Nowhere a scratch or dent allowed

thyssenkrupp Steel Europe GmbH manufactures heavy plate of the highest quality ranging from quarto and strip plate for various fields of use to customised steels. Its product portfolio extends from general structural to shipbuilding steels.

Heavy plates for Yellow Goods, construction machines of all kind, such as excavators and dumpers, as well as machines for crane construction, are used in environments where highest standards of components are required. The quality of their surfaces and product properties play a decisive role in customer satisfaction. Customers are placing increasingly stricter and documented demands on the quality of the material. As a reliable supplier, one then wants to supply heavy plates that are flat and free of blisters or other inclusions. Else, it would inevitably lead to problems and high costs. The surface inspection system “surcon X-3Dvision” can help to avoid this trouble.thyssenkrupp Steel Europe GmbH uses surcon X-3Dvision in a blasting plant in Duisburg Hüttenheim to inspect the top and bottom sides of blasted plates for defects. Automatic detection and classification of relevant defects, their position and geometric data are guaranteed.

Surcon 1

Every plant has its own individual inspection system

The machines used in the rolling mills to inspect the surfaces are not yet serial models, but this will change very soon. “That of course has something to do with the fact that every plant is equipped with its own specific inspection system,” says Thomas Köpsel. He, a computer scientist at IMS, has just returned from Finland. The surface inspection system was previously installed in the stainless steel production line of thyssenkrupp in Bochum. Following its sale to the Finnish company “Outokumpu”, the system was moved to Finland and naturally had to be adapted to the requirements there.

Köpsel does not even bother to unpack his suitcase because, after a short stopover in Heiligenhaus, he travels on directly to India. The software engineer has more than enough to do. He finds the inspection system incredibly exciting as the system has been lifted into a new dimension. “In the past we could only inspect the slabs in 2D, so to speak, but now we have reached the third dimension.” This technological 3D inspection process, called laser triangulation, now makes it possible to avoid surface defects already during production. Much to the pleasure of particularly steel manufacturers, as it saves them considerable costs. It also helps to improve the quality of their product significantly. Detection and simultaneous documentation of surface defects during production optimises the raw material. This of course makes it possible to infer how defects are arising and thus to maximise optimisation already during the production process. “That is an enormous advantage,” says Björn Krämer, also a computer scientist at IMS and colleague of Thomas Köpsel. “If, for example, there are always scratches and defects on the side wall at a shipbuilder’s, this naturally causes many problems and a lot of costs.” It is possible that such a defect can be traced back simply to a defective transport roll. Such a defect would be detected very quickly by the surface inspection system. Further, using the documentation of the surface inspection system, it can be shown, for example, that the rolling mill is not responsible for the defect. The data are stored in IMS’s own MEVInet-Q quality management system. IMS supplies the necessary memory for this. “We normally look at an ROI of 1.85 cm,” says Köpsel. The laser and camera are arranged at a certain angle to each other as used in laser triangulation. The result is extremely exact. surcon X-3Dvision is thus the most complete surface inspection system available on the market today. “The only places we cannot measure are before and after the slab,” says Köpsel with a chuckle. For the software engineer it is interesting to work on the inspection system. He joined IMS in 2007 immediately after completing his studies in Applied Information Technology. “I saw a job ad and it matched what I wanted to a T.”

Successful joint venture

surcon GmbH was established in December 2008 as a joint venture between SMS Siemag AG and IMS Messsysteme GmbH. The joint venture was dissolved in May 2015 as the development of the surface inspection system had been completed successfully. surcon GmbH is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of IMS and aims to establish the brand name “surcon” on the market. And all signs for the success of the brand are green as surcon X-3Dvision is more or less the only product available on the market for surface inspection of steel. All leading manufacturers of steel and aluminium have been using surface inspection systems in various stages of production for years. They are a firmly integrated tool for monitoring of surface quality in cold and hot rolling mills and as such contribute significantly to quality assurance. surcon has begun to make a name for itself in the field of surface inspection systems and has in the meantime sold more than 15 such systems. In view of such a positive development, it comes as no surprise that all staff in the joint venture were taken over by IMS.

Surcon 2

Like everywhere else, surcon also focusses on the customer

IMS has always focussed on customer requirements. surcon does not do otherwise. For example, customers can consult IMS in advance with their samples to find out how the system works in a realistic situation. IMS is able to reproduce the customer-specific measuring systems in darkened laboratory areas and show the inspection procedures. This gives the customer an insight into the realistic conditions on site when the original material samples are inspected and evaluated. The customer is able to assure himself that surcon goes into his special requirements and adapts the system optimally to his conditions. Once the inspection system is up, it is adjusted optimally to the customer’s plant by the software engineer, leaving no wishes unfulfilled: “The inspection systems measure in extremely high resolution,” says Köpsel, “otherwise we could not achieve such excellent results.” Laser scanning of the surface and the cameras deliver a high-resolution 3D image. And Krämer again makes clear how important inspection is: “Most mills process steel worth a million euros every hours.” This very quickly shows that a defect in the surface can cause immense costs.

surcon has achieved its aim

The road of development from the first prototype in Columbus, USA, in 2010 to today’s system was long. “We will be able to offer the first serial models in the near future,” says Thomas Köpsel proudly. But here, too, adaption of the surface inspection system to customer requirements is of prime importance. And that will always be the case at IMS.