Automation helps perform quality tests at 30,000°C

One of the world’s largest steel producers can now test the quality of its steel while it undergoes plasma cutting – a process which heats the metal to 30,000°C.

The metal engineers test the material by stretching, breaking and drilling it - image courtesy of Thyssenkrupp.
The metal engineers test the material by stretching, breaking and drilling it – image courtesy of Thyssenkrupp.

To perform a quality test at one of Thyssenkrupp’s steel plants, a high-speed automated plasma cutting-head removes a sample out of each sheet.

A state-of-the-art protective wall separates the metal engineer and the cutting process, since the metal reaches temperatures in excess of 30,000°C – five times hotter than the surface of the sun.

Having taken a sample, the mechanical properties of the metal can be checked. Ulrich Thanscheidt, chief engineer at Thyssenkrupp, explainedf: “We test the material by applying a lot of different forces on to it, like pulling, stretching or shattering. Through our IT systems, we can calculate and tell precisely which physical forces the steel can withstand.”

The fully automated plasma jet can cut out the samples quickly and accurately, allowing Thyssenkrupp’s quality test team to check around 25,000 samples every month. Two samples are always taken, one for Thyssenkrupp’s steel experts and one for its client.

All data gathered during both the cutting process and testing is collated and analysed in order for Thyssenkrupp’s steel research programme to further improve the quality and stability of the metal.

In metalworking industries, both hand-guided and machine-guided plasma jets are deployed for cutting metal. However, plasma jets can reportedly cut metal far quicker than a laser cutter, especially when it comes to sheet metal, like highly alloyed steel, which has a greater thickness.

It’s not just the plasma cutting which is automated, Thyssenkrupp’s advanced steel facilities benefit from a number of automated processes, from loading sheet metal into the machine to the ejection of the sample to be examined.

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