from the sensor to ERP( enterprise resource planning) system, classic automation level; horizontal integration, that is, system integration in the entire production chain; life cycle integration, that is, the entire plant life from basic engineering to decommissioning Cycle integration; horizontal integration, which is based on decision-making between steel production chains, taking into account technical, economic and environmental factors.

According to him, in order to actively respond to the challenges of the above dimensions, the current EU steel industry digital transformation projects are mainly divided into three categories.

The first category is digital research activities and technology-enabling development projects, including the Internet of Things, big data and cloud computing, self-organization production, production line simulation, intelligent supply chain network, vertical and horizontal integration, etc.

The second category is the project funded by the Coal and Iron and Steel Research Center of the German Iron and Steel Association, Sant’Anna, ThyssenKrupp (hereinafter referred to as Thyssen), ArcelorMittal(hereinafter referred to as Anmi), Tata Steel, Gerdau, VAI, etc. Are the main participants in such projects?

The third category is other EU funding programs for the digital transformation of the steel industry and low-carbon technology research and development, such as the “Seventh Framework Program” and “European Horizon Program”.

Looking at the process of smart manufacturing of EU steel from the perspective of key enterprises

Liu Xiandong said that the EU steel industry has carried out a series of research and development projects in the field of digitalization. At present, more and more EU steel companies, including Anmi, Thyssen, and Tata Steel, have successively invested in the wave of digital transformation.

The main measures taken by Anni are the establishment of a digital center of excellence, the application of industrial drones, the implementation of artificial intelligence, digital twin projects, etc. According to Liu Xiandong, Anmi is currently establishing supporting digital excellence centers in its production bases around the world, so that various new technologies can be applied to the actual production process faster. At the same time, the company has applied drones to equipment maintenance operations and energy utilization tracking to improve equipment operation safety, minimize employee safety risks, and improve energy efficiency and production efficiency; the company is located in the United States, Tailored welding plants in Canada and Mexico have now achieved full robotization, which not only improves output and product quality but also helps downstream customers realize the demand for “expanding production scale”.

Thyssen’s current digital transformation projects include “dialogue” between projects and projection processes, 3D factories, and “industrial data space” to ensure data security. Liu Xiandong gave an example: “At the Thyssen Ilsenburg plant, the camshaft steel products can ‘talk’ with the manufacturing process. This kind of ‘dialogue’ is mainly based on the interface with the Internet. Each camshaft steel product has its own exclusive ID, in the production process, all process-related information of the manufacturing process is ‘input’ into the exclusive ID through the Internet interface, and each product is given an ‘exclusive memory’, so as to establish a smart factory that can manage and learn by itself. Thyssen believes that this cyber-physical system that fuses matter and data networks is the future of industrial production.”

Tata Steel’s long-term goal is to improve service quality and increase service transparency by creating digital solutions to meet the requirements of the Industry 4.0 era, while promoting and utilizing digital technology, and big data analysis.” Liu Xiandogn introduced, Tata Steel’s digital transformation strategy is mainly divided into three parts, namely smart technology, smart connection, and smart service. Among them, the intelligent service projects implemented by the company mainly include “dynamically satisfying user needs” and “connecting customers with the aftermarket”, etc. The latter mainly provides instant technical support for customer service through virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

In addition, he also said that facing downstream, Tata Steel has implemented the “Digital Manufacturing Development for the project’s focus is the digitization of the automotive value chain.

Looking at the main solutions for digital transformation from the perspective of providers

Liu Xiandong said that Siemens, Dassault Systèmes, and the Iron and Steel Research Center under the German Iron and Steel Association have become the main solution providers in the process of promoting digital transformation in the EU steel industry.

According to him, Siemens is committed to becoming an integrated supplier for the entire product development and production process and has established the “Siemens Digital Enterprise Platform Solution and Intelligent Manufacturing” covering the entire process from product design, production planning, and production implementation to follow-up services.

“At the same time, the in-depth cooperation between HBIS and Siemens in the field of digitalization is also of the great reference value.” He said that since October 2016, HBIS Group and Siemens have carried out a series of extensive and in-depth cooperation in the field of digitalization. In 2020, Hesteel Group and Siemens jointly developed and built the largest and most complex digital stockyard in the global metallurgical industry -the closed full-process “unmanned” stockyard in Tangsteel New District of Hesteel, realizing a clearer and more efficient safer, and more efficient operation of smart raw materials. In 2021, Siemens provided HBIS stone steel with top-level design consulting and integrated software and hardware solutions for digital factories, optimizing resource allocation. In addition, HBIS is also the first iron and steel enterprise in China to access Siemens MindSphere (an open cloud-based operating system for the Internet of Things). By fully integrating the IoT acquisition technology and 3D visualization technology of HBIS Digital’s independent research and development platform with Siemens MindSphere, the formation of the smart rolling mill solution helps HBIS Hengban optimize the operation of the rolling mill.

Liu Xiandong said that Dassault Systèmes, as a global industrial software giant, provides industrial software system services and technical support for various industries. Dassault Systèmes 3D design software is widely used in the automotive industry, covering the entire life cycle from component design to vehicle design, manufacturing, assembly process, and product maintenance. In the past 40 years, the company has been committed to a comprehensive layout in the digital field, based on 12 product brands and solutions covering 12 industries, around Dassault Systèmes products on 3D modeling applications, big data, and information intelligence applications, the ability of social and collaborative applications provides corporate customers with a collaborative 3Dvirtual space, thereby promoting sustainable innovation.

The Iron and Steel Research Center of the German Iron and Steel Association is one of the leading iron and steel metallurgy technology research institutions in Europe and a major provider of digital transformation solutions in the EU. Its representative cases include vertical integration and networked production, self-organized production, and cross-process automation. Among them, cross-process automation refers to the establishment of cross-process automation design solutions based on cross-process factory information flow for longer process flows, including temperature management in steelmaking plants. Traditional steelmaking process control is based on static operating instructions and manual intervention, the detection and models of each process are relatively independent, and it is difficult to ensure the best consistent process control. The dynamic model of the whole process developed by this institution can monitor the temperature and other quality parameters of the steelmaking process.” He introduced.

Looking at the application prospect of robots from the comparison of advantages and disadvantages

“With the transformation and upgrading of the manufacturing industry, collaborative robots have become a hot topic. Understanding the difference between collaborative robots and traditional industrial robots is very important for steel companies to achieve digital transformation.” It is not only cost-effective but also safe and convenient. Traditional industrial robots are multi-joint manipulators or multi-degree-of-freedom machine devices widely used in the industrial field. They have certain automation and can rely on their own power sources and control capabilities to achieve various industrial processing and manufacturing functions, logistics, and other industrial fields.

According to him, traditional industrial robots take up a lot of space and are not easy to carry. At the same time, they lack force censors (allowing the robot to understand the surrounding environment and allow it to automatically stop when the space is violated). These two factors are required to be high, and traditional industrial robots may become “potentially dangerous tools”. On the contrary, collaborative robots are compact, occupy less space, and are easy to handle. They can be individually programmed according to production tasks. At the same time, the collaborative robot itself is light in weight and equipped with force sensors, which can protect the safety of workers. “Collaborative robots can play many roles and will be reused in more fields. By the end of 2026, China Baowu will have more than 10,000 sets of robots on duty.” He added.

In the end, he said: As far as the downstream industry is concerned, it is also full of challenges and opportunities. At present, Baosteel Metal Italy Baumac is facing the challenges brought by the rapid development of new energy vehicles and new strategic markets. If the future of electric vehicles the battery pack and the chassis are gradually integrated, new materials and higher welding technology requirements will bring new technological innovation needs. Welding robots based on artificial intelligence will become a typical interdisciplinary innovation and breakthrough point, greatly improving manufacturing efficiency, and can better guarantee the stability of product quality.”