Outokumpu puts ANYmals to work


Staff reporter

Robots could cut employee exposure to hazardous substances by more than 80%

Finnish steel producer Outokumpu is expanding its quadruped robot plant inspection fleet and plans to add drones, driverless transport systems and cobots (collaborative robots) to “create intelligent plants where people and machines collaborate hand in hand”.

The company said this week it had taken delivery of its third ANYmal robot for work at its Tornio ferrochrome plant in Finland.

Swiss-made ANYmal robots, which can withstand heat, dust and chemicals, use a simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM) method with Lidar sensors to detect obstacles and follow predefined routes and inspection points.

“At our Ferrochrome plant the robot is focusing on reducing personnel exposure to noise, dust, and vibration when measuring temperatures from different bearings and gearboxes, and by checking conveyor belt positioning to see that they are running in correct positions,” Outokumpu ferrochrome plant VP Teijo Sodervall said.

“Introducing the robot in Tornio is a further step towards an even safer environment and increasing the efficiency of routine processes.

“However, this robot technology is only one part of the technical innovations for safety. For example, Valto 360-dimensional view of the factory makes it possible to walk inside the factory and get acquainted with the equipment locations without physically visiting the area.”

Outokumpu has 230 employees working at Tornio, which has three submerged arc furnaces (SAF), two sintering plants and a coke drying unit.

The company has ANYmal robots working at sites in Krefeld, Germany, and Avesta, Sweden, after signing a deal with Switzerland’s ANYbotics in early 2023 to pilot the technology. At the Avesta facility the robot is said to be averaging 90 inspection points per shift, 270 a day, and 1890 a week, to reduce the time employees spend in acid areas during inspections.

“Use of AI and robotics for safety management is one of the cornerstones of our safety strategy,” Outokumpu health and safety VP Thorsten Piniek said.

“ANYbotics’ robot technology is helping us to increase safety by reducing employee exposure to hazardous substances and environments, optimise production through preventive maintenance, decrease environmental impacts and to collect data.

“Our estimation in 2023 was that by transferring inspection tasks to the robot, employees’ exposure time to hazardous substances could have reduced by more than 80% and possibly hazardous repairs in maintenance by 20%.

“We have taken good steps forward and we are excited to implement robotics into our ferrochrome business as well.”

Outokumpu staff call the quadruped ANYmal robots Rosie (Germany), Angie (Sweden) and Jokkeri (Finland).

 

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