40 years and 1000 Shapemeter systems later
Forty years ago, nobody thought that this entirely newly developed product would become a success story today. Whereas only one or two rolls were supplied per year at the beginning, today we supply around 50 units in orders handled by a staff of 25 at the Hemer location.
The need for strip materials with high dimensional accuracy and good shape increased at the beginning of the 1970s. Thus, there was a need to develop measuring systems that can measure and control strip shape online during production. In production of aluminum strip, for example, the strip broke every three or four minutes and had to be wound on again constantly in order to resume operations. In order to run the manufacturing processes better and more economically, the BFI (Betriebs-Forschungs-Institut) research institute in Düsseldorf addressed this topic. The BFI succeeded in developing a system that could measure the strip shape during the production process and thus made a substantial contribution towards almost entirely eliminating downtime due to strip breaks. As the BFI was unable to manufacture this equipment itself, they looked for cooperation partners to implement the development and took ANDRITZ Sundwig on board as one of the first licensees in 1978. At this time, we had a large order to supply rolling mills to the then USSR, and the customers there wanted to have a high level of automation. This marked the start of our becoming an acknowledged supplier of measuring technology and not just a plant engineering company. The electrical evaluation unit for the Shapemeter roll was provided initially by Siemens, another BFI cooperation partner. As from 1990, we were able to supply the first of our own evaluation units and shape control equipment and thus became system suppliers. The market breakthrough was achieved in 2004 when the third generation of Shapemeter rolls was launched. These rolls now had a completely enclosed and gap-free surface, unlike their predecessors. They could also be delivered made of wear-resistant materials and in various different designs according to customer requirements. Among the most impressive installations are the world’s broadest cold-rolling mills for strip widths of almost 3 meters and aluminum foil applications with a strip thickness of just 6 micrometers at strip speeds of 180 km/h (3,000 m/min). In comparison: A human hair is ten times thicker and the majority of cars cannot reach this speed.
ROLL NUMBER 1,000 FOR HARADA’S 20-HIGH ROLLING MILL IN JAPAN
This year, ANDRITZ Sundwig is delivering the 1000th Shapemeter roll to measure metal strip shape during rolling operations. The rolls are installed in the exit section of the rolling mill. Highly sensitive and precise force sensors are integrated into the roll, distributed over the strip width. If a fly were to land on the Shapemeter roll, these sensors could measure its impact. The sensors measure the force distribution applied over the strip width, which is a measure of the shape and flatness of the strip. The strip shape measured is used to control the rolling process such that it produces strip that is as flat as possible. Strip shape is a very important quality characteristic for our customers and it increases the product value. An innovative, model-predictive controller developed and patented by ANDRITZ is used for shape control. Good and stable shape control in the rolling process also enables faster and more reliable rolling. By increasing productivity and improving strip quality, the investment costs will pay off in only a few months in some cases.
Service is covered by the Full-Service Center in Shanghai for the Southeast Asia region and in Ambridge near Pittsburgh for the NAFTA region. These service hubs also have spare part stores with which they can provide very fast and competent after-sales service. Continuous further development and product care have now produced the fourth generation of the Shapemeter roll this year. With our advanced and unique development, we can also measure the strip temperature over the width as well as the strip shape. Different strip temperatures over the strip width also result in shape defects due to the differences in strip expansion that this causes. So far, these shape defects could not be measured and corrected during rolling operations and resulted in uncontrollable changes in strip shape when the rolled and coiled strip had cooled down.
NEW SENSOR FOR INDUSTRY 4.0 APPLICATIONS
With the large number of process values now available, the Shapemeter roll is also an ideal sensor for Industry 4.0 applications. The system operates 24/7 in rugged rolling operations. As a result, it is practically impossible to train service personnel on the device itself. With the virtual reality training module newly developed this year, training can now be provided anytime and anywhere. All that is needed are a few commercially available components and our forward-looking software package.
With our highly qualified and experienced team as well as the unique Shapemeter roll in conjunction with the innovative shape control system, we lead the world market. We supply all well-known mechanical engineering companies and electrical suppliers in our branch of industry. And we continue to develop the product further so that this remains the case in the future.