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Copyright 2002 IFAC

15th Triennial World Congress, Barcelona, Spain



Hong-Ju Kim, Seok-Kyun Hwang and Jin S. Lee

Department of Electrical Engineering, Pohang University of

Science and Technology, Pohang 790-784, Republic of Korea

Abstract: This paper presents an automation scheme of an overhead magnet crane that
is used as an essential part of storage yard automation. First, load cells are introduced
to detect the number of lifted steel plates. Then a current control algorithm to lift the
right number of steel plates is proposed and implemented by using the on-line tuning
look-up table. Finally, the overall hardware and software description for automatic
crane operation is presented. The results have been successfully implemented on
POSCOs No.2 thick steel plate storage yard.

Keywords: On-line control, real time systems

1. INTRODUCTION plates and of the number of the steel plates to lift

using the wireless communication unit. Getting
the ordered number of plates to lift from the
Automating the operation of the thick steel plate
assistant, the operator determines the amount
storage yard is one of the important examples in
of current based on his experience and exerts
factory automation. There are many subsystems
current to the magnets using the control lever.
to consider for storage yard automation, but the
When the plates are lifted, the assistant counts the
magnet crane control is probably the most difficult
number of lifted plates with his eyes and signals
to operate. Once the steel plates produced from
the number to the operator with his hands. If the
the continuous caster move on the rollers and
number of the lifted plates is greater than the
arrive at the storage yard, they are removed from
ordered one, the operator tries to decrease the
the roller to be stacked for temporary storage,
amount of current to drop some of the plates until
rearranged among stacks according to customer
the number of lifted plates matches the ordered
demands or moved from stacks to the customer
one. If the number of lifted plates is smaller than
truck for shipping. All of these operations are
the ordered one, the operator lays the plates back
carried out by the overhead magnet crane as
on the stack, increases the amount of current, and
shown in Figure 1. It is similar in its structure
tries again to lift the right number of plates. Once
to the three axes gantry-type robots. The crane
the correct number of plates is lifted after the
body moves along the side rail and the crab moves
above trials, the assistant leads the operator to the
along the body so as to position the trolley at the
designated location to discharge the plates. This
desired stack position. The trolley moves up and
guide-assisted crane operation suffers from some
down to lift and drop the plates.
drawbacks. First, the working environment in the
Before the magnet crane system is automated, storage yard is not human-friendly. There is much
the operation of the magnet crane was mainly dust, the plates dropping on the stacked plates
controlled by a crane operator and an assistant make large noises, and if any hardware faults
at the yard. His main job is to inform the magnet occur while carrying the plates, the assistants
crane operator of the correct location to lift the
Fig. 1. The overhead magnet crane system

on the steel yard could be in serious danger. magnets, the current control unit to determine the
Second, this operation requires an assistant and amount of the current to lift or drop the desired
an operator thus it is not cost-effective. To stay number of plates, the position tracking and the
cost competitive in the international market, some motor control unit of the crane and the ground
measures are required to reduce the man power station unit for management of storage yard map.
while increasing productivity. For this end, an
The remainder of this paper is organized as fol-
automatic operation scheme of the crane and the
lows. The detection system of the number of steel
magnets is developed to do the same tasks without
plates is presented in section 2. The current con-
any operator and any assistant.
trol systems in section 3 and the hardware and
Under the proposed crane system, the works pro- software components of the crane system are pro-
ceed as follows. Job order file that contains the posed in section 4. Finally, the conclusion is given
ordered number of plates, the steel plate infor- in section 5.
mation such as weight, width, and length, and
destination is directly given to the crane computer
by using an optical communication module. The 2. SYSTEM AND ALGORITHM FOR
computer system mounted on the operation room DETECTING THE NUMBER OF STEEL
then analyzes the job order, and controls the crane PLATES
to the ordered position by sending commands to
the motor drive. Calculating the right amount of A load cell is classified as a force transducer that
current based on the proposed algorithm, it drives converts force or weight into an electrical signal.
current to the magnets by sending a current com- A strain gauge is the heart of a load cell, which
mand to the rectifier. Then it lifts the steel plates changes its resistance value when the stress is
and counts the number of plates attached to the applied. Multiple strain gauges are connected to
magnets by comparing the weight measured by create the four legs of a Wheatstone-bridge config-
the load cells with the weight calculated from the uration. When an input voltage is applied to the
process computer located at the ground station. bridge, the output becomes a voltage proportional
According to the counted number of plates, the to the force on the cell. This output is amplified
computer system automatically tries to decrease and processed by electrical circuitry and the re-
or increase the amount of current. If the ordered sulting weight value is sent to the V M E system
number of plates is lifted correctly, then it moves by RS422 serial communication.
the crane to the designated position.
It is important to minimize the error between
Some papers and technical reports on the au- the real weight and the weight sensed by load
tomation of the overhead magnet system have cells. As the crane swings back and forth when
been reported from our laboratory as shown in it moves and since there are considerable sensor
(Sang Y. Park and Park, 1998; B.K. Kang and noises, the measured values always come with
Lee, 1998; Lee and Park, 1994). In contrast with errors. To minimize these errors, the pin type eight
these papers and reports, this paper introduces load cells was installed into the pulley axes of the
the techniques using the load cells, the updated al- wire ropes, and the average weight is acquired
gorithm of current control, and presents the whole after each value of the load cells is summed. As
automated crane system. The overall automation the results, the errors never exceeded 200 kg as
system consists of several sub units: the count- shown in Figure 2. The number of plates can
ing unit of the number of plates attached to the be determined by comparing the weight of the
by the current exerted on the magnet coil. The
relationship between the magnetic force and the
current can be derived by using flux that stores
the energy in the magnetic field. The minimum
amount of current required to lift the steel plates
is that which produces the magnetic force which
is enough to overcome gravitational force.
According to Poyntings theorem (Scott, 1996),
Fig. 2. Profile of sensing errors acquired at the stored magnetic energy Em becomes
POSCOs No. 2 thick steel plate storage yard
plate information from the ground station with 1
the weight measured from the load cells. Now, let Em = B Hdv . (2)
the weight M measured by load cells be vol
X Substituting B = 0 H and g = BSg into (2)
M= (mj + mj ) , yields

where N is the total number of plates attached 2g lg

to the magnets, mj denotes the weight of the jth Em = , (3)
20 Sg
steel plate which is given by the ground station
and mj is the measurement error of mj . Then, where 0 is the permeability of the air, g is the
to determine the correct number of steel plates flux that passes through the air gap, lg is the air
attached to the magnet, the total measurement gap distance and Sg is the cross-sectional area of
error must be small than half of the lightest steel the flux path. If it is assumed that the changes
plate. Consequently, the detection algorithm must in flux between the magnet and the plates result
satisfy from a virtual differential displacement dlg , then
the change of stored magnetic energy becomes
X 1
mj < min (m1 , m2 , , mN +1 ) , (1) dlg 2

2 dEm = 2 , (4)
j=1 20 Sg g
The proposed algorithm to identify N is described where the coefficient 2 reflects the fact that the
by using the following pseudocode: magnetic force is generated at both ends of the
INPUT M , m1 , m2 , , mNmax +1 magnet shoe. By dividing dEm by dlg , the force
OUTPUT N to lift plates Fm is given as follows.
Step 1 Set Ms = 0; m0 = 0.
Step 2 for i = 0, 1, , Nmax do dEm 1
Fm = =2 2 gtWa La , (5)
Set Ms = Ms + mi ; N = i; dlg 20 Sg g
if |M Ms | < 12 min mj then
1ji+1 where g is the gravitational acceleration, is the
OUTPUT(N ). density of the steel plates, t is the thickness of
STOP. plates, Wa is the average width of plates and
La is the average length of plates. By using the
where Nmax is the maximum number of plates
equivalent magnetic circuit in Figure 3 (b) and
which the magnet crane can lift. At the iteration
the fact that g equals to the flux of the magnet
i = N 1, the if-condition is equivalent to |mN +
PN 1 1 core c , we obtain c
j=1 mj | < 2 min(m1 , m2 , , mN ) 2 mN ,
but this does not satisfy (1). At the next iteration
Nc I
i = N , the if-condition is satisfied and N can be c = , (6)
Rc + R g + R p
obtained. Since the thick steel plates produced in
POSCO(Pohang Iron & Steel Co.) mostly weigh where Nc is the number of turns in the coil
over 400 kg, the above detection algorithm along winding, I is the current that flows though the
with the load cells identifies very successfully the coil and R whose the subscripts c, p and g denote
number of steel plates attached to the magnets. the core, the plates and the air gap, respectively
is the corresponding reluctance. Substituting (6)
into (5) yields
3.1 Modeling of the Current Control System
I (Rc + Rg + Rp ) 0 Sg gSp La

In the operation of the magnet crane, steel plates 1 lc lg lp p
= + + 0 Sg gSp La ,
are lifted by using the magnetic force produced Nc c S c 0 Sg p Sp
I N t u r n s
R c


l f

p 1
R g
p 2

p i



(a) Flux path of the magnet and steel plates (b) Equivalent magnetic
circuit of (a)

Fig. 3. The simplified flux path of steel plates attached to a magnet and its equivalent circuit

(7) the voltage have the range from 0 to 2200. The

values in the look-up table as shown in Figure
where S with subscripts are the corresponding 4 are the amount of minimum voltage to lift n
cross-sectional areas and l is the length of the flux number of plates with average thickness ta under
path. Wa = Ws , La = Ls . The minimum voltage Vtna to
lift n plates with ta can be obtained by the linear
interpolation with Figure 4.
3.2 Implementation of the Model
n\ta 6 8 40 50
Nc , lc , Sc , 0 , Sg , g, and in (7) are the unknown 1 75 95 450 500
constants and if it is assumed that B and H have 2 110 180 2200 2200
a linear relationship, the variations of c and p .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
are small; therefore the term clcSc is unknown . . . . . . .
lg 7 1400 2200 2200 2200
constant, 0 Sg is related to the number of plates, 8 2200 2200 2200 2200
p Spis the function of total thickness and average
p Fig. 4. The look-up table for linear interpolation
width of plates, and 0 Sg gSp is the function
of total thickness and average width of plates. In Because Vtna is the minimum voltage to lift n
the aspect of implementation, Formula (7) can plates, the amount of the required voltage refer-
experimentally be written as the following form: ence VR is
Vtna + Vtn+1
Wa La

Wa La
I F (n, ta )|Wa =Ws ,La =Ls , (8) VR = a
. (9)
Ws Ls 2 Ws Ls
where n is the number of plates, ta , Wa and
La are average thickness, width and length of n\ta 6 7 18 19
the plates respectively, Ws denotes the standard 1 92 115 345 360
width of the plates when the data are gathered, Ls 2 170 215 1330 1340
is the standard length and is the compensated .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
term which has to be adjusted by trial and error. . . . . . . .
F (n, ta ) is implemented in this paper by using a 7 1800 1900 2200 2200
look-up table. The maximum thickness of plates 8 2200 2200 2200 2200
that the crane can lift is 50 mm and the plates of
6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 20, 30, 40 and 50 mm thickness are Fig. 5. The look-up table for on-line tuning
common at the POSCOs thick steel plate stor-
age yard. Consequently, the maximum number of The results applied the above algorithm to the G2
plates that the magnet crane can lift can be easily crane showed that the initial success rate of lifting
calculated. For example, for plates with 6 mm the exact number of plates at the first trial was
thickness it is eight and for the plates of 8 mm, 100 % for ta 20, but it was relatively poor for
it is six. Currently, the actuators of the magnet ta 19. Therefore other methods are needed for
cranes use voltage sources as power sources, and ta 19. After calculating VR by (9) and Figure
the computer system gives a voltage command to 4, the detail look-up table is made for ta 19 as
the rectifier PLC for actuating current. In order shown in Figure 5. Unlike Figure 4, the values in
to remove the floating points, the digital values of Figure 5 are not the minimum voltage, but the
reference voltage to the actuator. Whenever the 4. HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE
crane is not able to lift the exact number of plates CONFIGURATION OF THE CRANE SYSTEM
ordered from the ground station, the Figure 5 is
tuned on-line. The updating rules for two cases
The POSCOs thick steel plate storage yard is an
are as follows.
area of 83200 m2 which has a storage capacity of
a. When the number of lifted plates is more than 146000 tons. There are 1086 piling locations about
that of ordered plates 4.5 m wide by 6 m long per location and there are
+ n 23 overhead magnet cranes which can cover about
Vtnao = Vtnao |Vtnao Vtnao 1 | , 30 m wide by 150 m long. Under automated crane
N ta
system, the crane computer system installed in
= Vtnao (10) the operation room as shown in Figure 1 works in
where V is the reference voltage, the superscripts place of an operator and an assistant.
of V denote the number of plates ordered from the The main computer system based on VMEbus is
ground station, and the subscripts of V denote the composed of a CPU board, two serial communi-
average thickness, + n is the difference between cation boards and a DIO(digital input/output)
the detected number and the ordered number, and board. The VRTXsa running on the CPU is a real-
Nta is the number of the sections between Vtnao 1 time and multitasking operating system kernel for
and Vtnao or between Vtnao and Vtnao +1 . As it is embedded microprocessor applications. The com-
more difficult to lift the exact number of plates puter system interfaces with the ground station,
for thinner plates, the sections are divided more sensors and two PLCs, controls the position of
finely for thinner plates. Consequently, the thinner the crane along with laser Dx , Dy and the height
the plates are, the greater Nta is. The updating of the hoist along with encoder Dz , drives the
rule (10) means that if the crane lifts the more magnet current and detects the number of plates
number of plates than that of ordered plates with along with load cells.
the reference voltage Vtnao , then decrease Vtnao in
a. Main computer unit
the direction of Vtnao 1 in Figure 5 considering the - CPU board : a VM40 CPU board has an
average thickness and the difference between de- MC68040(25MHz) processor, a 4MB DRAM,
tected number and ordered number. And update a 2MB SRAM, and a 4MB FLASH ROM. The
as Vtnao . VM40 board with VRTXsa runs the applica-
b. When the number of lifted plates is less than that tion programs.
of ordered plates - Serial communication board : two VMOD-2
n boards with eight serial ports interface with
Vtnao = Vtnao + |Vtnao +1 Vtnao | , the sensors. These serial communication ports
N ta
receive the crane position from the laser sensor
VtN = Vtnao (11)
Dx and Dy , communicate with the ground
where n is the difference between ordered station, communicate with one PLC for the
number and detected number. crane motor control and the other PLC for
magnet current control, receive the height of
After applying the current control method men-
two grabs with two encoders, interface with the
tioned the above for a week from Oct. 19 2000 to
LCD, and get the key inputs. The method of
Oct. 25 2000, the results of the works are gathered
serial communication is the full-duplex form at
for nine days and made an analysis of the initial
19200 bps without parity check by RS422.
success rate which is defined as the percentage
rate of the number of total works to the number - DIO board : the DIO board is used for control-
of initially succeeded works. The initial success ling the emergency buzzer, and the LED that
rate is approximately 95 % as shown in Figure shows the faults at devices.
6. Compared with the fact that an experienced b. Ground station unit
The ground station manages the whole work
schedules of the cranes, gives the information
of the yard map and the stacked plates to the
main computer system, and receives the crane
position, faults at devices of the crane, and
results of the work from the main computer
system. The communication between ground
station and crane computer system is achieved
by using the optical modem. RS422 communi-
Fig. 6. Initial success rate cation port connects the VME system to the
operators success rate is approximately 70 %, the optical modem.
results are so satisfactory. c. Position tracking and motor control unit
- Laser Dx , Dy : measure a horizontal position tant issues of the automation system are pre-
and a vertical position respectively on the yard sented,that is, the detection of the number of the
map. steel plates attached to the lifting magnets and the
- Encoder Dz : measures a height of the lifting current control of the lifting magnets. And hard-
magnets. ware and software configuration is presented. The
proposed automation system has been installed at
- PLC for motor control : a movement command
POSCOs No. 2 thick steel plate yard and has been
to the PLC which transmits the command
in operation since last 2 years. Without operators
to the motor drive makes the crane move.
and assistants, the automated system has been
With measuring Dx , Dy and Dz continuously,
reliably operating in poor environment of the field
the main computer system handles position
and has saved on the labor as 6 less operators and
of the crane. After calculating the distance
assistants per crane.
between current position and target position,
the main computer gives a start command, an
acceleration command at the 10 % point of the
calculated distance, a slow command at the 90
% point and finally a stop command. In case of B.K. Kang, S.D. Kim and Jin S. Lee (1998).
emergency, the extreme limit switches on the Magnetic flux sensor for control of thick steel
3 axis will automatically stop the operation. plates. Sensors and Actuators A 65, 203206.
d. Detection unit Lee, Jin S. and B.H. Park (1994). The field appli-
refer the section 2. cation of study of sensing the number of plates
and control systems. Tech. Report, Research
e. Current control unit
Institute of Science and Technology. Pohang.
- PLC for driving current: the PLC for driving
Sang Y. Park, Jin S. Lee, Joon Y. Choi and
current gives the amount of voltage in the
B. H. Park (1998). Automatic current con-
digital form from 0 to 2200 to the rectifier drive
trol of magnet cranes for steel plate yard au-
which drives the relay related to the voltage
tomation. IFAC Control Engineering Practice
6, 11931208.
- Algorithm of decision of the initial current: Scott, W.T. (1996). The Physics of Electricity and
refer the section 3. Magnetism. Second Edition, John Wiley &
- Current control in case of retrying: this rou- Sons. London.
tine begins to operate when the number of
the lifted plates is different from that of the
ordered plates. After driving the amount of
current according to the proposed current con-
trol algorithm, the plates are lifted to a height
of 30 cm and then the number of plates is
counted. When more number of plates is lifted,
the amount of the current is decreased gradu-
ally with checking that the plate is dropped.
As soon as the plate is dropped, the current
is increased. This procedure is repeated until
the number of the lifted plates corresponds
with the ordered number. Conversely, when
the number of the lifted plates is fewer than the
ordered number, the amount of the current is
increased and lifts one more time. For the two
cases, the look-up table is on-line tuned.
f. Process monitor unit
Process monitor controls the whole operation
and handles the crane in place of an operator.
According to results of the detection algorithm
and the current control algorithm, it monitors
the next steps.


In this paper, an automation system of an over-

head magnet crane is presented. The two impor-