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Title:
SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR ADJUSTING CONTINUOUS CASTING COMPONENTS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/201059
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A method includes: sensing a defect on a cast strip surface, the cast strip being cast from molten metal or alloy by a casting system, determining an adjustment amount and/or direction of a casting system component based on the identified surface defect, and providing the adjustment amount and/or direction to an operator for adjustment of the casting system component and/or commanding that the casting system component be adjusted by the adjustment amount and/or direction.

Inventors:
LORENTZEN, Leland (752 Hwy 52, Erie, CO, 80516, US)
Application Number:
US2017/032921
Publication Date:
November 23, 2017
Filing Date:
May 16, 2017
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
GOLDEN ALUMINUM COMPANY (1405 East 14th Street, Fort Lupton, CO, 80621, US)
International Classes:
B21B27/06; B21B38/00; B21B45/00; B22D11/11; B24B27/033; B24B49/12
Domestic Patent References:
1987-04-23
Foreign References:
US20060059679A12006-03-23
US5176197A1993-01-05
EP0777844B12001-11-28
US3467167A1969-09-16
US4538669A1985-09-03
US20060156778A12006-07-20
US6184924B12001-02-06
Other References:
OBESO ET AL.: "New technology for on-line surface inspection in continuous casting", AISE ANNUAL CONVENTION, 2001, XP055441333, Retrieved from the Internet
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SWARTZ, Douglas, W. (Sheridan Ross P.C, 1560 BroadwaySuite 120, Denver CO, 80202, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method, comprising:

sensing, by a sensor, a defect on a cast strip surface, the cast strip being cast from molten metal or alloy by a casting system;

determining, by a microprocessor executable control system, an adjustment amount and/or direction of a casting system component based on the identified surface defect; and the microprocessor executable control system at least one of providing the adjustment amount and/or direction to an operator for adjustment of the casting system component and commanding that the casting system component be adjusted by the adjustment amount and/or direction.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the casting system is a block caster, wherein the casting system component is an adjustment point on a chilling block, and the surface defect is an impression of a block joint.

3. The method of claim 2, wherein the sensor is a plurality of sensors comprising first and second sensor sets, each sensor in the first sensor set scanning a portion of an upper surface of the cast strip and each sensor in the second sensor set scanning a portion of a lower surface of the cast strip, and each sensor in the first sensor set opposing a corresponding sensor in the second sensor set and wherein each opposing pair of sensors in the first and second sensor sets are in line with a respective adjustment point.

4. The method of claim 3, wherein the sensor is positioned such that the sensed defect is caused by the casting system component to be adjusted and wherein the sensors are one or more of a laser radar detector, a mechanical displacement device, an imaging device, an optical 3d measuring systems, and an ultrasound transducer.

5. The method of claim 2, wherein the microprocessor executable control system senses a defect by measuring a thickness of the cast strip and compares the measured thickness to a predetermined thickness for the cast strip and determines the adjustment amount and/or direction based on a difference between the measured and predetermined thicknesses.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein the molten metal or alloy is one or more of manganese, a manganese alloy, aluminum, an aluminum alloy, copper, a copper alloy, iron, and an iron alloy.

7. A tangible and non-transitory computer readable medium, comprising microprocessor executable instructions operable to perform functions comprising: one or more instructions to receive sensor information indicating existence of a defect on a cast strip surface, the cast strip being cast from molten metal or alloy by a casting system;

one or more instructions to determine an adjustment amount and/or direction of a casting system component based on the identified surface defect; and

one or more instructions to at least one of:

provide the adjustment amount and/or direction to an operator for adjustment of the casting system component, and

command that the casting system component be adjusted by the adjustment amount and/or direction.

8. The computer readable medium of claim 7, wherein the casting system is a block caster, wherein the casting system component is an adjustment point on a chilling block, and the surface defect is an impression of a block joint.

9. The computer readable medium of claim 8, wherein the sensor is a plurality of sensors comprising first and second sensor sets, each sensor in the first sensor set scanning a portion of an upper surface of the cast strip and each sensor in the second sensor set scanning a portion of a lower surface of the cast strip, and each sensor in the first sensor set opposing a corresponding sensor in the second sensor set and wherein each opposing pair of sensors in the first and second sensor sets are in line with a respective adjustment point.

10. The computer readable medium of claim 9, wherein the sensor is positioned such that the sensed defect is caused by the casting system component to be adjusted and wherein the sensors are one or more of a laser radar detector, a mechanical displacement device, an imaging device, an optical 3d measuring systems, and an ultrasound transducer.

11. The computer readable medium of claim 8, wherein the one or more instructions senses a defect by measuring a thickness of the cast strip, compares the measured thickness to a predetermined thickness for the cast strip, and determines the adjustment amount and/or direction based on a difference between the measured and predetermined thicknesses.

12. The computer readable medium of claim 7, wherein the molten metal or alloy is one or more of manganese, a manganese alloy, aluminum, an aluminum alloy, copper, a copper alloy, iron, and an iron alloy.

13. A casting system, comprising:

a nozzle to provide a molten metal or metal alloy; a casting assembly to cool and mold the molten metal or metal alloy to form a cast strip;

a sensor to sense a defect on a surface of the cast strip surface; and

a microprocessor executable control system operable to determine an adjustment amount and/or direction of a casting assembly component based on the identified surface defect and at least one of: (a) provide the adjustment amount and/or direction to an operator for adjustment of the casting assembly component and (b) command that the casting assembly component be adjusted by the adjustment amount and/or direction.

14. The casting system of claim 13, wherein the casting assembly comprises a block caster, wherein the casting assembly component is an adjustment point on a chilling block, and the surface defect is an impression of a block joint.

15. The casting system of claim 14, wherein the sensor is a plurality of sensors comprising first and second sensor sets, each sensor in the first sensor set scanning a portion of an upper surface of the cast strip and each sensor in the second sensor set scanning a portion of a lower surface of the cast strip, and each sensor in the first sensor set opposing a corresponding sensor in the second sensor set and wherein each opposing pair of sensors in the first and second sensor sets are in line with a respective adjustment point.

16. The casting system of claim 15, wherein the sensor is positioned such that the sensed defect is caused by the casting assembly component to be adjusted and wherein the sensors are one or more of a laser radar detector, a mechanical displacement device, an imaging device, an optical 3d measuring systems, and an ultrasound transducer.

17. The casting system of claim 14, wherein the microprocessor executable control system senses a defect by measuring a thickness of the cast strip and compares the measured thickness to a predetermined thickness for the cast strip and determines the adjustment amount and/or direction based on a difference between the measured and predetermined thicknesses.

18. The casting system of claim 13, wherein the molten metal or alloy is one or more of manganese, a manganese alloy, aluminum, an aluminum alloy, copper, a copper alloy, iron, and an iron alloy.

19. The casting system of claim 13, further comprising:

a launder to receive the molten metal or metal alloy from a furnace; and a tundish and/or headbox to receive the molten metal or metal alloy from the furnace and provide the melt to the nozzle.

20. The casting system of claim 13, wherein the casting assembly comprises one or more of a single-belt caster, twin-belt caster, single-roll caster, twin-roll caster, and rotary casters, wherein the casting assembly component is one or more of a roller, belt, back-up roll, and block belt, and wherein the microprocessor executable control system adjusts one or more of the position, orientation, application force applied to the cast strip, and pressure applied to the cast strip of or by the casting assembly component.

Description:
SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR ADJUSTING CONTINUOUS CASTING

COMPONENTS

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

The present application claims the benefits of U. S. Provisional Application Serial

No. 62/337, 136, filed May 16, 2016, of the same title, which is incorporated herein by this reference in its entirety.

FIELD

The disclosure relates generally to continuous casting and particularly to automated or partially automated continuous casting systems.

BACKGROUND

Continuous casting uses traveling endless molds (e.g., rolls, belts, and/or wheels) having zero or substantially zero relative movement between the mold and casting surfaces. Most moving molds provide a high cooling rate due to a very small air gap between the mold and casting surface.

Figure 1 shows a prior art block caster 100. In a block caster, a molten metal poured into a launder 104 is fed from a headbox or tundish 108 through a ceramic nozzle 1 12 into the space between opposing and counter-rotating chains 1 14a and 1 14b of metal chilling blocks 1 18 traveling on caterpillar-like tracks 122. The blocks 1 18 are cooled by chillers 126, which in turn cool and solidify the melt in the space between the opposing chilling blocks. Adjacent blocks contact each other to prevent or inhibit penetration of liquid metal into any inter-block gap to avoid or minimize the formation of block joints in the surface of the cast strip 130. The cast strip 130 is pulled out by a withdrawal unit (not shown) synchronized with the sprocket drive 134 of the blocks. When adjacent chilling blocks fail to define a planar surface contacting the cast strip, a surface impression of the joint between the blocks, known as a block joint, can form on the cast strip 130 due to relative position or (e.g., the chilling block is made level before startup but is rarely perfectly flush and there is movement during caster operation) movement of adjacent blocks from heating and cooling cycles in response to contact with molten metal. A typical block joint impression, due to an offset, irregularity, or step up or down, in adjacent chilling block surfaces, has a height of up to about 300 microns, more typically from about 5 to about 100 microns, and more typically from about 10 to about 75 microns above the surrounding surface of the cast strip and can render the cast strip unsuitable for many applications, including automotive exterior panels due to post-painting visibility. As will be appreciated, the cast strip adjacent to the face of a chilling block (and away from the inter-block joints) generally has significantly fewer, if any, surface irregularities.

Figure 2 shows a prior art twin-belt caster 200. Molten metal is fed from the ceramic nozzle 112 through the gap between two counter-rotating belts 204a and 204b under tension. The belts are cooled by water jets 208 from a side opposite the surface contacting the cast strip 130. The cooled belts cool and solidify the melt between the belts. Back-up rolls 212 maintain a substantially planar surface of the belt contacting the cast strip 130. The cast strip 130 is pulled out by a withdrawal unit (not shown) synchronized with the sprocket drive 216 of the blocks. A common surface defect in cast strip manufactured by belt casters is an impression of the belt seam. A typical belt seam impression has a height of up to about 125 microns, more typically from about 5 to about 100 microns, and more typically from about 10 to about 75 microns above the surrounding surface of the cast strip and can render the cast strip unsuitable for many applications, including automotive exterior panels due to post-painting visibility.

Other continuous casting systems include without limitation single-roll casters, twin-roll casters, and rotary casters.

Surface defects in continuously cast strip, such as impressions left by block joints and belt seams, cause the cast strip to be unusable in many applications, such as automotive parts. As a result, more expensive casting techniques, such as direct chill casting, are used to manufacture metal articles for these applications.

There is therefore a need to provide a continuously cast strip having fewer or no surface defects.

SUMMARY

These and other needs are addressed by the various aspects, embodiments, and/or configurations of the present disclosure. The present disclosure is directed to automated monitoring and/or adjustment of a casting system or assembly.

A casting system can include:

a nozzle to provide a molten metal or metal alloy;

a casting assembly to cool and mold the molten metal or metal alloy to form a cast strip;

a sensor to sense a defect on a surface of the cast strip surface; and

a microprocessor executable control system to determine an adjustment amount and/or direction of a casting assembly component based on the identified surface defect and at least one of: (a) provide the adjustment amount and/or direction to an operator for adjustment of the casting assembly component and (b) command that the casting assembly component be adjusted by the adjustment amount and/or direction.

The casting assembly can include a block caster.

The casting assembly component can be an adjustment point on a chilling block. The surface defect can be an impression of a block joint.

The sensor can be one of a plurality of sensors comprising first and second sensor sets. Each sensor in the first sensor set can scan a portion of an upper surface of the cast strip, and each sensor in the second sensor set can scan a portion of a lower surface of the cast strip. Each sensor in the first sensor set can oppose a corresponding sensor in the second sensor set. Each opposing pair of sensors in the first and second sensor sets can be in line with a respective adjustment point.

The sensor can be positioned such that the sensed defect is caused by the casting assembly component to be adjusted.

The sensor can be one or more of a laser radar detector, a mechanical displacement device, an imaging device, an optical 3d measuring system, or an ultrasound transducer. Commonly, the sensor is free of contact with the cast strip surface.

The control system can sense a defect by measuring a thickness of the cast strip and comparing the measured thickness to a predetermined thickness for the cast strip.

The control system can determine the adjustment amount and/or direction based on a difference between the measured and predetermined thicknesses.

The molten metal or alloy can be one or more of manganese, a manganese alloy, aluminum, an aluminum alloy, copper, a copper alloy, iron, and an iron alloy.

The casting system can also include a launder to receive the molten metal or metal alloy from a furnace and a tundish and/or headbox to receive the molten metal or metal alloy from the furnace and provide the melt to the nozzle.

The casting assembly can alternatively be one or more of a single-belt caster, twin- belt caster, single-roll caster, twin-roll caster, and rotary caster.

The casting assembly component can be one or more of a roller, belt, back-up roll, and block belt.

The control system can adjust one or more of the position, orientation, application force applied to the cast strip, and pressure applied to the cast strip of or by the casting assembly component.

The present disclosure can provide a number of advantages depending on the particular aspect, embodiment, and/or configuration. The casting system can identify a cast strip surface defect and enable automatic or semi-automatic adjustment of one or more casting system components, during casting system operation, to inhibit, remove, or reduce the formation of the identified surface defect in a next casting cycle (e.g., next revolution of a roll, block or belt caster). This can eliminate not only the need for manual block adjustment but also for shutting down the casting system to reset improperly adjusted casting system components. This has the further benefit of making less expensive continuously cast strip applicable to a broader variety of applications and markets.

These and other advantages will be apparent from the disclosure.

As used herein, "at least one", "one or more", and "and/or" are open-ended expressions that are both conjunctive and disjunctive in operation. For example, each of the expressions "at least one of A, B and C", "at least one of A, B, or C", "one or more of A, B, and C", "one or more of A, B, or C" and "A, B, and/or C" means A alone, B alone, C alone, A and B together, A and C together, B and C together, or A, B and C together. When each one of A, B, and C in the above expressions refers to an element, such as X, Y, and Z, or class of elements, such as Xi-Xn, Yi-Ym, and Zi-Z 0 , the phrase is intended to refer to a single element selected from X, Y, and Z, a combination of elements selected from the same class (e.g., Xi and X2) as well as a combination of elements selected from two or more classes (e.g., Yi and Z 0 ).

The term "a" or "an" entity refers to one or more of that entity. As such, the terms

"a" (or "an"), "one or more" and "at least one" can be used interchangeably herein. It is also to be noted that the terms "comprising", "including", and "having" can be used interchangeably.

"Aluminum alloys" are alloys in which aluminum (Al) is the predominant metal. The typical alloying elements are copper, magnesium, manganese, silicon, and zinc.

The term "automatic" and variations thereof, as used herein, refers to any process or operation done without material human input when the process or operation is performed. However, a process or operation can be automatic, even though performance of the process or operation uses material or immaterial human input, if the input is received before performance of the process or operation. Human input is deemed to be material if such input influences how the process or operation will be performed. Human input that consents to the performance of the process or operation is not deemed to be "material". The term "computer-readable medium" as used herein refers to any storage and/or transmission medium that participate in providing instructions to a processor for execution. Such a computer-readable medium is commonly tangible, non-transitory, and non-transient and can take many forms, including but not limited to, non-volatile media, volatile media, and transmission media and includes without limitation random access memory ("RAM"), read only memory ("ROM"), and the like. Non-volatile media includes, for example, NVRAM, or magnetic or optical disks. Volatile media includes dynamic memory, such as main memory. Common forms of computer-readable media include, for example, a floppy disk (including without limitation a Bernoulli cartridge, ZIP drive, and JAZ drive), a flexible disk, hard disk, magnetic tape or cassettes, or any other magnetic medium, magneto-optical medium, a digital video disk (such as CD-ROM), any other optical medium, punch cards, paper tape, any other physical medium with patterns of holes, a RAM, a PROM, and EPROM, a FLASH-EPROM, a solid state medium like a memory card, any other memory chip or cartridge, a carrier wave as described hereinafter, or any other medium from which a computer can read. A digital file attachment to e-mail or other self-contained information archive or set of archives is considered a distribution medium equivalent to a tangible storage medium. When the computer-readable media is configured as a database, it is to be understood that the database may be any type of database, such as relational, hierarchical, object-oriented, and/or the like. Accordingly, the disclosure is considered to include a tangible storage medium or distribution medium and prior art-recognized equivalents and successor media, in which the software

implementations of the present disclosure are stored. Computer-readable storage medium commonly excludes transient storage media, particularly electrical, magnetic,

electromagnetic, optical, magneto-optical signals.

The term "continuous casting" or "strand casting" refers to the process whereby molten metal is solidified into a "semifinished" billet, bloom, or slab for subsequent rolling in the finishing mills. Continuous casting is often used to cast aluminum, magnesium, and copper alloys and steel.

The terms "determine", "calculate" and "compute," and variations thereof, as used herein, are used interchangeably and include any type of methodology, process, mathematical operation, algorithm, or technique.

The term "means" as used herein shall be given its broadest possible interpretation in accordance with 35 U.S.C., Section 112, Paragraph 6. Accordingly, a claim

incorporating the term "means" shall cover all structures, materials, or acts set forth herein, and all of the equivalents thereof. Further, the structures, materials or acts and the equivalents thereof shall include all those described in the summary, brief description of the drawings, detailed description, abstract, and claims themselves.

The term "module" as used herein refers to any known or later developed hardware, software, firmware, artificial intelligence, fuzzy logic, or combination of hardware and software that is capable of performing the functionality associated with that element.

Unless otherwise noted, all component or composition levels are in reference to the active portion of that component or composition and are exclusive of impurities, for example, residual solvents or by-products, which may be present in commercially available sources of such components or compositions.

All percentages and ratios are calculated by total composition weight, unless indicated otherwise.

Unless otherwise noted, all component or composition levels are in reference to the active portion of that component or composition and are exclusive of impurities, for example, residual solvents or by-products, which may be present in commercially available sources of such components or compositions.

All percentages and ratios are calculated by total composition weight, unless indicated otherwise.

The preceding is a simplified summary of the disclosure to provide an

understanding of some aspects of the disclosure. This summary is neither an extensive nor exhaustive overview of the disclosure and its various aspects, embodiments, and/or configurations. It is intended neither to identify key or critical elements of the disclosure nor to delineate the scope of the disclosure but to present selected concepts of the disclosure in a simplified form as an introduction to the more detailed description presented below. As will be appreciated, other aspects, embodiments, and/or

configurations of the disclosure are possible utilizing, alone or in combination, one or more of the features set forth above or described in detail below. Also, while the disclosure is presented in terms of exemplary embodiments, it should be appreciated that individual aspects of the disclosure can be separately claimed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings are incorporated into and form a part of the specification to illustrate several examples of the present disclosure. These drawings, together with the description, explain the principles of the disclosure. The drawings simply illustrate preferred and alternative examples of how the disclosure can be made and used and are not to be construed as limiting the disclosure to only the illustrated and described examples. Further features and advantages will become apparent from the following, more detailed, description of the various aspects, embodiments, and

configurations of the disclosure, as illustrated by the drawings referenced below.

Figure 1 depicts a prior art block casting system;

Figure 2 depicts a prior art twin-belt casting system;

Figure 3 depicts a partial top view of a block casting system according to an embodiment of this disclosure;

Figure 4 depicts a partial side view of a block casting system according to an embodiment of this disclosure;

Figure 5A is a top view of a chilling block according to an embodiment;

Figure 5B is a side view of a chilling block according to an embodiment;

Figure 6 is a flow chart of control logic according to an embodiment;

Figure 7 graphically depicts sensor feedback; and

Figure 8 graphically depicts sensor feedback.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Figures 3 and 4 depict an embodiment of a block casting system 300 according to this disclosure. The block casting system has upper and lower sets 304a and 304b of chilling blocks 316 to cool and solidify the molten metal into a cast strip 130, plural sensors 308 located above and below the cast strip 130 to detect surface defects, such as block joint impressions caused by inter-block joints 320 (the solid line refers to the joint

320 between adjacent chilling blocks 316 in upper set 304a and dashed lines refer to the joints 320 between adjacent chilling blocks in lower set 304b) and belt seams, and an adjustment control module 312, in communication by control lines 324 with the sensors and adjustment components in the chilling blocks 316, to receive measurements and provide user recommendations or automatic commands to adjust the blocks 316 appropriately to substantially minimize or inhibit formation of surface defects.

Surface defects removed, inhibited, or otherwise reduced in frequency by the block casting system 300 can vary depending on the casting technology employed. Surface defects in continuously cast strip include, for example, impressions left by block joints and belt seams, streaks, drag marks, protrusions, channels, valleys, crystallites, films (such oxide films), impurities, or combinations thereof. While not wanting to be limited by theory, the defects can be caused by one or more of the rollers, belts, and blocks of the caster and can be addressed by adjusting one or more of the position, orientation, application force or pressure (applied to the cast strip), and the like of the roller, belt, or block.

There a number of examples of surface defects that can be addressed by the control system. In a belt caster, there can be repeating defects in the belt thickness due to welding or coating thickness and dimension defects on any of the back-up rolls behind the belt. Flat spots can occur when the caster is stopped with molten metal in it, the back-up rolls can be machined out of round or eccentricities can exist between the rolling center and the surface of the roll against which the belt rests. In these cases, the roll would have dimensional adjustments at the bearings. The rolls can also be bent, which can be corrected with roll bending. The same can be true of a roll caster, with eccentricities, flat spots, and coating thickness variations. A difference is that the point of adjustment or adjustment point would be at the bearing points with possibly bending at the same place. The control system can adjust the roll across the face. There are sensors that are made up of a series of rings that measure tight spots in the cast strip, slab, or sheet. A roll can be made using actuators in place of sensors to make changes in the geometry of the mold of a roll caster. The roll can include a series of rings on the center shaft with adjustments from the shaft access to accommodate thickness variations across the face of the cast surface due to a variation in roll geometry or even metal temperature variations causing dimensional variation in the slab thickness.

Referring to Figures 3-4 and 5 A and 5B, each chilling block 316 in the upper and lower sets 304a and 304b of chilling blocks is positioned on one of the opposing sides of the cast strip 130 and includes multiple adjustment points or adjustment devices 328 (hereinafter "adjustment points"), typically located at or near each joint 320. Although the adjustment points 328 can be any device able to move the chilling block upwardly and/or downwardly at the adjustment point's respective location (as shown by the arrows in Figures 5A and 5B), examples of adjustment points 328 include coarse and/or fine adjustment screws, differential adjusters, sub-micron adjustors, hydraulic actuators, and other adjustment mechanisms.

As shown in Figures 5A and 5B, the adjustment points 328 can be distributed at selected locations in a matrix or grid pattern. Adjustment points 328a-f are laid out along line 500 and adjustment points 328g-l along parallel line 504. Pairs of adjustment points are further laid out along lines orthogonal to parallel lines 500 and 504, specifically adjustment points 329a and g are laid out along line 508, adjustment points 329b and h are laid out along line 512, adjustment points 329c and i are laid out along line 516, adjustment points 329d and j are laid out along line 520, adjustment points 329e and h are laid out along line 524, and adjustment points 329f and i are laid out along line 528.

To enable the control system 312 to address independently each adjustment point, each adjustment point is assigned a unique identifier relative to the other adjustment points. Although any type of identifier can be employed, the identifier in one embodiment has a first unique identifier "X" corresponding to an identifier of the upper or lower set of chilling blocks of which the selected chilling block 316 is a member, a second identifier "Y" (which may be non-unique relative to another chilling block in the other set of chilling blocks but is unique within the set of chilling blocks of which the selected chilling block is a member) corresponding to an identifier of the particular chilling block adjusted by the selected adjustment point, and a third identifier "Z" (which may be non-unique relative to another adjustment point in another chilling block in the upper or lower sets of chilling blocks 304a and 304b but is unique within the corresponding chilling block 316 on which the selected adjustment point is located) is an identifier corresponding to the selected adjustment point.

The sensors 308 can be any device able to detect surface irregularities or defects, such as block joint impressions, in the upper and/or lower surfaces of the cast strip 130. Examples include a laser radar detector (which uses a laser beam 350 to determine the distance to the cast strip surface), mechanical displacement device (which measures the vertical variations in travel or movement of a wheel or other contact device with the cast strip surface), imaging device (which uses image processing to identify surface defects and other variations in cast strip surface topology, such as image processing based on the cast strip surface images captured by still pictures or video images captured as described in US 4,539,561 (which is incorporated herein by this reference)), optical 3d measuring system (which uses triangulation to determine the spatial dimensions and the geometry of the cast strip surface), and ultrasound transducer (which uses an ultrasound transducer to emit ultrasonic energy and ultrasonic time-of-flight methods to measure distance from the sensor to the cast strip surface). Laser radar, for example, can operate on the time of flight principle by sending a laser pulse in a narrow beam towards the cast strip surface and measuring the time taken by the pulse to be reflected off the target cast strip surface and returned to the sender. Other laser radar distance measuring technologies include multiple frequency phase-shift (which uses an intensity modulated beam to measure the phase shift of multiple frequencies on reflection from the cast strip surface and then solves various simultaneous equations to yield a final distance measure from the sensor to the cast strip surface), frequency modulation (which use modulated laser beams, for example, with a repetitive linear frequency ramp by which the distance to be measured from the sensor to the cast strip surface is translated into a frequency offset) and interferometry (which measures changes in distance between the sensor and cast strip surface rather than absolute distances). Due to the high temperatures of the cast strip, non-contact sensors, such as laser radar, imaging devices, optical 3d measuring systems, and ultrasound systems, are generally employed.

As in the case of the adjustment points 328, each sensor has a unique (relative to the other sensors) sensor identifier. The sensor identifier can be as simple as a

combination of a generic sensor identifier (indicating that the signal originates at a sensor) and a number of the sensor (indicating that sensor 1 for example originated the signal). In another example, the sensor identifier can be a combination of a first indicator (indicating whether the sensor is located above or below the cast slab 130) and a second identifier indicating which sensor of the corresponding set of upper or lower sensors originated the signal).

The geometry of the block casting system 300 can be important. Referring to Figure 3, the centers of the adjustment points and centers of the corresponding pair of upper and lower sensors are commonly located in or along a common plane. By way of example, as shown in Figure 3 the centers of the top row of adjustment points 328 and upper and lower sensors 308 can lie in plane 360, the centers of the next row of adjustment points 328 and upper and lower sensors 308 can lie in plane 364, the centers of the next row of adjustment points 328 and upper and lower sensors 308 can lie in plane 368, the centers of the next row of adjustment points 328 and upper and lower sensors 308 can lie in plane 372, the centers of the next row of adjustment points 328 and upper and lower sensors 308 can lie in plane 376, and the centers of the next row of adjustment points 328 and upper and lower sensors 308 can lie in plane 378. The centers of the upper and lower sets of sensors 308 can lie in a common plane 382.

The distance 388 between an adjustment zone 392 and measurement zone 396 can be selected such that the surface portion of the cast strip in the measurement zone at any point in time was molded by and in contact with the inter-block joint 320 of adjacent chilling blocks 318 (or chilling block 318 portion) currently in the adjustment zone. In this manner, the adjacent sets of adjustment points on either side of the inter-block joint

320 can be adjusted to remove any block joint impression in the cast strip surface 130 detected by the sensors. Accordingly, the distance 388 is typically a function of one or more of the speed of displacement of the cast strip 130, the rate of rotation of the sprocket drive 216, chilling block 316 width, and the number of chilling blocks 316 in each of the upper and lower sets of chilling blocks 304a and 304b.

Prior to discussing the operation of the control system 312, it is important to understand the operation of the block casting system 300 in manufacturing cast strip 130. As can be seen from Figure 3, the inter-block joints 320 of the blocks in contact with the upper surface of the cast strip 130 and adjustment points are offset in the direction of cast strip travel from the inter-block joints 320 and adjustment points of the blocks in contact with the lower surface of the cast strip 130. In this manner, the cast strip surface potentially containing a block joint impression from an inter-block joint in the adjustment zone alternates between the upper and lower cast strip surfaces as the cast strip moves through the measurement zone 396. As can be further seen by the arrows 398 and 399, the upper and lower chilling blocks 316 and inter-block joints 320 move in a common direction when in contact with the cast strip.

The operation of the control system 312 will now be discussed with reference to Figure 6. The discussion assumes that the block casting system 300 is operating to produce cast strip 130.

In step 600, the control system detects a set of adjustment points for a chilling block and/or inter-block joint entering the adjustment zone (or a welded belt seam entering the adjustment zone in the case of a belt caster). This can be determined in many ways. In one technique, a position of a selected chilling block and/or inter-block joint (or a welded belt seam entering the zone in the case of a belt caster) is synchronized in computer readable memory with movement of one or both of the upper and lower sets of chilling blocks 304a and 304b (or the upper and lower belts in the case of a belt caster). Based on this monitored location, the locations of the other chilling block and/or inter-block joints (or the welded belt seam entering the adjustment zone in the case of a belt caster) are readily determined (as the chilling blocks have substantially uniform width and/or are in a predictable constant sequence as the supporting belt moves through each revolution). In another technique, the control system 312, in the measurement zone 396, identifies a surface defect, such as a block joint impression or belt seam impression, and identifies one or more selected adjustment points (or other casting component) for possible adjustment.

In step 602, the control system 312 selects a sensor set corresponding to one or more selected adjustment point(s) (such as adjacent and opposing adjustment point(s) on either side of a selected inter-block joint (or other casting component) entering, departing, or currently in the adjustment zone 392). The sensor set, for example, when the selected adjustment point(s) is/are adjustment point 328a and 328b (or other casting component) is sensor 308a in the upper set of sensors 353 and the sensor (not shown) positioned directly below sensor 308a in the lower set of sensors 355.

The role of each sensor in the selected set can vary depending on the location of the surface defect relative to the sensor position. When the surface defect is on the upper cast strip surface, a first sensor (typically the upper sensor) is selected as the "zero" or reference point and the opposing second sensor (typically the lower sensor) is selected as the thickness measuring sensor. When the surface defect is on the lower cast strip surface, the second sensor (typically the lower sensor) is selected as the "zero" or reference point and the opposing first sensor (typically the upper sensor) is selected as the thickness measuring sensor.

In step 604, the control system 312 receives measurements from the selected sensor set and determines a thickness of the cast strip proximal to the selected sensor set. The control system 312, as will be appreciated, can query the selected sensor set for a set of readings or receive multiple sets of sensor readings from all sensor sets and select the appropriate sets of readings, based on the identities of the source sensor set. The selected set of sensor readings can enable the control system 312 to determine the thickness of the cast strip at the point of measurement.

In step 608, the control system 312 compares the measured thickness to a predetermined thickness for the cast strip 130 and, in decision diamond 612, determines whether or not to adjust the selected adjustment point(s) (or other casting component). When an absolute value of a difference in the thickness from the predetermined thickness is at least a predetermined threshold, the control system 312 proceeds to step 616.

Alternatively, the control system 312 can determine a difference of the measured thickness from a thickness measured by a prior set of sensor readings from the selected sensor set for an adjustment point (or other casting component) in the same plane and/or a thickness measured by one or more adjacent sensor set(s) in one or more adjacent plane(s). When an absolute value of a delta between the determined difference and a predetermined difference is at least a predetermined threshold, the control system 312 proceeds to step 616.

In step 616, the control system 312 determines an adjustment amount and direction

(e.g., up or down (to increase or decrease cast strip thickness as appropriate) and either commands the selected adjustment point(s) (or other casting component) to be adjusted (by a control signal addressed to the unique identifier of the casting component) to the determined adjustment amount and direction or recommends to a human user the adjustment amount and direction for manual adjustment of the casting component by the user (such as by the user pressing an actuator to cause movement up or down of the block in response to adjustment point activation). When automatic adjustment is performed, one or both of the opposing adjustment points on either side of the inter-block joint can be adjusted in a manner to maintain the cast strip thickness at and on either side of the interblock joint 320 or other casting defect at or near the predetermined thickness. The target adjustment amount may be equivalent to the difference between the measured thickness and predetermined thickness or a fraction or percentage thereof. The adjustment points (or other casting component) can thus be adjusted in the same direction and by the same amount or by different amounts that sum up to the desired adjustment amount.

Alternatively, the cast strip thickness on either side of the inter-block joint (or other casting component) can be measured and each adjustment point adjusted to produce the predetermined thickness at its respective location.

After step 616 or when no adjustment is required, the control system, in decision diamond 620 determines whether there is an adjustment point or set of adjustment points (or other casting component) in the adjustment zone. For example, when an inter-block joint is in the adjustment zone the preceding step must be repeated for each adjustment point adjacent to the inter-block joint.

When a further adjustment point(s) for the inter-block joint remains to be considered for adjustment, the control system returns to step 602.

When no further adjustment points for the inter-block joint remain to be considered for adjustment, the control system returns to step 600.

The disclosure can apply to detection of and/or continuous casting component adjustment due to surface defects other than impressions left by block joints. For example, the disclosure can apply to any of the surface defects discussed above.

The disclosure can apply to automatic adjustment of components in other continuous casting techniques, such as twin-belt casters, single-roll casters, twin-roll casters, and rotary casters. In belt casters, for instance, the casting component to be adjusted can be the back-up rolls 212 so as to maintain a substantially planar surface of the belt contacting the cast strip 130. The disclosure can apply to a wide variety of alloys, such as aluminum, aluminum alloys, magnesium, magnesium alloys, copper, copper alloys, and steel. Aluminum alloys, for example, include AA IXXX, 2XXX, 3 XXX, 4XXX, 5 XXX, 6XXX, and 7XXX.

A 1000 series-based aluminum alloy typically has the following composition:

(i) from about 0.05 to about 0.20 % by weight magnesium;

(ii) from about 0.01 to about 0.20 % by weight manganese;

(iii) from about 0.01 to about 0.25 % by weight copper;

(iv) from about 0.001 to about 0.08 % by weight iron;

(v) from about 0.001 to about 0.02 % by weight silicon;

(vi) from about 0.001 to about 0.095 % by weight chromium;

(vii) from about 0.01 to about 0.45 % by weight zinc;

(viii) from about 0.001 to about 0.045 % by weight nickel;

(ix) from about 0.01 to about 0.175 % by weight titanium; and

(x) no more than about 0.05 wt.% other impurities.

A 2000 series-based aluminum alloy typically has the following composition:

(i) from about 0.02 to about 1.8 % by weight magnesium;

(ii) from about O. lto about 1.2 % by weight manganese;

(iii) from about 1.8 to about 6.8 % by weight copper;

(iv) from about 0.07 to about 1.0 % by weight iron;

(v) from about 0.05 to about 0.5 % by weight silicon;

(vi) from about 0.05 to about 0.8 % by weight chromium;

(vii) from about 0.05 to about 1.4 % by weight zinc;

(viii) from about 0.01 to about 0.2 % by weight nickel;

(ix) from about 0.01 to about 0.175 % by weight titanium; and

(x) no more than about 0.05 wt.% other impurities.

A 3000 series-based aluminum alloy typically has the following composition:

(i) from about 0.01 to about 1.3 % by weight magnesium;

(ii) from about 0.01 to about 1.3 % by weight manganese;

(iii) from about 0.01 to about 0.3 % by weight copper;

(iv) from about 0.1 to about 0.7 % by weight iron;

(v) from about 0.10 to about 1.7 % by weight silicon;

(vi) from about 0.01 to about 0.35 % by weight chromium;

(vii) from about 0.001 to about 0.09 % by weight zinc;

(viii) from about 0.001 to about 0.09 % by weight nickel; (ix) from about 0.001 to about 0.09 % by weight titanium; and

(x) no more than about 0.15 wt.% other impurities.

A 4000 series-based aluminum alloy typically has the following composition:

(i) from about 0.05 to about 2.0 % by weight magnesium;

(ii) from about 0.05 to about 1.5 % by weight manganese;

(iii) from about 0.05 to about 5.0 % by weight copper;

(iv) from about 0.09 to about 1.0 % by weight iron;

(v) from about 0.6 to about 13.5 % by weight silicon;

(vi) from about 0.05 to about 0.25 % by weight chromium;

(vii) from about 0.05 to about 1.3 % by weight zinc;

(viii) from about 0 to about 2.2 % by weight nickel;

(ix) from about 0.5 to about 0.3 % by weight titanium; and

(x) no more than about 0.05 wt.% other impurities.

A 5000 series-based aluminum alloy useful for producing tab or end stock has the following composition:

(i) from about 2.0 to about 5.0 % by weight magnesium;

(ii) from about 0. 10 to about 1.25 % by weight manganese;

(iii) from about 0.001 to about 0.45 % by weight copper;

(iv) from about 0.1 to about 0.85 % by weight iron;

(v) from about 0.1 to about 1.3 % by weight silicon;

(vi) from about 0.01 to about 0.3 % by weight chromium;

(vii) from about 0.75 to about 2.7 % by weight zinc;

(viii) from about 0.001 to about 0.045 % by weight nickel;

(ix) from about 0.01 to about 0.175 % by weight titanium; and

(x) no more than about 0.15 wt.% other impurities.

A 6000 series-based aluminum alloy typically has the following composition:

(i) from about 0.2 to about 3.0 % by weight magnesium;

(ii) from about 0.05 to about 1.0 % by weight manganese;

(iii) from about 0.05 to about 0.9 % by weight copper;

(iv) from about 0.1 to about 0.8 % by weight iron;

(v) from about 0.3 to about 1.5 % by weight silicon;

(vi) from about 0.03 to about 0.35 % by weight chromium;

(vii) from about 0.05 to about 1.0 % by weight zinc;

(viii) from about 0 to about 0.2 % by weight nickel; (ix) from about 0 to about 0.2 % by weight titanium; and

(x) no more than about 0.05 wt.% other impurities.

A 7000 series-based aluminum alloy typically has the following composition:

(i) from about 0.1 to about 3.3 % by weight magnesium;

(ii) from about 0.04 to about 0.8 % by weight manganese;

(iii) from about 0.1 to about 2.8 % by weight copper;

(iv) from about 0 to about 0.5 % by weight iron;

(v) from about 0.05 to about 0.4 % by weight silicon;

(vi) from about 0.04 to about 0.28 % by weight chromium;

(vii) from about 0.8 to about 12 % by weight zinc;

(viii) from about 0 to about 0.03 % by weight nickel;

(ix) from about 0.03 to about 0.2 % by weight titanium; and

(x) no more than about 0.05 wt.% other impurities.

More specifically, the cast strip can be comprise an aluminum alloy selected from the group of consisting of aluminum alloys 1050, 1060, 1100, 1199, 2014, 2024, 2219, 303, 3004, 3102, 4041, 5005, 5052, 5083, 5086, 5154, 5182, 5356, 5454, 5456, 5754, 6005, 6005A, 6014, 6022, 6060, 6061, 6063, 6066, 6070, 6082, 6105, 6111, 6016, 6162, 6262, 6351, 6463, 7005, 7022, 7050, 7068, 7072, 7075, 7079, 7116, 7129, and 7178. In some embodiments, the cast strip can be comprise an aluminum alloy suitable for aircraft or aerospace structures selected from the group of consisting of aluminum alloys 2024, 5052, 6061, 6063, 7050, 7068, and 7075. In some embodiments, the cast strip can be comprise an aluminum alloy suitable for marine structures selected from the group of consisting of aluminum alloys 5052, 5059, 5083, 5086, 6061, and 6063. In some embodiments, the cast strip can comprise an aluminum alloy suitable for automotive structures selected from the group of consisting of aluminum alloys 2008, 2036, 5083, 5456, 5754, 6016, and 6111.

EXPERIMENTAL

The following examples are provided to illustrate certain embodiments of the invention and are not to be construed as limitations on the invention, as set forth in the appended claims. All parts and percentages are by weight unless otherwise specified.

Prior to contact with a molten aluminum alloy, the chilling blocks of the block caster were carefully adjusted mechanically to form a level surface for contact with the cast strip and then casting commenced. The laser scanning system was initially set up and measured the geometry of the slab produced by the manually adjusted block caster. As the cast strip was removed from the block caster, laser radar from the laser scanning measurement system revealed variations and fluctuations in the planarity of the cast strip due to contact with the molten aluminum alloy. This geometry is represented in Figures 7 and 8. The before and after pictures (Figures 8 and 7 respectively) show the top and bottom of the aluminum cast strip or slab. The coordinates are in centimeters. A careful inspection can reveal all 32 top and 32 bottom blocks of the block caster. The bottom surface 804 shows what the surface would look like if one could look down from within the cast strip. As can be seen from the opposite side of the surface, it appears to be inverted. The high points shown are really low points when looking from underneath the sheet. The before view (Figure 8) is the sheet before the adjustment of the caster blocks.

Figures 7 and 8 depict irregularities or defects in the opposing upper and lower surfaces 700 and 704 (Figure 7) and 800 and 804 (Figure 8) of a cast strip from the block caster. The cast strip 130 has multiple surface defects along its length. Some of the surface defects are higher above the adjacent surface than others. By way of example and as can be seen by the variations in color (which variations represent the elevation relative to a reference plane), defects 708 correspond to impressions of elevated inter-block joints while other lower surfaces 712 correspond to planar faces of chilling blocks. The thickness "T" between the opposing surfaces is seen to vary in response to the occurrence of surface defects.

Thus, the after view (Figure 7) is the sheet after the adjustment of the caster blocks. The after view shows an overall smoother and more planar strip on both the upper and lower strip surfaces compared to the before view (Figure 8). As can be seen from Figure 8, the locations of the inter-block joints 708 are lower in elevation relative to the surrounding surface compared to the inter-block joints 708 of Figure 7.

As can be seen, laser radar can be used to identify impressions of block joints where slab thickness is thicker or thinner than the target stab thickness.

A significant improvement in geometry of the slab after the blocks were adjusted manually to be closer to flush based on the before view was observed such that the cast strip surface had fewer significant variations in thickness. The caster operated normally so the allowance on the adjustment to flush was loosened.

The experiment further revealed the substantial movement of the chilling blocks during casting notwithstanding the extreme care taken before casting commenced to ensure planarity of surfaces of adjacent chilling blocks. Although the blocks were adjusted to very tight tolerances, the blocks moved substantially during startup to a much greater degree than previously thought.

Based on the experiment, the feasibility of a closed loop block height control was established. A laser measuring device properly installed to observe the cast strip can provide slab thickness consistency and enable dynamic adjustment of block height even while the caster is running or operating. Some block casters have adjustment devices or adjusters located at the interface between adjacent blocks which would be used to effect computer-controlled adjustments. Additionally, block adjustments from side-to-side may also be computer-controlled. This configuration can provide block position adjustments on fore and aft sides of the block and across the width of the block at about 10 inch increments.

Examples of the processors as described herein may include, but are not limited to, at least one of Qualcomm® Snapdragon® 800 and 801, Qualcomm® Snapdragon® 610 and 615 with 4G LTE Integration and 64-bit computing, Apple® A7 processor with 64-bit architecture, Apple® M7 motion coprocessors, Samsung® Exynos® series, the Intel® Core™ family of processors, the Intel® Xeon® family of processors, the Intel® Atom™ family of processors, the Intel Itanium® family of processors, Intel® Core® Ϊ5-4670Κ and Ϊ7-4770Κ 22nm Haswell, Intel® Core® Ϊ5-3570Κ 22nm Ivy Bridge, the AMD® FX™ family of processors, AMD® FX-4300, FX-6300, and FX-8350 32nm Vishera, AMD® Kaveri processors, Texas Instruments® Jacinto C6000™ automotive infotainment processors, Texas Instruments® OMAP™ automotive-grade mobile processors, ARM® Cortex™-M processors, ARM® Cortex-A and ARM926EJ-S™ processors, other industry-equivalent processors, and may perform computational functions using any known or future-developed standard, instruction set, libraries, and/or architecture.

The exemplary systems and methods of this disclosure have been described in relation to a block casting system. However, to avoid unnecessarily obscuring the present disclosure, the preceding description omits a number of known structures and devices. This omission is not to be construed as a limitation of the scopes of the claims. Specific details are set forth to provide an understanding of the present disclosure. It should however be appreciated that the present disclosure may be practiced in a variety of ways beyond the specific detail set forth herein.

Furthermore, while the exemplary aspects, embodiments, and/or configurations illustrated herein show the various components of the system collocated, certain components of the system can be located remotely, at distant portions of a distributed network, such as a LAN and/or the Internet, or within a dedicated system. Thus, it should be appreciated, that the components of the system can be combined in to one or more devices or collocated on a particular node of a distributed network, such as an analog and/or digital telecommunications network, a packet-switch network, or a circuit-switched network. It will be appreciated from the preceding description, and for reasons of computational efficiency, that the components of the system can be arranged at any location within a distributed network of components without affecting the operation of the system. Similarly, one or more functional portions of the system could be distributed between multiple device(s).

Furthermore, it should be appreciated that the various links connecting the elements can be wired or wireless links, or any combination thereof, or any other known or later developed element(s) that is capable of supplying and/or communicating data to and from the connected elements. These wired or wireless links can also be secure links and may be capable of communicating encrypted information. Transmission media used as links, for example, can be any suitable carrier for electrical signals, including coaxial cables, copper wire and fiber optics, and may take the form of acoustic or light waves, such as those generated during radio-wave and infra-red data communications.

Also, while the flowcharts have been discussed and illustrated in relation to a particular sequence of events, it should be appreciated that changes, additions, and omissions to this sequence can occur without materially affecting the operation of the disclosed embodiments, configuration, and aspects.

A number of variations and modifications of the disclosure can be used. It would be possible to provide for some features of the disclosure without providing others.

For example in one alternative embodiment, the control system is embodied as an artificially intelligent algorithm able to modify its behavior based on repeated

observations, such as using fuzzy logic, expert systems, neural networks, and robotics. Artificial intelligence can observe the effects of adjusting adjustment points over time and modify to what degree and how adjustments are made to adapt to changes in behavior of the casting system. For example, blocks wear, thermal conditions change, alloy compositions change, and the like.

For example, another embodiment of the casting system is shown in the

Attachment, which is incorporated herein by this reference.

In yet another embodiment, the systems and methods of this disclosure can be implemented in conjunction with a special purpose computer, a programmed

microprocessor or microcontroller and peripheral integrated circuit element(s), an ASIC or other integrated circuit, a digital signal processor, a hard-wired electronic or logic circuit such as discrete element circuit, a programmable logic device or gate array such as PLD, PLA, FPGA, PAL, special purpose computer, any comparable means, or the like. In general, any device(s) or means capable of implementing the methodology illustrated herein can be used to implement the various aspects of this disclosure. Exemplary hardware that can be used for the disclosed embodiments, configurations and aspects includes computers, handheld devices, telephones (e.g., cellular, Internet enabled, digital, analog, hybrids, and others), and other hardware known in the art. Some of these devices include processors (e.g., a single or multiple microprocessors), memory, nonvolatile storage, input devices, and output devices. Furthermore, alternative software

implementations including, but not limited to, distributed processing or component/object distributed processing, parallel processing, or virtual machine processing can also be constructed to implement the methods described herein.

In yet another embodiment, the disclosed methods may be readily implemented in conjunction with software using object or object-oriented software development environments that provide portable source code that can be used on a variety of computer or workstation platforms. Alternatively, the disclosed system may be implemented partially or fully in hardware using standard logic circuits or VLSI design. Whether software or hardware is used to implement the systems in accordance with this disclosure is dependent on the speed and/or efficiency requirements of the system, the particular function, and the particular software or hardware systems or microprocessor or microcomputer systems being utilized.

In yet another embodiment, the disclosed methods may be partially implemented in software that can be stored on a storage medium, executed on programmed general- purpose computer with the cooperation of a controller and memory, a special purpose computer, a microprocessor, or the like. In these instances, the systems and methods of this disclosure can be implemented as program embedded on personal computer such as an applet, JAVA® or CGI script, as a resource residing on a server or computer workstation, as a routine embedded in a dedicated measurement system, system component, or the like. The system can also be implemented by physically incorporating the system and/or method into a software and/or hardware system. Although the present disclosure describes components and functions implemented in the aspects, embodiments, and/or configurations with reference to particular standards and protocols, the aspects, embodiments, and/or configurations are not limited to such standards and protocols. Other similar standards and protocols not mentioned herein are in existence and are considered to be included in the present disclosure. Moreover, the standards and protocols mentioned herein and other similar standards and protocols not mentioned herein are periodically superseded by faster or more effective equivalents having essentially the same functions. Such replacement standards and protocols having the same functions are considered equivalents included in the present disclosure.

The present disclosure, in various aspects, embodiments, and/or configurations, includes components, methods, processes, systems and/or apparatus substantially as depicted and described herein, including various aspects, embodiments, configurations embodiments, subcombinations, and/or subsets thereof. Those of skill in the art will understand how to make and use the disclosed aspects, embodiments, and/or

configurations after understanding the present disclosure. The present disclosure, in various aspects, embodiments, and/or configurations, includes providing devices and processes in the absence of items not depicted and/or described herein or in various aspects, embodiments, and/or configurations hereof, including in the absence of such items as may have been used in previous devices or processes, e.g., for improving performance, achieving ease and\or reducing cost of implementation.

The foregoing discussion has been presented for purposes of illustration and description. The foregoing is not intended to limit the disclosure to the form or forms disclosed herein. In the foregoing Detailed Description for example, various features of the disclosure are grouped together in one or more aspects, embodiments, and/or configurations for the purpose of streamlining the disclosure. The features of the aspects, embodiments, and/or configurations of the disclosure may be combined in alternate aspects, embodiments, and/or configurations other than those discussed above. This method of disclosure is not to be interpreted as reflecting an intention that the claims require more features than are expressly recited in each claim. Rather, as the following claims reflect, inventive aspects lie in less than all features of a single foregoing disclosed aspect, embodiment, and/or configuration. Thus, the following claims are hereby incorporated into this Detailed Description, with each claim standing on its own as a separate preferred embodiment of the disclosure. Moreover, though the description has included description of one or more aspects, embodiments, and/or configurations and certain variations and modifications, other variations, combinations, and modifications are within the scope of the disclosure, e.g., as may be within the skill and knowledge of those in the art, after understanding the present disclosure. It is intended to obtain rights which include alternative aspects, embodiments, and/or configurations to the extent permitted, including alternate, interchangeable and/or equivalent structures, functions, ranges or steps to those claimed, whether or not such alternate, interchangeable and/or equivalent structures, functions, ranges or steps are disclosed herein, and without intending to publicly dedicate any patentable subject matter.