How industrial 5G supports the metallurgical industry

Industrial wireless using 5G provides real-time communication between an airborne control system and a remote-control center, for automated operation of the stacker reclaimer, reducing the safety risk and the labor cost.

By Stone Shi February 5, 2022
Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology


Learning Objectives

  • Learn how metallurgy is a difficult environment for industrial wireless and wired communications.
  • Review 5G wireless applications for metals and mining.
  • Examine main types of industrial 5G applications.

The metallurgical industry, among pillar industries in China, plays an important role in the national industrial economy. Metallurgy is a traditional industry with high energy consumption, pollution and high risks. It is in urgent need of transformation and upgrading to achieve sustainable development. The emergence of 5G technologies gives the metallurgical industry opportunities to accelerate digital transformation and upgrade motion controls.

The metallurgical industry is a large-scale and complex process industry. Many dangerous processes and harsh environments exist in each step of production. Many jobs require heavy physical and repetitive labor. A large amount of equipment requires manual spot inspection and there are safety risks in production. The demand for automation and intelligence in the metallurgical industry is urgent.

Metallurgy is a difficult environment for industrial wireless

Because of the complex environment of metallurgical plants, it is difficult and expensive to deploy wired networks. The steel structure and high dust environment often leads to serious wireless signal attenuation, strong electromagnetic interference scenes and high network coverage difficulty.

Before 5G’s emergence, other wired and wireless networks, Wi-Fi and 3G/4G networks didn’t meet the needs of industrial production and applications due to cost, difficulty or poor network, interference, and insufficient network bandwidth and time extension. The plant network has become the bottleneck restricting enterprises from realizing automatic and intelligent production management.

5G technology meets the application requirements of wireless networking in the metallurgical industry, and can meet requirements of equipment interconnection and remote interactive application in many industrial environments. The pain points and risks faced with 3G or 4G era are satisfactorily resolved in the 5G era. Industrial 5G has become the best choice for many metallurgical enterprises.

From the mining of iron ore, sintering, coking of coal, to ironmaking, steelmaking, continuous casting, hot rolling and cold rolling, to steel pipe and section steel generation, the metallurgical industry has a long production process.

Industrial 5G can be applied in all production area. The following five scenarios are the most typical 5G applications in the metallurgical industry at present.

Scenario 1: Automated control of stacker reclaimer in iron ore mining

Ore mining is the first production process in the metallurgical industry and has the worst working environment. Accidents are common. Production processes have many uncertainties. Smart mining uses fewer people and more automation. Industrial 5G can be used in mining area security systems, blasting operations and robotic iron-ore application, mining operation positioning and automated stacker reclaimer, especially on the most common stacker reclaimer, through intelligent sensing equipment and high-definition video technology. Using the high bandwidth and low delay characteristics of industrial 5G, it can complete the reliable real-time communication between the airborne control system and the remote-control center, realize the automated operation of the stacker reclaimer, reduce the safety risk and the labor cost.

Scenario 2: Positioning and remote control of coking vehicles

Coking is a process of producing coke with coking coal as a raw material. The quality of coke is very important for ironmaking. In the coking stage, the precise positioning and control of vehicles, such as coal loading vehicle, coke pushing vehicle, coke blocking vehicle and coke quenching vehicle, are very important. On-site HD video can be transmitted back to the central control center through the industrial 5G network. Staff can realize the remote operation and control, remote operation and maintenance management of the vehicles through the coke oven vehicle control system and on-site video, identify the on-site personnel, give safety tips, reduce the risk of on-site equipment operation.

Scenario 3: Intelligent steelmaking system

Steelmaking is the core process of iron and steel plants, including converter and electric furnace. Intelligent equipment control such as sonar, crane, camera, oxygen gun, sub-gun and silo in the converter and electric furnace by collecting a large amount of data such as temperature, measurement, inspection and testing in the furnace is the key to the intelligent steelmaking system. Converters and electric furnaces originally needed wired communications, but industrial sites were difficult locations for wired-based networks. Industrial 5G can transmit real-time data collection information to the central control center in a stable and reliable way.

Scenario 4: Automated trolley for hot-rolled steel coils

The coil transportation system is essential equipment for a strip-rolling production line in metallurgical enterprises. It is often used in the coil transportation line of cold-rolled strip and hot-rolled strip. To meet the many types of high-quality and fast-paced production, automated transport vehicles have replaced traditional walking beams, chain conveyors, automobiles and trains as the main mode of steel coil transportation. Industrial 5G can avoid interference, data loss, poor switching and other problems in traditional Wi-Fi, and it is faster than 4G. Interlocking controls in trolleys have transmission delays less than 20ms.

Scene 5: Automated overhead crane, wireless coverage of intelligent depot area

The overhead crane is among essential equipment used in steel production. Overhead cranes combine loading, unloading, handling and transportation functions for efficient steel mill operations. The high temperatures, harmful gases and noise in steel plants make the working site environment poor. The traditional overhead crane requires workers to look down and up for long periods. Fatigue is a potential safety hazard, so the automated overhead crane system is becoming more popular. The remote-control system of automated overhead crane often includes video monitoring and a control system, which requires high stability and a real-time communication network. Industrial 5G has become the best choice for an automated overhead crane system. Advantages are high speeds, low latency and stability.

Four main types of industrial 5G applications in metals and mining

Although industrial 5G has a variety of application scenarios in the metallurgical industry, it can be divided into four types, such as remote equipment commissioning or maintenance, remote equipment data collection and monitoring, remote control of equipment, manufacturing data and video transmission and others.

For these four applications, Siemens Industrial 5G combines an industrial 5G router, public network and Sinema Remote Connect, which establishes a secure connection for remote equipment. Different from ordinary commercial 5G routers, Siemens hardware has IP65 protection and system compatibility. Remote maintenance is available.

In addition, the industrial 5G solution has flexibility and high security, unlimited number of connections and devices, unlimited scalability, and flexible configuration of access and disconnection of field devices. The industrial 5G router integrates the firewall function, which can set access policies to isolate illegal access from the public network and protect equipment network security. It integrates NAT technology, which will not expose the IP address of the input/output (I/O) layer below the programmable logic controller (PLC), making PN I/O communication more secure.

Stone Shi is executive editor-in-chief, Control Engineering China. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology,

KEYWORDS: 5G industrial wireless, metals and mining automation


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Author Bio: Executive editor-in-chief, Control Engineering China