TalTech: Artificial intelligence could help drive down production costs in metallurgy

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Energy and IT researchers from Tallinn University of Technology (Estonia), and metalworking engineers from the company Pentamet (Estonia), have deployed AI to look for malfunctions in order to reduce production costs.

 The researchers and specialists are aiming to identify anomalies in the operation of equipment, in order to respond them before malfunctions occur. This can be done using AI, by tasking it with monitoring changes in the temperature, vibration, energy consumption, or operating pressure of equipment. For example, increased vibration of motors or increased power consumption, may indicate wear and imminent failure of mechanical apparatuses.

Energy researcher Argo Rosin explains: ‘Put simply, in our project, artificial intelligence is keeping an eye out for changes in the temperature and vibration patterns of mechanical compensators, which are accordion-like tubes. Changes in these patterns often indicate the onset of a malfunction, or a situation that could lead to one. For example, in power plants, the accumulation and hardening of ash in such tubes accelerates their aging, cracking, and failure.’

According to Marko Lillemets, a representative of Pentamet, depending on the industry, the failure of a single piece of equipment can bring the entire plant to a standstill, and can result in losses amounting to millions of euros. The traditional method for avoiding such situations consists of the preventive replacement of equipment. Prevention, however, always prompts the question of why replace a functioning machine that still has a third of its service life remaining? In addition, it should be emphasised that the devised solution also allows the possibility to obtain much more detailed information and knowledge about the reliability of existing equipment.

The solution created through the partnership can help estimate the service life of equipment, and thereby reduce production costs and quality issues. This, in turn, enables the fulfilment of contracts in a timely manner, which has a direct impact on the profitability and reliability of a company.  

In addition to direct economic benefits, the work of the researchers and specialists is also relevant for the green transition – it allows businesses to save at least 20% on maintenance costs, which has a direct bearing on the manufacturing cost of products, including through the reduction of energy consumption. The final results of the collaborative project will be announced in late June. 

The collaboration between TalTech and Pentamet was made possible with the help of AI & Robotics Estonia (AIRE). The objective of AIRE is to help companies increase their competitiveness in Estonia, as well as in foreign markets. AIRE brings together researchers and experts from Estonian universities, state agencies, and science parks.

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