Sustainable & digital innovation for steel wire manufacturing
Bekaert is an international steel wire company that was founded in Belgium in 1880. Bekaert products are widely used in many industries. If it drives, ascends, hoists, filters, reinforces or fastens, there’s a good chance Bekaert is inside. The biggest customers of Bekaert are tire manufacturers. About one in three tires in the world have Bekaert steel cords inside them. So, you could say at least one of the tires on your car has Bekaert technology.
Sustainable manufacturing goal
Bekaert has its own engineering department that designs and makes machines for the 90 Bekaert factories all over the world: Slovakia, Spain, China, Turkey, Russia, Brazil, India, UK, US, … To make steel wire or steel cord, you must go through many energy-intensive steps (e.g. wire drawing, heat treatment, coatings, cabling …). Bekaert has the ambition to reduce energy consumption by 15% and reduce GHG emissions by 45% by 2030.
Engineers have their hands full with reviewing and optimizing the processes used for years. One of the largest consumers is the gas-fired furnace for the heat treatment of wires. One of Lucas’ projects is to investigate the possibility of replacing these with electrical furnaces and look for new ways to improve the efficiency of the existing furnaces. He’s also working on a model-based control technique that should reduce energy consumption and scrap and increase production.
Push towards digitalization
Next to sustainability, there’s also a significant push for digitalization. By using machine data, the processes can be monitored in real-time. For example, large screens on the factory floor inform operators about the quality, wear of machines, and safety. For digitalization, Lucas is working on a model that reduces zinc consumption by using real-time process data.
Bekaert Engineering is also looking ahead with large automation projects such as the plant of the future, where a factory is designed to be fully automated. Next to these big projects, there are also many smaller projects such as redesigning a pump to increase its lifetime, testing new parts for more efficient operation, or developing new sensors. It’s the combination of the large projects with the smaller ones plus the positive impact on the environment that makes this job so interesting.
- Competences: Mechanical
- Client: Bekaert