Look Ma, No Wires (sidebar)

Dec. 1, 2005
Steel Minimill Goes Wireless

The process monitoring system at Steel of West Virginia Inc. (SWV), a mini-mill in Huntington, W.Va., had seen better days. “The instruments and the wiring had been there for a while, and from wear and tear and age, they just weren’t doing the job, and nobody trusted the instruments any more,” says Jeff Smith, electrical technician at the plant. Because the system was important to quality control, SWV decided to replace the monitoring system.

Instead of installing a new wired instrumentation system, however, the steel maker decided to go with a wireless sensor monitoring system supplied by Accutech Instrumentation Solutions, a Hudson, Mass.-based division of Adaptive Instruments Corp.

The wireless system saved SWV as much as $20,000 in conduit and wiring costs, Smith figures. And the data obtained from a variety of wireless temperature and pressure sensors in the mill’s steel casting and molding areas has improved the ability of operators to catch potential quality problems more quickly than in the past, he notes. Despite temperatures in the mill of around 150 degrees Fahrenheit, says Smith, the sensors have performed well.

Since the original installation, SWV has also installed additional wireless sensors in areas that were not instrumented with the previous, wired system. “We’ve had some maintenance supervisors say, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we could monitor this, or monitor that,’ ” Smith relates. “So all we have to do is buy a field sensor unit, hook it on the system and there’s no wiring to worry about, so it makes expansion very flexible.”

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