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Hydraulics in Continuous Casting

Metal casting, until the 1950’s, was a batch process with the molten metal poured into fixed molds or channels and allowed to cool. The still glowing billets could then be handled and fed into rolling stations to achieve the first level of sizing.

The advent of continuous casting greatly increased production levels and reduced production costs.  In this process, molten metal from the furnace is delivered to the casting station in large ladles which are tipped gradually to deposit the molten metal into an intermediate holding chamber called a “tundish”.  Two or more ladles can be used to insure a continuous supply. From the tundish, the metal is delivered at a controlled rate to the mold below. This is a channel which establishes the basic cross-section of the final product. This mold is cooled so the skin of the metal coming out the lower end keeps the basic shape even as the interior is still molten.  The stream, which up till now was vertical, enters a series of rollers in an arc form which turns the stream horizontally. The stream or ‘bloom’ is engulfed in cooling water spray all through the turn section, but is still cherry red at this point.  The bloom proceeds on rollers to a travelling cutting station that slices off the end section and shoves it aside onto delivery rollers. The cutting station is timed to return to the bloom in time to pick up the next section and proceed to slice as it travels.

Hydraulic power is extremely suited to the continuous casting process with its ability to deliver powerful force and precise control in torturous environments. The giant ladles are rotated and tipped with hydraulic cylinders.  The flow of molten metal from the tundish is controlled by plugs raised and lowered in precise increments by dual acting cylinders under computer control.  The mold is the focus of two hydraulic power streams. The first, using cylinders or motors, controls the position of the side walls of the mold to change the size of the bloom. While this is going on, the whole mold is vibrated using dual acting cylinders to keep the molten metal from sticking to the walls of the mold and control the surface minimizing inclusions of slag and impurities.  The waveforms of this vibratory force can be adjusted from simple sinusoidal to complex waveforms to get the desired surface finish over different line speeds.

The above description is of Steel casting, the same basic process however applies to other metals such as Copper and Aluminum, depending on the final product.  Copper anodes, for instance are cast horizontally close to the final thickness. Hydraulic cylinders drive a blade across the top of the tundish pushing out a serving of copper off the top and onto the delivery rollers. Hydraulic cylinders control the nip of the rollers to set the final thickness.

At the end of the line a travelling hydraulic shear cuts off a section of anode which continues on to be stacked