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Tata Steel is the second largest steel producer in Europe. The two Blast Furnaces (BF) of Tata Steel IJmuiden produce more than 6 Mton raw iron annually. A key challenge to stay competitive is to assure a continuous and reliable supply of hot metal for the steel plant at uniform quality and at the lowest possible costs. Any interruption in iron production leads to potential standstills in the downstream production and processing facilities, affecting sales, customer loyalty and market position. Downtime must be kept to a minimum while the blast furnace campaign life must be extended. The current average campaign life of blast furnace is about 17 years. Tata Steel is aiming for ultra-long furnace campaign life that is at least 25 % longer comparing to the current situation.
The state of the refractory lining has been identified as the most important factor for determining the campaign life of a furnace. The refractory lining insulates the inside of the furnace where temperatures reach 1600 °C, from the outside part (the steel shell), which is at ambient temperature. The lining consists of refractory materials such as MgO and C in the form of porous building bricks. The thickness of the lining depends on the position in the furnace and is in the order of 1 meter, but it can be thinner at some specific places. Erosion of refractory lining because of high temperatures, wear of refractories due to chemical attack by slag and development of high thermal stresses are some of the major reasons for the damage of lining.
The Hearth Excellence (HE) is a technique for detecting interfaces in solids, like solid to solid and solid to air. The equipment was developed and was primarily used for testing concrete structures. At Tata Steel R&D this technique is used to detect imperfections (cracks & open voids) in the refractory of the BF hearth.
The HE can be done with a simple pulse-echo method, where a hammer is used to hit the wall and an accelerometer records the resulting signal. If the wall has a simple layered structure, the resonance frequencies can be analyzed and the thickness can be determined. However, in more complex situations (with air between the insulating refractory materials) the response can be more complex.
In current practice, only the first arriving signals are used in the analysis; echoes (i.e. multiple-reflections) coming later in the full recorded reverberation response are left out and do not contribute to the construction of the image.
The velocities of the longitudinal and transverse waves in the refractory solid lining are directly related to the mechanical properties such as elastic moduli and damping. Reflections from interfaces between neighboring components or defects in the material influence the transmission.
The huge temperature gradients that are present in the BF in combination with the complex buildup of the lining provide a challenging test case for the proposed method, because the sound velocities of the lining material strongly depend on temperature.
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Tata Steel Global Research & Development (R&D) is a multisite business employing around 750 employees within its five core technology centres: IJmuiden in the Netherlands; Rotherham Teesside and Warwick in the United Kingdom and Jamshedphur in India. The department combines top class innovation with cutting edge technology in order to deliver steel solutions in a constantly changing world. We use the best technologies to continuously improve the quality and performance of our steel products. Moreover we work in close cooperation with leading research institutes and universities around the world as well as with key customers in the automotive transport packaging and construction areas.
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