31 August 2021
Blog

How it’s made: a look behind the scenes at STORM software

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Ensuring the consistent quality of Valast® 450 created some additional challenges for our hot strip mill. Here’s how a unique piece of process control software helped overcome these challanges.

The development of any steel product can create some new challenges for our engineering team to work through. Whether updating a paint colour or a steel chemistry, or introducing and entirely new product like Valast® 450, there will almost certainly be a need to make changes to the manufacturing process.  

In order to produce Valast 450 with the impeccably tight tolerances and exceptional hardness and surface quality that we wanted, we needed to spend a lot of time rethinking the heating and cooling process.  

When steel is processed on a hot strip mill, it enters the mill as a slab heated to around 1200°C. Once the steel has been rolled to the correct gauge through five roughing stands and seven finishing stands, it is cooled with jets of water positioned above and below the steel strip. 

The challenge that we faced was that, to achieve the optimum product properties, the water jets had to be very powerful in order to cool the steel as quickly as possible. However, the current cooling system did not have the capacity to do this – after all, it was installed long before Valast 450 had even been considered. 

The most obvious solution would have been to upgrade the current cooling system, but that would have taken a long time to implement and result in unwanted down-time for our busy Hot Strip Mill. We needed another plan. 

Within our development team, we have a highly skilled group of process control researchers and mill process technologists, who can design and recreate processes on a virtual model of the Hot Strip Mill. We put our challenge to them, and what they found was extraordinary. 

They realised that the hardware already in place was perfectly capable of flowing enough water through the jets in order to cool the steel sufficiently. The limitation was actually the software that was being used to control the process. 

Having spoken at length to  suppliers of these kinds of control software, it became clear that they weren’t going to be able to help. So, we went back to our own R&D researchers who wrote a bespoke software programme, called STORM, which would allow us to cool the steel sufficiently and with the level of control we needed. 

We tested STORM in modelling, and it proved our theory, so then it was implemented into the process, and now we can produce Valast 450 to the tight tolerances and surface quality that our customers expect.  

Take a look at our article on Valast 450’s superior surface quality to find out how it could help your customers. 

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