HAMMOND | Steel industry representatives from all over the world descended on Purdue University Calumet Tuesday, where they took a virtual tour of the inside of blast furnaces and other industrial facilities.
A delegation from the World Trade Association’s conference in Chicago, including from Russia-based Sevestral and a few Chinese steel companies, visited Purdue Cal’s Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation, or CIVS, in Hammond.
Director Chenn Zhou showed them 3-D and virtual reality simulations that engineers have used to figure out how to get blast furnaces to run on less coke, what maintenance is needed, and if capital expenditures are really necessary. The lab has saved steelmakers millions of dollars by cutting down on raw-material use and showing steelmakers how they can maintain existing machinery instead of replacing it.
Zhou, who also developed slides a U.S. Department of Energy official presented at the conference in downtown Chicago, pitched them on the lab, which has tackled projects for international steelmakers such as ArcelorMittal Dofosco in Canada. Attendees peppered her with questions, such as if the data simulations could be used for electric arc furnaces or to determine the effect of using coke with a slightly different chemical composition in the steelmaking process.
She also touted CIVS’s new Steel Manufacturing Simulation and Visualization Consortium, which primarily serves U.S. steelmakers but can have up to 25 percent international membership in a sector that’s increasingly consolidated internationally.
Current members include ArcelorMittal, AK Steel, Steel Dynamics, Nucor, SSAB and Riverside Refractories. U.S. Steel, the 15th largest steel company in the world, recently just reached an agreement to sign on as a charter member.
The consortium is now enrolling charter members at discounted rates and hopes to start the first round of research projects in January. Zhou said researchers would like a big, universal issue to tackle such as blast furnace productivity, but also will work on customized solutions for individual steelmakers.
Such advanced technology offers hope for domestic steelmakers, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, said after a visit in July.
“I applaud the leadership of Director Zhou and Purdue University Calumet for the investment of their time and ability to ensure that our domestic steel industry remains the most technically advanced in the world,” he said. “These are difficult days for the American steel industry, but the actions of this initiative give me confidence that our institutions of higher learning, our domestic workforce and our producers remain committed to manufacturing steel in America.”