Collaboration with industry – a days experience in Avesta

Collaboration with industry is one of the important factors for a successful technical university. This can take place in so many ways as I experienced yesterday when I visited Outokumpu Stainless in Avesta. I had three meetings planned: 1) a discussion about how we could use slag as a replacement for lime in a neutralization process, 2) a discussion with an industrial PhD student, and 3) a visit to the plant to spot study the AOD reactor. Note, during the plant visit I proudly wore my safety jacket with a KTH logo on for the first time! My colleague Anders Tilliander came up with the idea. It turned out to be a great idea since I got many positive comments and people knew where I came from.

The first example on collaboration involves one of our PhD students, Leo Carlsson, who was on the same morning train as me. His research topic is machine learning big data related to metallurgical industry. The last two years he has spent on trying to model the energy consumption in an electric arc furnace, which is an important reactor in the circular economy since it uses recycled metallic scrap as a raw material. Leo’s results are promising but in order to better understand the reliability of the huge amount of input variables he uses, he decided to sit together with the operators during a day to learn more about input variables that they use to control the process. Thus, the purpose is of course to make sure that the theoretical model he has developed will be of use in the production. This close contact with the industry is important when introducing new concepts in production. I am sure he will be back many times before finishing his PhD!

Another example of how we can collaborate with industry is also from yesterday and connected to the visit in Avesta. In arecent VINNOVA project, KTH was granted a project to study how if it is possible to use vibration measurements to indirectly determine how much gas that is injected in to liquid steel. This is a challenging task and it includes deep knowledge on processes, measurement techniques, signal treatment as well as how this information can be coupled to machine learning theories. The project is led by Nils Andersson and Björn Glaser. They spent yesterday in Avesta to spot suitable places to mount the vibration measurement devices and are doing the same thing today at Uddeholm in Hagfors. The project is a collaboration with machine learning experts at Luleå university and measurement experts at SWERIM as well as a collaboration with a handful of Swedish steel companies. This is a typical example on how universities, an institute and several industrial partners can collaborate in studying industrial relevant projects.

A third example of how we can collaborate with industry is related to the PhD education. In one PhD course at the materials science and engineering department the focus is on production technology and how it is necessary to combine economical aspects to technical aspects in the working life to come up with sustainable and profitable solutions. The two PhD students Carrie Jonsson and Amanda Vickerfält also visited Outokumpu yesterday to study the electric arc furnace process in order to better understand the practical aspects before completing their project report.

My last example of how important it is with collaboration between KTH and industry is from having lunch at the company. I was amazed over how many people I greeted, which had been educated by KTH. They are our alumni and I can feel the connection by their comments:

  • Hi professor are you here to get some experienceof the “real” metallurgy?
  • Pär, do you have any good students we can hire?
  • Great to see so many KTH students in the plant today!
  • How many new students applied to materials design this year?

My reflections over the day when I was on the train back home were that this extremely good and frequent collaboration KTH, and especially ITM, has with the industry and society is ot the outmost importance. People talk about life-long learning but I would like to extend it to a life-long collaboration with us at ITM (KTH) and the industry!

Pär Jönsson, Vice Dean


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