Efficient Plant April 2019 - 34

feature | solution focus
operations and uptime,
and less pollution. EAFs
are unique in that they can
be charged with 100% steel
scrap.
EAFs use electricity to melt
scrap and turn the pieces over
to a ladle metallurgy furnace
(LMF) to reheat and form the
metal. This further refines the
chemistry and temperature
of the molten steel while it
is still in the ladle, before it's
sent to be cast.
Today, in the U. S., 25% of
steel is produced using the
blast-furnace method and
75% using EAFs. Globally, that ratio is reversed.
NUCOR only has a handful
of blast furnaces remaining
in the U. S.; most have been
converted to EAF.
While EAF methods have
demonstrated efficiency, the
Two NUCOR employees insert ABB's beta VD4-AF breaker for testing.
steel industry has continued to search for innovative
means to improve processBecause arc-furnace operations use
es. Producers such as NUCOR are, thus,
equipment in a way not intended in the
embracing the Industry 4.0 push to digitize
design, limitations are quickly revealed,
manufacturing and increase uptime,
especially in demanding production
decrease cost, and streamline procedures.
environments. Most EAFs use mechaniCHALLENGES
cal-spring-charged circuit breakers as the
The technology used to operate an arc
primary switching means. Such breakers
furnace wasn't originally designed for this
are usually in series with an upstream SF6
application. It was, instead, derived from
breaker for fault clearing.
medium-voltage components such as transSpring-actuated technology has
formers and switches designed for the utility
mechanical limitations that make it unsuitmarket. In those types of applications, an
able for highly demanding, continuous EAF
electrical arc would be something to avoid.
operation. The main reason these mediFor the furnace application, the intent is to
um-voltage vacuum circuit breakers are
generate a specialized, controllable arc that,
employed on an EAF is their ability to meet
essentially, creates a short circuit. Accordthe high-voltage, current, and fault-breakingly, a circuit breaker is needed to switch
ing requirements in a single compact
the EAF.
semi-cost-effective device. Only with the

34

| EFFICIENTPLANTMAG.COM

advent of vacuum technology did
a suitable device for arc furnaces emerge. Unfortunately, it
couldn't last very long in extreme
high-switching or fault-breaking situations. The stresses of
hellacious environments marked
by high contamination, high heat,
and high operations were simply
too much for those devices.

SOLUTION
To solve this problem, ABB
developed the VD4-AF breaker, a
specialized EAF device that
delivers 150,000 maintenancefree operations and easily clears
furnace-fault currents as high as
31.5 kA. The customized breaker
provides transformer-inductive-load switching and is quickly
replaced through a floor-rolling design. It also provides
health-status monitoring, allowing NUCOR personnel to predict
when maintenance is needed.
"We hoped to revolutionize
our operations, boost output,
and lead the steel market into Industry 4.0
digitalization initiatives. With their high
degree of knowledge on the latest technology, including those for digital solutions,
we knew we had a partner in ABB to help
us drive standardization and increase asset
utilization levels across our facilities," said
Bill Brewer of NUCOR Steel.
ABB built the desired solution from
other innovations it had introduced. It
collected lessons learned from its mediumand high-voltage motor drives, and utility
projects involving the DS1 design and combined them with the best solutions from its
robotics and motor divisions. By combining
servomotor technology and robotically
controlled feedback, the VD4-AF breaker is
able to reduce mechanical vibrations, ensure

APRIL 2019


http://www.EFFICIENTPLANTMAG.COM

Efficient Plant April 2019

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