The operational efficiency of the steel and forging industries has been limited in part because inspection of forged metal at high temperature could only be done manually (with inadequate accuracy and slower productivity). This results in millions of tons of processed materials that must be scrapped and an enormous amount of wasted energy, which the U.S. Department of Energy estimates at 6 trillion BTU per year. In addition, at the time of the project, the available inspection technologies put workers in dangerous conditions with limited effectiveness. To address this, OG Technologies Inc. proposed a novel approach to develop imaging and process control systems for high-temperature sensing in conjunction with experts from The Ohio State University and the University of Michigan. Venture and corporate investors were interested, but not until some of the technical risks were reduced and the technology was further developed. However, the potential for national economic benefits was large. In 2000, the U.S. forging industry consisted of roughly 250 companies, 300 plants, and annual sales of $6 billion, and the rolling industry consisted of over 70 companies with annual sales around $42 billion. Even minor improvements in productivity and efficiency could have a significant impact on the U.S. economy in these globally competitive industries.
and Economic Impacts
In the ATP project, OG Technologies and their academic partners developed the world’s first imaging-based system (HotEye™) capable of monitoring the deformation processes of ultra hot metals in forging and rolling. The technical merits of this technology were formally recognized when OG Technologies won a 2006 R&D 100 award for the HotEye™ system, as one of the 100 most technologically significant new products of the year by R&D Magazine. In addition, OG Technologies has received three US patents and multiple foreign patents through this project.
The technology developed through the ATP project has generated a great deal of interest from previously hesitant forging and rolling companies. OG Technologies has been able to collaborate with many different industrial partners in the U.S., and has even expanded operations in Canada, South America and Asia. In addition, it has been able to find further funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program, funding from the states of Michigan and Ohio, and other investors to continue to advance the technology first developed with ATP funding.
To illustrate the impact of the difference the HotEye™ technology can make, OG Technologies tested their system at an industrial partner’s rolling line equipment. At this facility, the in-line HotEye™ system automatically detected surface defects as small as 0.001 inch on a steel bar at temperatures around 1800°F while the steel bar was traveling at speeds up to 225 mph. The system then generated a report providing data about the location, size, kind, severity, and image of each surface defect. This information translates into better quality steel for downstream processing, reduced scrap, reduced energy use, and reduced inspection errors. For this one test site, using studies based on Department of Energy methodology, OG Technologies calculated the following impact:
- 500 tons of scrap per month saved (about 2.2% of total production), which converts to $250,000/month in direct productivity increases.
- The energy savings were 8 billion BTU/month.
- 230 tons/month of carbon equivalent emission reduction.
Prior to this technology, surface defects could not be detected until after process was complete and the product cooled down for inspection. Using HotEye™ allows better process control through earlier (and safer) detection, these delays and shutdowns could be reduced, while improving product quality.
When this example is applied across the many sites and plants where the HotEye™ is used, the national economic benefits to the forging industry, the rolling industry, and end consumers becomes very large. OG Technologies is also applying this inspection technology to further upstream steps in the steel manufacturing process, so the benefits of material scrap reduction, energy saving, improved quality, and safer inspection will be greatly magnified in the near future.
||Picture of a hot deforming rod being scanned by the HotEye™ camera system.
Picture of a surface defect that the HotEye™ system can identify.
Date created: October 16, 2006
October 16, 2006