Steeling automation

The Sensor Systems and Internet of Things (IOT) Lab has helped ArcelorMittal Dofasco bring digital transformation to its ladle metallurgy facility

Three years ago steel producer ArcelorMittal Dofasco approached Mohawk College with a desire to automate a manual raking process to remove slag from molten steel in its ladle metallurgy facility.

“They wanted to get into the area of the new Industrial Internet of Things and to optimize a process through innovation,” says Dr. Esteve Hassan, director of the IOT Lab and Industrial Applied Research Chair in Interoperability Sensor Systems for IIoT Applications.

That innovation involves machine visioning sensors that collect images and data and advanced image processing that drives a robotics platform.

“It’s a highly variable environment of high temperatures and debris and smoke that makes the deployment of this technology challenging.”

The project—believed to be the world’s first digitization at a ladle metallurgy facility— received a $300,000 Applied Research and Development Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), as well as support from ArcelorMittal Dofasco and Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGEN), the advanced manufacturing supercluster.

The IOT Lab is a centre of expertise, working with industrial partners to develop, validate and test hardware and software solutions that enable companies to integrate and adopt leading-edge technology to improve efficiency, safety and quality.

The IOT Lab works with industrial partners in a range of sectors, including transportation and automotive, energy and smart cities, advanced manufacturing, healthcare and wearable devices.

“The pace of work in the lab is strong, whether it’s product development, process improvement or training. Whatever the project, students take centre stage.”

After a delay due to the pandemic, the two-year ArcelorMittal Dofasco project, which involved five students and three staff leads, is now close to its finish.

“It has been an excellent project with great support from the industry supercluster NGEN, NSERC, and from ArcelorMittal Dofasco. Our students and faculty did excellent work,” says Hassan.

“Students were hired to complete challenging tasks. There has been a lot of very advanced self-learning involved. They met all expectations and beyond.”

A project with Hamilton’s other steel company Stelco is now underway.

Rob Glista, who is in his final year of Electrical Engineering Technology, worked on the automation side of the ArcelorMittal Dofasco project and says the experience has been extremely positive.

“Because it’s been based in an educational institution, we have been able to do more discovery than what we would be able to do in employment. We approached this with many different solutions and explored each of them. I’m motivated by that.”
Hanna Stewart, who graduated from Computer Engineering Technology in May, worked on machine visioning and imaging on the project.

“Our job was to develop a method of gathering information using specialized cameras. It’s a difficult environment in which to get accurate measurements. There is smoke and heat and fumes that can be corrosive, so typical instruments get worn out quickly in that type of environment. We had to find a way to mount infra-red cameras to get a good view but far enough away from those hazards.”

That involved talking to vendors, testing equipment and working with IT at the College and at ArcelorMittal Dofasco.
Stewart, who now works in Mohawk’s MEDIC digital health lab, says the experience of this project was a “really valuable part of my education at Mohawk College. I got exposure to things you just can’t replicate in a classroom. And I learned that machine visioning is an area of interest for me, especially in health care.”