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Steel Wire Rod Mill Level 2 and General Mill Supervisory System

Level 2 General Functionality

The Steel Wire Rod Mill Level 2 is running under Microsoft Windows. It was firstly customized from the Level 2 supervisory system for EAF, LMF and Caster, all developed by a Metal Pass employee. It then was added with the Level 2 models for rolling process and product development. The general functions of data collection, data communication and process tracking, etc. are sufficient for the steel wire rod mill operation. The model prediction, in which Metal Pass is a worldwide expert, provides top quality results for guideline of the mill operation.

Level 2 collects PLC data (with PLCSrv), testing properties data (from testing lab) and operation data (such as delay, event, parts life, personnel, etc., from HMI with Data Server), etc. All the data are saved in the MMFs (Memory-Mapped-Files). The Data Server reads data from MMFs and sends them to HMIs, while DBLog gets data from the MMFs and stores them in the Database server (like Oracle database).

Scheduling, Predicted properties, chemical analysis, roll information, as well as energy and material consumptions, etc. are also the key functions and are implemented in various sub-systems, such as the Data Server, Piece Tracking and testing lab (Chem Lab). The testing lab application collects laboratory testing data.

Figure 1:  Level 2 General Functionalities

As one of the key sub-systems, the Data Server application manages all the communication to and from the HMIs, the communication from Lab, and the communication to and from other level 2 servers, including mirroring in database, user actions, etc. It is a network communication program that implements a server socket using a connection-oriented service over TCP/IP.

There are some model screens for the application. The models predict rolling/cooling process parameters such as force, torque, temperature, roll gap, water box status, etc., for each pass, based on existing input data of the current piece and the learning from the past pieces. It also predicts rolled steel properties.


Here the DBLog is taken as example to demonstrate the high-performance of the Level 2 system. Current networking technology in the industry still cannot guarantee that the Level 2 server and database server are connected all the time. This is due to the limitation of both hardware and software of the networking. In this situation, in order to avoid the data loss, lots of efforts were made in the Level 2 implementation.

The DBLog application is used to implement one-way communication from Level2 to database, like inserting, updating or even deleting records. The purpose of this application is to keep the logical separation of the Level2 system from the database, so that the Level 2 can run smoothly without data loss even when the database is down or the connection between Level 2 and database is broken.

As illustrated in Figure 2, DBLog performs all the inserts, updates and deletes made from the Level 2. Each Level 2 application that may need to perform any of these operations builds a request object and inserts it in a shared queue object, and then sends a message to DBLog, which takes this request and tries to perform it. In case the database is down, or the network connection to the database server is broken or any error in the request at SQL level, DBLog inserts a line in each related log files. Then removes the request from the queue and continues with the next requests, until all of them are performed.

Figure 2:  Functionality of Level 2 DBLog, with relationship with others

In the Figure 2, the Msg1 is a message used to communicate with L2Monitor (a program to manage and monitor all Level 2 sub-systems) and other Level 2 applications, while Msg2 handles database related requests. Two shared memory areas are assigned to store requests from other applications (queue1) and database related requests (queue2). Two Dynamically Linked Libraries, DLL1 and DLL2, are used to communicate with MMFs and Database, respectively.

With the development of the .Net technology, new ways of the memory management are implemented instead of the earlier ones (shared memory).

DBLog represents the link between Level 2 and database, so all the tables that may be affected by the Level 2 are really accessed with DBLog. DBLog does not directly affect any of the HMI screens.

HMI Screens in the Level 2

The Human-Machine-Interface (HMI) screens and related client-side applications were developed with Visual Basic.Net. Several dozens of screens exist for the Level 2 package. All screens are well developed, with a data summary screen, as in Figure 3 below as example. 

Figure 3:  An example of HMI Screens in the Level 2

Besides the HMI applications, there is a separate program that is also written in VB.Net. It's a parameter editor used by a Level 2 administrator to edit Level 2 database parameters. For example, the names of operators and shift supervisor, the chemical analysis of each grade, and roll types, etc, can be pre-entered into the Level 2 flat file database. So for example, as long as a grade name is assigned in the schedule, the technical specification of the grade, as showed in the above screen, is displayed automatically in the Level 2.

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