When Raytheon was building a new steel coil mill for ACME Steel at their Riverdale, IL facilities in the 1990’s, they installed an InfoSight X-Y Stencil Marker to identify each new hot-rolled coil. Twenty-six years later, after excellent maintenance by the mill personnel and one partial rebuild, the Cleveland Cliffs facility is still operating the X-Y Stencil Marker and it is in great operating condition. Now Cleveland Cliffs has decided it’s time to upgrade the electronics.
There has been steel making at Riverdale, IL since 1910. What began as ACME Steel briefly became ISG, ArcelorMittal, and it is now owned by Cleveland-Cliffs, Inc. ACME Steel tapped Raytheon Engineering to build a new steel coil mill at this location in the 1990s. This location produces hot-rolled coil products, including high carbon and alloy grades.
InfoSight is a manufacturer of industrial marking machines, metal tags, metal tag printers, barcode readers, and custom machinery for manual and automatic identification and traceability applications worldwide. InfoSight employs nearly 70 people, most of whom are located in the Chillicothe, OH headquarters and manufacturing facility.
Identification of products is important in any industry, but it is particularly difficult for steel products, specifically hot steel products. InfoSight was a brand-new company when Raytheon choose them to build a marking machine to identify coils at the new mill. InfoSight delivered an “X-Y Stencil Marker”. The X-Y Continuous Character Marking system is designed to automatically print (ink stencil) durable, high quality alphanumeric characters on cast shapes and coils at high temperatures. It is fully programmable, with the capability of automatically incrementing the number printed on each consecutive coil. Characters from 1 inch (25mm) to 6 inches (152mm) tall are printed with a specially formulated water-based ink, resulting in a mark that is extremely resistant to high temperatures, harsh weather, and rough handling.
In the early 1990s, ACME Steel operated a smaller hot strip mill at this location. In order to be viable in a more competitive market and increase sustainability, they enlisted Raytheon Engineering to build a compact strip processing mill in this location. As a result, raw materials and liquid metal are converted into a customer ready product in about 90 minutes. With the need for any reheating steps eliminated, energy and money are saved. As part of this project, Raytheon chose InfoSight to provide the X-Y Stencil Marker to identify the hot-rolled steel coils.
The marker was designed and built at InfoSight’s Chillicothe facility, then installed and commissioned in the new Riverdale mill in 1996. While the startup went well, a few changes were made, and a few lessons were learned during the commissioning process. The original ink type was changed because the initial choice settled more than expected. The ink reservoirs were changed from two (2) Liter bottles to larger 2.5-gallon pressure pots, and eventually to 5-gallon pressure pots. But the most important thing that happened during commissioning was training.
InfoSight stresses that a clean system is a reliable system. In industrial applications, this often falls on deaf ears. The Riverdale marker encountered a few problems early on with ink drying and clogging so InfoSight Field Service Engineers made an extra trip to provide training to additional employees. These lessons were taken very seriously, and Riverdale employees implemented a disciplined maintenance program. Their tenacity has resulted in a marker that has been very reliable for many years.
The foundation of the maintenance program is cleanliness. At least once per shift, more if needed, operators clean the ink nozzles and entire marker. They clean off any excess paint on the nozzles and around the marking head. They scrape off any hardened paint and remove any buildup from the marker. By cleaning frequently, the marker stays free of buildup that would have a negative impact on the mark quality. It also ensures the marker is inspected regularly, so the overall condition of the marker is never a surprise. The operators also regularly apply lubrication to the tracks in which the marker moves, resulting in a maker that freely moves on the X and Y axes as necessary to create a quality mark. Additionally, a well-trained staff of mechanics and electricians provide the more advanced maintenance that the system may require.
InfoSight has been surprisingly uninvolved since addressing the initial issues during commissioning. However, Riverdale Electrical Manager Terry Murphy indicated there remains a strong working relationship with InfoSight. One key to their maintenance program is the reliable supply of spare parts for the marker. Riverdale recently tapped InfoSight for a project to upgrade the electronics of the system. The 2021 project will replace the aging electronics in the system with modern technology that will allow this X-Y Marker to operate for decades to come.