To maintain operational excellence, voestalpine continually analyzes and further refines processes along the value chains in order to boost both production efficiency and resource conservation. The digital transformation is a key to success in this respect. Developing model-based rules for relevant process steps helps not only to significantly improve the quality of strip steel but also to reduce the amount of resulting scrap. Measurement systems equipped with machine learning algorithms capable of taking and analyzing measurements directly at the production line serve as well to optimize processes. Systems of this nature have already been implemented, for instance, to determine the grain sizes of input materials in both the blast furnaces and the direct reduction plant.
Europe’s most advanced 3D sand printing facility for steel castings was commissioned at the voestalpine Foundry in Traisen, Austria. It serves primarily the energy sector as well as the automotive and railway industries. 3D sand printing is much more sustainable and environmentally friendly than its predecessor process thanks to the elimination of the wooden pattern, the integration of sand recycling, and the reductions in logistics expenditures.
The efficient use and management of rail resources in the future will require fully networked railway systems. voestalpine Railway Systems GmbH thus is working to accomplish this highly complex research task as part of the Rail4Future project in close collaboration with Austrian Railways (ÖBB) and other partners. Simulations and digital twins will be used for the very first time in an attempt to substantially shorten the innovation cycles of new products and digital solutions.
The voestalpine Böhler Welding Group conducts research on environmentally friendly solutions in welding technology. ECOspark® served to develop copper-free solid wire that is used in joint welding. Over and above its excellent efficiency in both manual and automated welding processes, solid wire also conserves resources.
The Metal Forming Division is working to further refine processing technologies such as roll forming, press-hardening, and welding, and to optimize them with the help of simulation methods. The aim is to create all-encompassing, fully networked processes. To this end, work is being done to develop closed loop systems in which neural algorithms design self-optimizing production lines.