The preparation process of steel wire rod, for example removing an oxide scale formed during the production process, is the basis of efficiency and quality for all the subsequent manufacturing operations. Chemical patch pickling is currently state of the art technology and is the most effective process. The process is, however, costly and has many environmental implications which makes it unviable for SMEs to use it. SMEs working in this industry sector are seeking a low cost-high quality technology to enable them to compete effectively with products marketed aggressively by developing countries.
This project intended to:
- accelerate a multi-level development of in-line electropickling systems for wire rod with integrated recycling of chemicals.This would be demonstrated in 3 pilot countries, and 4 pilot categories of end-users.
- produce a compact machine to a high standard, suitable for any SME company, close to the market
- widely disseminate the new technology.
This project was expected to be of potential interest to almost 500 European SMEs involving 50,000 personnel, operating in the industrial field of steel wire drawing. After the implementation/demonstration phase, the partners aimed to be able to manage the supply of equipment and assistance of technology, by two small European manufacturing companies (one currently in existence and the second to be created in UK or Germany) and by transnational contact groups.
The following benefits were anticipated from the project:
- improved quality of wire products and effective wire-drawing processing for smaller producers
- improved working conditions in wire factories by the enclosed process with less toxic chemicals
- reduced environmental pollution by recycling chemicals from wire cleaning baths
- potential cost reduction of EURO 33 million in wire cleaning processes throughout Europe.
The innovation was the introduction of a cleaner and safer and a more compact in line pickling unit, which replaced the traditional batch pickling of steel wire rod coils. Extensive testing of prototype machines by Otomec and end user partners in Portugal and the UK have demonstrated wire production of consistently high quality with 70% reductions in cleaning costs. In addition, it was demonstrated that 700 litres of acidic pickling with this technology was needed to process up to 180/200 tonnes of wire rod of 5.5mm, while conventional 'batch pickling operations' require a volume of 10,000 litres of the same solution too treat 250 tonnes. Otomec have subsequently taken out a European Patent on the design of the innovation and have also registered a trademark.