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A Workshop on Intelligent Processing for Primary Metals was convened on August 29-30, 1989 at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Maryland. It was sponsored by the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Attendance was by invitation and the more than 80 participants were primarily senior technical staff and managers from steel, aluminum, and copper companies.

The past 5 years have witnessed extensive advances in the enabling technologies needed for intelligent processing of materials. These include: advanced sensors for on-line monitoring of material and process parameters, the knowledge base and materials characterization techniques to develop process models relating process parameters to material properties, and hierarchical computer control strategies for implementing artificial intelligence/expert systems concepts. Several recent national programs have been initiated to integrate elements of these advances to control the processing of advanced materials such as gallium arsenide crystals, powder metals, and composites. Similar opportunities appear to exist in the primary metals


The goal of this industry-led workshop was to highlight the recent advances in sensing, modeling, and process control, to identify areas of need in the primary metals industries, and to develop a strategy for implementation of research results. Industry, university, and government participants assessed information provided by researchers and operating staff from industry to develop a research agenda for coupling the advancing state of materials processing in the primary metals industries. This report is the proceedings of the deliberations from this Workshop. The summaries of the three working sessions were produced by the session chairmen from their notes.

The genesis of this workshop may be traced to two events. First, the signing into law in late 1988 of the Steel and Aluminum Energy Conservation and Technology Competitiveness Act that authorizes DOE and NIST to carry out coordinated programs in support of the primary metals industries, primarily steel, aluminum, and copper. As authorized in this Act, DOE would focus on cost-sharing projects in priority R & D areas, including, but not limited to: direct production of liquid steel, production of near-net shape products, the development of advanced coatings for steel, and the application of automated processing technology. NIST would concentrate on providing instrumentation and measurement R & D.

The second event was the January 1989 forum at Northwestern University to identify long-range research opportunities for the North American steel industry. The industry participants concluded that research opportunities could best be addressed in the context of three specific long-range development projects: direct production of liquid steel, near-net shape casting, and finishing and coating operations. Further, it was recognized that the successful integration of these three contiguous unit operations would yield important benefits by responding to the increasing constraints on traditional batch processing, by developing new product properties to match customer needs, and by taking advantage of this era of computational plenty to control processes for increased efficiency and product quality.

To capitalize on these events, planning was initiated through a steering committee with representatives from steel, aluminum, and copper trade associations, individual companies, the academic community, and Federal agencies. The consensus was to address the process control needs of the broad spectrum of primary metal industries and the role of intelligent processing concepts in solving these needs by focusing on three generic areas: primary metal production/refining, production of near-net shape products, and finishing/coating to final properties. Emphasis would be on future, advanced processes and technologies.

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Within these areas, the key elements of intelligent processing were stressed. The relationships between fundamentals and processing were explored through the integration of process modeling, sensor technology, and control strategies.

Although the strategy was to achieve a workshop relevant to steel, aluminum and copper, the program contained a strong orientation toward steel-related issues. Since early in this decade, the steel industry has worked to develop a consensus on technical advances needed to improve traditional production practices and on identifying the future steel-making technologies. The steering committee recognized that the steel industry would be particularly well-positioned to play an important role and make major contributions to the workshop.

The Organizing Committee was pleased to have participation by representatives of the aluminum and copper industries because the workshop structure is applicable to the processing of these metals. An overlap or commonality of process control needs is likely in some areas of processing. The success of this workshop could lead to other industries using this approach to develop process control priorities.

Leading off the first day of the Workshop was an introduction to intelligent processing of materials concepts through applications to aerospace and other advanced materials followed by an overview of the process control research needs for the production of steel and aluminum. The workshop format, organized into three working sessions responsible for Direct Liquid Metal Production, Near-Net Shape Casting, and Finishing/Coating, took place in the afternoon of the first day and the morning of the second day to permit a wide range of inputs from the participants. Coordinated presentations were given in these working sessions on the status of sensors, process models, and control approaches, the available technology, and the benefits to relevant research. After the morning sessions on the second day, a brief, verbal synopsis of the deliberations in each of the three working sessions was presented to the assembled workshop participants.

The following three sections, prepared by the co-chairmen of the working sessions, contain the more detailed summaries of the discussions, including the consensus reached on specific topics and recommended actions. The complete list of participants in each session is found in the Appendix.

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