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Coil Processing
Tuesday | 03 August, 2021 | 1:46 pm

Feed the need

Written by By Corinna Petry

Above: BlueScope specified the new CTL-1800×6 line because domestic market demand had outstripped the production capacity of its existing line.

Steelmaker brings precision cut-to-length/leveling capability to a market starving for high-performance material

August 2021 - BlueScope Steel Limited, an integrated producer with an international reach, has its largest operation in the industrial harbor town of Port Kembla, New South Wales, Australia. Major products include steel slab; hot-rolled, cold-rolled and coated coil; plate; automotive sheet; galvanized; Zincalume coated steel; and Colorbond pre-painted steel.

The company has seen rapid growth in demand for stretch-leveled steel and has had to periodically upgrade and expand its production capacity in order to meet that demand. The latest purchase and installation is a cut-to-length line with an in-line stretch-leveler. Spain’s Athader S.L. built the CTL-1800×6 strip transport, cutting, stacking and packing equipment while West Virginia-based Leveltek Processing LLC built the stretch-leveling equipment for the project.

“In our Port Kembla business in 2014, we installed a CTL/stretch-leveling line supplied by Leveltek/Bradbury,” says John Fish, engineering manager for BlueScope’s Hot Mills, referring to Bradbury Group, which has a joint venture with Athader and other metalforming machinery builders.

The line BlueScope installed in 2014 covers gauges from 2 mm to 16 mm, 1,550 mm wide, up to 12 meters long, and processes carbon steel grades up to 350GR. “This line was upgraded by Athader in 2016 to add a fully automated packaging line to improve production rates. This line is still in service, and it’s operating at 100 percent capacity with a product focus on the heavier gauges,” according to Fish.

BlueScope specified the new CTL-1800×6 line because “domestic market demand had outstripped the production capacity of our existing line,” he says. “There was significant increased demand for the premium memory-free stretch-leveled plate in the market, driven mainly by the laser cutter operators and other manufacturers and fabricators that could bypass secondary processing” by using ultra-flat material direct from the mill.

“Domestic supply of our premium coil plate product also displaced previously imported products,” increasing BlueScope’s market share, he continues.

MM 0821 coil image1

BlueScope installed an improved automated stacker for better quality and pack shape.

Specifications

“The objective of the new line was to increase overall production volumes, increase our width capability to 1,800 mm and to provide a fully automated high-speed light-gauge line up to 6 mm gauge,” Fish says.

The new line processes carbon steel grades up to 350Gr including floor plate (tread plate) and pickled and oiled material.

“We also upgraded our leveling capability and added an improved automated stacker for better quality and pack shape. Other significant upgrades made to support higher productivity rates included a de-banding robot, a high-speed flying shear, semi-automated wrapping dispenser and higher speed pack stacking crane.”

All of the Port Kembla mill’s products are branded and wrapped before shipping. The new line also has a complete safety access system to protect production workers.

Fish notes that this line may be the first high-speed CTL stretching line “where a stretch-leveler has been direct coupled to a high-speed flying shear.”

Social distancing

Construction of the line began prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic closed international borders, BlueScope’s leadership decided to complete construction, commissioning and start-up of the new line “using our own in-house resources with the full support of our OEM partners Athader and Leveltek,” says Fish.

He says construction was completed “without issue,” which BlueScope was able to  achieve in large part because all of the necessary detailed design and other support information was in hand.

“We increased our project commissioning resources with some young engineers and set up a process with our [machinery building partners] to provide remote support in a timely manner,” he says. Online meetings were conducted to provide progress updates and address any specific needs.

“The end result was very successful with a real collaboration between BlueScope, Athader and Leveltek that allowed us to fully commission the line and achieve an excellent start-up within the original project schedule,” Fish says, noting that the quality of the equipment itself was a crucial element in that success.

“Line start-up exceeded expectations with all performance guarantees of the line being met in a short period. The new line has been now running flat out for six months with a much faster ramp-up in production volumes than planned.” The volume of production is based on “further increased demand” from customers. The company is gaining additional market share as a result of its new capacity, says Fish.

MM 0821 coil image2

BlueScope is gaining additional market share as a result of its new capacity to produce premium cut-to-length flat sheet and plate at Port Kembla, Australia.

Outcomes

“The main outcomes of the new line have been much higher production rates, improved plate quality and, in particular, pack shape quality. The higher level of automation allowed us to ramp up production much more quickly than expected,” Fish says, even as the company is using newly hired workers who have limited or no experience running a CTL/stretch-leveling line.

He is pleased with the safe access systems, including the automation of “typically manual tasks such as strap de-banding and dunnage handling,” which has enabled the company to provide a safe operating environment, particularly for new operators who may, at first, be unfamiliar with the functioning of a high-speed processing line.

The premium quality stretch-leveled products have provided new market opportunities with customers that are developing new or more cost-efficient applications in their own markets, “driven by better memory-free and dimensionally very accurate product,” Fish says.

The new capacity reflects BlueScope’s backward integration strategy, which it undertook in recent years as a way to “relocate processing line capability closer to the feed source of our hot-strip mill.”

In addition to producing premium cut-to-length flat sheet and plate, BlueScope has welded beam, skin pass, slitting, coiled plate and flat bar processing capability within its integrated complex at Port Kembla. MM

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