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Easy handling reduces effort and minimizes the risk of accidents.

In order to ensure the durability of a steel-casting ladle, its refractory lining must be regularly replaced. For the founder, this primarily means a highly complex, dangerous process where the monolithic wear lining has to be removed either manually, using pneumatic hammers or excavators equipped with hydraulic breakers. These processes are, however, not only very hard to control – meaning more material is always removed than necessary – but it also results in additional stress for the ladle, because it is tilted and thus subjected to stress on one side only. In order to provide a solution, SIMPEX HYDRAULIK GmbH, a full-range service provider in the areas of hydraulics, pneumatics and central lubrication technology, has developed an automated ladle-milling device. This is simply placed on the ladle using a crane. The precisely controlled milling head removes linings that are melted-on or contaminated by slag autonomously and precisely within a very short time. In comparison to conventional methods, the use of refractory concrete in the ladle and the effort and risk of injury can all be drastically reduced, while improving durability. 

“Usually, ladles are processed either manually using pneumatic hammers or with excavators equipped with hydraulic breakers,” says Peter Feichtinger, Head of Business Development at SIMPEX HYDRAULIK. “These processes are, however, very hard to control – with the result that much more material is generally removed than actually necessary.” In addition, in the conventional method, the ladle is tilted in order to remove the worn monolithic lining, which means that the permanent brick lining underneath the wear lining can be subjected to heavy stress at specific points. This uneven mechanical stress has a negative effect on the ladle’s service life, because the brickwork may become cracked and broken. The removal of the ladle’s lining, either manually or by excavator, is also a relatively dangerous and injury-prone job, because the employees responsible have to either enter or work directly on the tilted ladle itself in order to carry out the process. With SIMPEX HYDRAULIK’s MLC 2011 mobile ladle-milling device, currently designed to accommodate ladles with a capacity of between 80 and 160 tons, this is no longer the case. Once positioned at the edge of the ladle that requires cleaning, the automated carbide milling attachment removes the worn lining with extreme precision so that no excess material is removed. Because the ladle is kept upright, the mechanical stress on the permanent lining is kept to a minimum so that it can be recoated and used for much longer as a result.

Milling ladles using an automated, resource-efficient method

“The automated ladle-milling device is made up of three components,” Feichtinger explains. “Firstly, a container that houses the hydraulics and electronic controls; secondly, the actual milling unit itself; and thirdly, a shelf for the system to rest on when it is not in use.” With the aid of a crane, the MLC 2011 is positioned at the edge of the ladle that requires cleaning and positioned in the center via hydraulic cylinders so that the relative position of the milling machine to the ladle can be precisely determined. In the same way as a machine tool, the ladle’s specific layout is entered into the control system and the thickness of the layer to be removed is set to match the degree of wear of the lining. This is required for a seamless automated process where the carbide milling unit is guided along the inside wall of the ladle both horizontally and vertically at a predefined distance. Thanks to the removal process, which has been optimized over the past few years, the worn lining is removed with a high level of precision. Since only the layers of monolithic material that are melted-on or contaminated by slag are precisely removed in this way, the process is much more gentle and efficient with the wear lining than removing it either manually or by excavator, meaning that only a small amount of new refractory concrete has to be applied later.

The precise removal of material ensures not only that just the necessary layers of wear lining are actually removed but also that the ladle is completely “white” and ready for relining. “If it turns out that there are still slag residues after the automatic process has been completed, then another layer can simply be removed,” Feichtinger explains. “It’s also possible to control the milling unit manually, so that individual areas can be processed in a targeted way, or to carry out spot repairs in pre-worn areas instead of carrying out the entire milling process.” Thanks to these characteristics, the MLC 2011 drastically lowers the consumption of refractory material, which reduces procurement and disposal cost. Since the process is automated and the staff, responsible for configuration and manual post-processing, is not required to be in the danger zone, fewer employees are necessary and those who are involved are subjected to a much lower risk of injury.

Tailored solutions for fluid and lubrication technology

Drawing on its decades of experience in the fields of hydraulics and refractory technology, SIMPEX HYDRAULIK has been able to tailor the highly specific MLC 2011 automated ladle-milling device precisely to the needs of the foundry industry and thus make steel manufacturing more efficient and safer at the same time. In addition, the company can also draw on its extensive expertise in the field of pneumatics and central lubrication technology. Its specific focus is not just on design, its own engineering and on product and plant construction, but also on installation and operation. One other area of expertise involves services such as the repair of hydraulic components, the maintenance of hydraulic power units and the servicing of complex systems. Additionally, services such as hydraulic hose and fluid management, as well as hydraulic accumulator checks, are part of SIMPEX HYDRAULIK’s day-to-day work. “Almost none of our products are ‘off the shelf’,” Feichtinger adds. “Instead, we take a close look at the problem and develop a customized solution that is tailored precisely to the user’s requirements.”

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