According to Forbes magazine, in the United States alone, consumers use approximately 120 million tons of steel per year. This includes all types of manufacturing from large equipment to eating utensils that are products made either partially or completely from steel.
Because of its durability over long periods of time, steel is also the most recycled product on Earth which makes it the most eco-friendly manufactured product. The outlook for the future of steel is that it will continue to be an important element of world manufacturing for years to come. But, it also must continue to evolve. Today, nearly 75% of the different types of steel that are made have only been created in the last 20 years. This includes steel that is less than 1/32 of an inch in thickness but with the same strength and durability heavier and thicker pieces of manufactured steel.
This is proof that the steel industry, along with many other manufacturing industries, is always working on improving its product to meet the needs of the 21st century and not just resting on over 100 years of the basic steel manufacturing process. This includes the potential use of virtual reality technology.
Utilizing Virtual Reality Technology for Steel Production
Creating any type of ironworks involves enormous amounts of energy through every step of the process; energy in heat blasting furnaces, iron agitators, scrubbers, among others. This calls for an extensive and ever-evolving analysis of the steel manufacturing process and how energy efficient it can be while still maintaining the expected quality of the finished product. In the last ten years, researchers have looked at the role that computers, specifically virtual technology, could play in these ongoing efforts.
Why Virtual Reality?
Most of us understand virtual reality (VR) to be a simulation of an actual event or type of environment that a person can either participate in or observe. It is meant to recreate the actual environment as closely as possible. Because of this, as a manufacturing tool, simulations are painstakingly re-created based on actual working environments, such as in a steel plant, and they are then analyzed by company representatives, health and safety experts, and worker representatives to assess not only the working environment itself but the process of production from the standpoint of the worker as well as inside the machines themselves.
So far, the VR manufacturing simulation models have been tested successfully in several types of industries including engineering for city planning, hospitals and other types of medical facilities, and in some steel plants as well.
This involves the work of mathematicians who have created virtual steel processing models that can simulate the production of steel. These models are being tested in steel manufacturing plants around the country to improve the quality of blast furnaces, pre-heating and re-heating furnaces, scrubbers, and iron agitators. This specific software can actually simulate each function that each component performs and measure the impact of the operation on the next stage of the process as well as the final outcome of the product itself. Isolating each action taken by these singular parts gives a steel manufacturing company the opportunity to hone in like a laser beam on one specific element of the process that may specifically need improving instead of rebuilding an entire component or scrapping the entire process for complete re-tooling which is one of the most costly things any manufacturer could do.
The ultimate goal is to be able to take the entire process and envelop it into one cohesive process with all elements working at their optimal level of quality after initially testing the manufacturing process in a virtual environment before anything is produced.
Virtual Reality Technology for Training
For some time, VR simulations have been used more and more in the area of military training. The military has used this type of educational skill building more and more because it has shown to provide an endless amount of training scenarios for new military personnel to be trained on with very little cost to the military itself as well as a security risk to the trainees.
That is why virtual reality technology is also being set up as a classroom with the help of the World Steel Association at www.steeluniversity.org. The goal of this environment is to be able to present to those in the steel industry interactive training models to educate workers on the process of steel making before they enter a steel factory. This type of learning environment gives a new employee a much safer environment in a virtual technology setting, to apply what they are being taught about the how to use the machines that they will be working on every day. These virtual modules are based on the web and are considered e-learning resources for the steel industry. They cover every aspect of the process of iron and steel production.
Using the VR technology in the steel manufacturing industry can only enhance its foothold in the world economy by keeping it competitive and a leader in new manufacturing technology. It also will help the steel industry to improve its manufacturing process and provide a product that it can confidently say is better than 20 or even ten years ago and is still improving with every bit of data analysis that is provided by a VR technology simulation that will ultimately save steel company’s time and money in their process while offering an optimum product.
You can read more about this new technology at http://brimacombecourse.org/pdf/Zhou_JKB-Lecture.pdf
Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Federal Steel Supply, Inc., a leading steel tubing suppliers of carbon, alloy and stainless steel pipe, tubes, fittings and flanges.
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