(From Thomas J. Piccone, Assistant Professor, Lecturer, Materials Engineering & Materials Science at Pitt Swanson School of Engineering)
A tour group from the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) visited ELLWOOD Quality Steels (EQS) in New Castle, PA on Saturday, March 23. The group included five faculty members, three graduate students, and thirteen undergraduate students (including ten involved in the Pitt Material Advantage group), for a total of twenty-one participants. All of those on the tour are in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Material Science (MEMS) at Pitt.
Three of the tour guides at the EQS facility were recent graduates from the MEMS Department at Pitt, one with a Ph.D. and two with B.S. degrees.
The tour participants were first shown a video introducing the company and facilities, as well as safety information. After putting on personal protective equipment (PPE), the tour group visited the electric arc furnace (EAF) shop, the ingot pouring area, the forging area, and a new building nearing completion, which will house new electroslag remelting (ESR), vacuum arc remelting (VAR), and grinding facilities. The tour concluded with lunch and a time for questions and discussion. The three recent Pitt graduates spoke about their experiences working in the steel industry and gave some details of their daily activities working at EQS. The entire trip was a positive experience for students and faculty alike, as indicated by the discussions and the comments submitted afterward (see below).
ELLWOOD Quality Steels Plant Visit - Student Comments
"The trip overall gave me a better understanding of production scaling and relevancy. It was great to see everything on a large scale - physically seeing the ladles moving and the different steps of the process in real-time. Having the tour guide explain what was going on as it happened in front of us clarified what occurs in each step. It was also reassuring that what we learn in class is not outdated, that the processes are currently used and relevant."
"I really enjoyed the tour, it was interesting to see some of the processes that I learned about in my classes in person. I was surprised by how big the furnaces, ladles, and ingots were and how much power the plant consumed. The tour guides were also very knowledgeable about the operations of the plant and offered valuable information about the equipment and processes. Overall, it was a great experience."
"The ELLWOOD tour was a unique experience because the steelmaking processing looks larger than life in person, you would never be able to imagine the scale of the process without seeing it in person. All of the tour guides were also very informative and I learned more about the practical side of the process."
"It was really interesting to see the connection from the classroom to the real world. Just seeing a picture or a video of something did not justify the sheer size and impact of the machinery used in steelmaking. Therefore, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing everything in person. Feeling the actual amount of heat coming off of the ingots and hearing the sounds of the electrodes was very impactful and something I will never forget. I especially liked the ability to see the [liquid] steel stream through the employees’ sunglass lenses."
"I am really grateful of having had the opportunity to visit ELLWOOD's steel mill. It was really an eye-opening experience to get to see how steel is made. I will never forget the loud sound and intense bright red color of the liquid metal during the arc melt process. It was impressive to see how the huge ladles were carried around, flying over us, transported by even bigger cranes."
"Thank you very much to ELLWOOD Quality Steels to opening their facilities to us and to all the tour guys for explaining us the entire process and for such a great time in general."
"I would have liked operator involvement and an inside view of an operating booth."
"Thank you for organizing the plant tour. I really enjoyed it. It was great to see the concepts that we're learning in class in action in a real-world scenario. I have a much better understanding of the steelmaking process, and specifically the Electric Arc Furnace, after seeing the process and the comments from our tour guides. Our tour guides were extremely knowledgeable and very enthusiastic about answering our questions. The videos shown in class are helpful, but they can't possibly convey the huge scale of the operation. It was very awe-inspiring to see in person, especially the EAF! It was an experience I definitely won't forget, and I would be interested in other similar tour opportunities in the future."
"Nothing will make you feel small like how a steel plant makes you feel small. We were like dolls in a doll house. It was amazing to see how the entire plant was built on a scale for giants. It was also really fun to see the tapping process. I especially liked seeing the giant claws [crane hooks] come and take the buckets [ladles] away."
"The tour of ELLWOOD Quality Steels was a great experience. Having the opportunity to see the steelmaking process in real life was incredible and really cemented what we have been learning about in class. It was hard to imagine the size of the EAF and the other components until we were there to see and hear them. Overall, I would suggest this tour to anyone interested in the steelmaking process or enrolled in MEMS 0040."
"Very impressive to see and hear an EAF in person. Videos don't do it justice. A little hard to hear the guides at points with the earplugs and furnace operating, but all guides very knowledgeable about the entire facility and very willing to answer any questions."
"It was great!"