Inspection for production process support 

This application is dedicated to continuous inspection of running production processes. Since many processes in steel industry have been automated in the last decades, in most cases there are no personnel in direct proximity to the plant anymore to supervise the process. Due to the reduction of personnel for safety reasons, there is a severe need for supervision of the processes remotely over time. At the wire rod production plant of Ferriere Nord, for example, current workers need to check the correct positioning of the coils on the coiler and the proper extraction of the coil’s tail and head before welding. For monitoring, workers go close to the coiler – a clear risk for accidents. Frequent forklift movement for transporting the wire rod coils poses additional collision risk. 

Furthermore, occupational safety requires the operator to stop hazardous processes when people are near the machine. The inspection system developed within this project will provide a supporting mobile robot that interacts with the worker. Since this inspection task can be done from floor level, the system will be based on an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV, cf. Figure 4). It will monitor and align the wire rods before welding to increase occupational safety and reduce plant downtime. 
Images of the correct positioning of the coils will be acquired as well as the proper extraction of the coil’s tail and head to be stored for traceable quality documentation. At the same time, the robot will have to avoid possible collision with workers, the coilers’ platforms and forklifts while operating in the changing environment of the welding station. Moreover, the electro-welded mesh lines are fed with wire rod coils to be placed on specific payoffs. The wire rod coil, before to be placed on the line payoff by forklifts, is manually checked by workers with bar-code readers. The label placed on each wire rod coil indicates the material type and the correct position according to the information available in the MES (Manufacturing Execution System) of the plant.