Steel Coil Operation, 5 Tips for a Trouble Free Process

Steel coil strip processing line.

A steel coil operation involves a combination of virtually every form of power and control that can be combined in engineering.

 Everything from hydraulic lifts, up enders, to electrically powered railcars, servo controlled 6000 kW motors, to laser welding systems, in addition to a host of sensors all tied into a central computer control system, make for a witch's brew of complicated technology.

 Sometimes complicated technology can also be less troublesome technology and at other times the complication can lead to maintenance headaches and increased downtime.

 The focus of this article is having a trouble-free steel coil operation, although this does not necessarily guarantee the highest production rate from your steel coil processing line. That is one of the key balances to achieve.

Tip #1 - Running a line below absolute maximum capacity is one of the first tips for how to create a trouble free steel coil operation. Rather than run the line at the absolute maximum it is capable of being run, the maintenance requirements will drop if the operator chooses to dial back slightly from the top end that the machinery is capable of.

 The main aspects to look at while focusing on this ideal balance are your budgeted time for; maintenance repair downtime and eventually the rebuilding of certain components due to decreased performance or failure.

 This means that if a line is capable of moving material at 500 m/min, it may work both economically and operationally to dial the speed back 3% in order to reduce the stress on the mechanisms. In turn this reduction in speed will significantly decrease your downtime for maintenance.  


Tip #2 - Vibration monitoring and power use monitoring will be one of the first indications that there is a problem developing within your line.

 By carefully data logging both the vibration of the line with respect to certain material and the amp requirements at each step along the line, a variance from norms will indicate that there is either an incorrect setting, or wearing of a component that requires attention.

 Almost all drive controllers have power monitoring and amp monitoring built-in as do data logging systems.

 But it is all too easy to ignore these readings unless they reach alarm limits. By focusing on these readings not in terms of when they register alarms, but as an indication of when there is a maintenance problem developing, they can become early warning signals for preventive maintenance.

 When a slitter is becoming dull and needs swapping out or re-sharpening, the power requirements within that process will indicate that the process is not operating optimally.

 This is just one example where vibration and power monitoring can help long before an alarm occurs, leading to a trouble-free preventive maintenance procedure.


Tip #3 - Run the line well within the limits of its capability and not at the edge.

 If a manufacturer stipulates that the steel coil operation line is capable of handling material 6.5 mm in thickness, then running at 6 mm thickness will be taking the line towards it stress limit.

 It is better to oversize the line slightly so that it has the capability to handle material and speeds well within its total operating range.

 Much like running a car at its top speed will require additional oil changes, additional break pad changes, and will limit the lifespan of the gaskets and seals, running a line at its top limits of either gauge thickness and/or speed, will create a situation where the line will consistently require more maintenance than if it were operated well within its parameters.

Tip #4 - Take a hard look at your straighteners and see if they can be eliminated for using levelers alone.

 This subject was covered in another article but essentially a leveler may well have the capability of handling what your straightener is also doing.

 The leveler brings more control to the deformation process than the straightener does. If your processing line manufacturer stipulates that it requires both a straightener and a leveler, then that is the way to go.

 However, if you are in a situation where the material quality and coil handling is no longer heavily dependent on the coil set and crossbow, it may be possible to pull the straightener out of the steel coil operation.


Tip #5 - Match the total tension range of the drives for your system to the material, gauge, and line speed.

 Variable voltage control for drives means that it makes no difference regarding the speed that you're running a heavy gauge material because the work is constant over the speed range of the line. That's only of course for the drive itself and not for the attendant rollers and bearings etc.

 But in focusing on the speed range for the drives, you can maximize the speed of the line so long as the bearings, supporting rollers and drive mechanisms are sized correctly (if not oversized) for the operation.

 This will result in optimizing line speed without resulting in significant stress on the components other than the drive. If you have excessive tension the line will run, but it will not have the control which would be desired for lower tension.

 The reason for this is that electrical systems control tension by regulating motor current. By matching your drive system, gauge, and the drive characteristics of your line to the material you will be able to not only optimize your speed but eliminate unnecessary power use. Not forgetting of course about reducing maintenance problems due to a mismatched drive and tension scenario.

Though there are thousands of parameters, literally, that impact a steel coil operation line, by paying attention to these five tips, you can go a long way towards a trouble-free process.

To return from this Steel Coil Operation page to the Strip Metal Coil Processing Home page, click here.

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Top 3 FREE Tips

to increase efficiency

  1. Use appropriate technology and by-pass manual labor where possible for the roll and coil changeovers.
  2. Coil cars can also cut transition and changeovers.
  3. Consider material handling elements such as coil storage racks if there is not a crane installed for keeping a coil car active.
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