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Title:
APPARATUS FOR THE PRODUCTION OF METAL
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/130795
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Apparatus for the production of metal comprising a furnace (11) for melting metal provided with a crucible (12) inside which a metal charge is melted. The furnace (11) is provided with means (14) for tapping a liquid metal disposed on the bottom of the crucible (12) and comprising a tapping channel (15) for the transfer of the liquid metal from the furnace (11). The apparatus also comprises a delivery unit (16) for delivering inert material (S) comprising a delivery device (17) for the selective delivery of the inert material (S) into the tapping channel (15).

Inventors:
MARCUZZI SIMONE (IT)
MORSUT STEFANO (IT)
Application Number:
PCT/IT2020/050322
Publication Date:
July 01, 2021
Filing Date:
December 22, 2020
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
MORE S R L (IT)
International Classes:
F27D3/15; B22D41/46; F27B14/06; F27B14/08; F27B14/12
Foreign References:
JPS60176867U1985-11-22
JPS61167265U1986-10-17
JPS58134254U1983-09-09
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PETRAZ, Davide Luigi et al. (IT)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. An apparatus for the production of metal comprising:

- a furnace (11) for melting metal provided with a crucible (12) inside which a metal charge is melted, and with a covering panel (13) disposed on the upper part, said furnace (11) being provided with means (14) for tapping a liquid metal disposed on the bottom of said crucible (12) and comprising a tapping channel (15) for the transfer of said liquid metal from the furnace (11),

- a unit (16) for delivering inert material (S) comprising a delivery device (17) for the selective delivery of the inert material (S) into said tapping channel (15), said delivery unit (16) being characterized in that it comprises:

- a hatch unit (18) disposed on said covering panel (13) and configured to allow access to the inside of said crucible (12) for the delivery of said inert material (S),

- support means (19) configured to rotatably support said delivery device (17) in order to take it from an operative condition, in which it faces toward said furnace (11) and is aligned with said hatch unit (18), to a stand-by or parked condition in which it is disposed outside the bulk of the furnace (11), and vice versa.

2. Apparatus as in claim 1, characterized in that it comprises slag-break means (30) configured to break a layer of slag and metal present on the upper internal walls of said furnace (11), and in that said slag-break means (30) comprise said hatch unit (18) or a slag-break device (55), or both.

3. Apparatus as in claim 1 or 2, characterized in that said support means (19) comprise a pedestal (20), stably attached to an installation surface (100) outside said furnace (11), and a mobile base (21) stably attached to said pedestal (20) and configured to take said delivery device (17) from said operative condition to said stand-by or parked condition and vice versa.

4. Apparatus as in any claim hereinbefore, characterized in that the hatch unit (18) comprises a support plate (23), stably associated with the covering panel (13), and provided with an aperture (22) and a closing door (24) pivoted to said support plate (23) in order to allow or prevent access to the aperture (22), said closing door (24) being provided with a central aperture (26) and an access panel (27) pivoted to said closing door (24) in order to selectively open and close the central aperture (26), even only partly.

5. Apparatus as in claim 4, characterized in that the access panel (27) is configured to pass from a closed position, in which it is substantially parallel to the closing door (24) and prevents access to the central aperture (26), to an open position, in which it is inclined, for example it is orthogonal, with respect to the closing door (24) allowing access to the central aperture (26) for the introduction of the inert material (S) by the delivery device (17).

6. Apparatus as in claim 5, characterized in that the access panel (27) is able to be inclined with respect to said closed position, both toward the inside and toward the outside of the furnace (11), possibly in an alternate manner.

7. Apparatus as in claim 4, 5 or 6, characterized in that the hatch unit (18) comprises second pivoting means (28) and the access panel (27) is rotatably associated with the second pivoting means (28) to pass from said closed position to said open position, possibly through intermediate inclined positions.

8. Apparatus as in claim 7, characterized in that the second pivoting means (28) comprise a pair of fixed peripheral elements (28a, 28b) attached to the closing door (24) on one side and on the other with respect to said central aperture (26), and a fixed central element (28c), attached to said access panel (27), said fixed peripheral element (28a) and said central element (28c) being associated with each other by means of a first pin (50), said fixed peripheral element (28b) and said central element (28c) being associated with each other by means of a second pin (51), possibly distinct from said first pin (50).

9. Apparatus as in any claim from 2 to 8, characterized in that said hatch unit (18) comprises an actuation assembly (52) in order to operatively control the movement of the closing door (24) and of the access panel (27).

10. Apparatus as in claim 8 and 9, characterized in that said actuation assembly (52) comprises an extendable arm (47) and a lever (49), said extendable arm (47) being attached with respect to a first end to the support plate (23), and with respect to an opposite second end to said lever (49), said lever (49) being associated with said second pivoting means (28) in order to move at least said access panel (27).

11. Apparatus as in any claim hereinbefore, characterized in that the delivery device (17) comprises a fixed support structure (32) configured to slidably house a mobile storage and delivery structure (33), said fixed support structure (32) being pivoted to the mobile base (21) so as to adjust the inclination of the delivery device (17) on a vertical plane.

12. Apparatus as in any claim from 2 to 11, characterized in that said slag- break device (55) is associated with said delivery unit (16) and is provided with a slag-break punch (56) configured to be lowered through a passage (53) of said covering panel (13) to break the layer of slag that may have formed on the internal surface of the latter.

13. Method to produce metal in a melting furnace (11), comprising at least one step of filling a tapping channel (15) of said furnace (11), characterized in that a delivery device (17) for delivering inert material (S) is supported and moved in rotation by support means (19) outside said furnace (11), at least from a stand-by or parked condition, in which said delivery device (17) is disposed outside the bulk of the furnace (11), to an operative condition, in which said delivery device

(17) is taken at least partly above a covering panel (13) of the furnace (11) in order to cooperate with said tapping channel (15), and vice versa, through a hatch unit (18) associated with said covering panel (13) which allows the selective access to an inside of said furnace (11).

14. Method as in claim 13, characterized in that when the delivery device (17) is in said operative condition, a mobile storage and delivery structure (33) of said delivery device (17) is translated toward an access panel (27) of said hatch unit

(18) wherein the method provides to move the access panel (27) in order to make available a central aperture (26) of said access panel (27) from which the inert material (S) is discharged toward the tapping channel (15).

15. Method as in claim 13 or 14, characterized in that before making said central aperture (26) available, said access panel (27) is moved in rotation in an alternating manner, toward the inside and toward the outside of the furnace (11) in order to break the layer of slag and metal that may have settled on an internal surface (27a) of said access panel (27).

16. Method as in claim 13, 14 or 15, characterized in that when it is necessary to fill a tank (36) of said delivery device (17), said delivery device (17) is moved in rotation into a loading condition, different from the operative condition and possibly also different from the stand-by or parked condition.

17. Method as in claim 14, characterized in that before discharging said inert material (S) toward said tapping channel (15), and after opening the hatch unit (18), it is provided to control said central aperture (26) by means of inspection means (38).

18. Method as in claim 17, characterized in that it provides to drive a slag- break device (55) by taking a slag-break punch (56) in a position substantially perpendicular to said central aperture (26) and aligned with a central axis thereof, inserting the slag-break punch (56) through the central aperture (26) to break the layer of slag present.

19. Method as in claim 18, characterized in that after breaking the layer of slag, said slag-break punch (56) is retracted to an inactive position outside said melting furnace (11) and said delivery device (17) is repositioned into the operative condition for the discharging of said inert material (S).

Description:
“APPARATUS FOR THE PRODUCTION OF METAL”

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention concerns an apparatus for the production of metal, comprising a melting furnace and a device for the selective delivery of an inert granular material, preferably characterized by high melting temperatures, inside the furnace.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Apparatuses for the production of metal material are known which comprise a melting furnace, for example an electric arc furnace, provided with at least one metal receptacle, called the “shell”, lined with refractory material, resistant to high temperatures, suitable to accommodate the liquid metal produced by the melting. The whole of the metal receptacle and the refractory lining is called “crucible”.

The furnace also comprises a covering vault, or a covering panel, which can have apertures for the passage of the electrodes, which enter the crucible to generate the electric arc, and one or more apertures to extract the fumes. At the bottom or on the side of the crucible there are normally means for tapping the liquid metal from the furnace’s crucible to another receptacle, commonly called “ladle”, in order to transport it to the next treatment plants. This operation is commonly referred to as “tapping”.

Solutions are known in which a tapping hole is disposed in a decentralized position with respect to the center of the furnace, known as “Eccentric Bottom Tapping” EBT. To carry out the transfer of the liquid metal from the crucible to the transport container for the subsequent steps of the process, there are means for rotating the furnace which allow its horizontal pivoting in order to facilitate the pouring of the liquid. The tapping channel, from which the liquid metal flows, is opened by acting on the aperture of the mechanical means for closing the tapping hole.

After the step of tapping the liquid metal produced in the cycle, and before the metal charge for the following cycle is introduced into the furnace, the tapping channel is incrementally filled with a determinate quantity of inert granular material, characterized by high temperature resistance, that in contact with the liquid metal is sintered for a limited thickness forming a continuous plug so as to prevent the liquid metal from flowing to the tapping channel, ruining its mechanical closing means, or from solidifying inside it, obstructing it.

These operations are almost universally carried out manually by dedicated personnel.

Above the tapping channel of the furnace, a cooled covering plane is made provided with an inspection hole. Once the operations for the transfer of the liquid metal are completed, the furnace is rotated backward in order to interrupt ne flow of liquid metal to the hole. The personnel accesses the covering panel and visually inspects the tapping channel through the aperture of the panel, naturally remaining exposed to the radiation of the heat coming from the furnace and being hit by the gases emitted by the crucible itself. In addition, the covering plane is, in this situation, inclined and often covered by various materials projected there by the melting and charging operations, with multiple risks for the safety of the operators.

If the tapping channel has residues that block free access to it, partly or totally, it is necessary to proceed to manually remove the residues. Oxygen injection is often used to melt these residues and create a free access to the tapping hole. These operations require, in the known state of the art, access with rather bulky tools and oxygen pipes. For an easy handling of the tools and in order to limit risks for personnel, it is necessary to provide appropriately proportioned maneuvering spaces.

In order to prevent personnel from having to operate manually, devices are known for filling the tapping hole with the inert granular materials as above characterized by high melting temperature.

Typically, these filling devices are stably attached to the covering panel of the eccentric portion of the crucible (US 9,920,995 B2) or to the vault of the furnace (KR101330306B1) and are integral with the latter during all the operative steps of metal production.

One disadvantage of these devices is that if it is necessary to carry out operations to clean the zone of the crucible and the tapping channel, as described above, with access to the covering panel, there is a greater operational risk for the maintenance personnel, given the bulk and the space constraints imposed by the equipment described in the teachings of the state of the art.

In the event of faults and malfunctions of the installed devices, also due to possible factors external thereto, it is extremely difficult to carry out maintenance and repairs so much so that, almost always, it is necessary to dismantle the device. This causes an increase in maintenance times, complexity in the operations to be performed and a high risk for dedicated personnel.

US patent 9,920,995 B2 mentioned above describes a system for the delivery of sand into a melting furnace, in which the system is stably attached to the furnace and is substantially integral therewith. The system for the delivery of sand described in US 9,920,995 B2 comprises a tank for storing the sand, an upper panel for closing an aperture defined in the covering panel of the crucible, and a discharge conveyor acting as a calibrated hole, attached through to the upper panel so as to have a lower end, which extends inside the furnace, and an opposite upper end positioned outside the furnace. The first end of the discharge conveyor can be aligned with the tapping hole so as to allow the delivery of the sand in a targeted and cohesive manner inside the tapping channel.

The storage tank is mobile between a first position, far from the upper end of the discharge conveyor, and a second position adjacent to the lower end of the discharge conveyor in order to deliver a predeterminate amount of sand into the discharge conveyor and therefore inside the tapping hole.

The storage tank is attached to the upper panel and is mobile with respect thereto defining a single unit attached to the covering panel above the tapping channel. This can be a hindrance if it is necessary to intervene to solve a problem with the furnace or a malfunction of the sand delivery system.

Another disadvantage of the system described in US 9,920,995 B2 is that the discharge conveyor, during the step of melting the metal charge, but especially during the step of refining the liquid metal, is subject to occlusions due both to splashes of liquid metal on the internal walls of the discharge conveyor, and also to the slag which can easily solidify in contact with the walls of the discharge conveyor and/or with the adjacent surfaces.

Consequently, it is frequently necessary to remove the layer of metal and slag solidified inside the discharge conveyor before proceeding with the introduction of the sand to fill the tapping hole again. This entails both a slowdown in production, and also a risk for operators who have to carry out the intervention to restore the correct functionality of the discharge conveyor.

Further examples of traditional filling devices are disclosed in documents JP S60 176867 U 22, JP S61 167265 U 17 and JP S 58 134254 U 9. The solutions described in these documents are peculiar to operations that relate to the ladle, a receptacle for transporting the liquid metal downstream of the melting furnace to the solidification plants. The geometries and operations are very different to the application considered here and, therefore, these solutions are difficult to apply for use in association with a melting furnace.

There is therefore a need to perfect an apparatus for the production of metal which can overcome at least one of the disadvantages of the state of the art.

In particular, one purpose of the present invention is to provide an apparatus for the production of metal which allows to reduce the cycle time of the furnace and above all the cycle time for the delivery of the sand.

Another purpose of the present invention is to provide an apparatus for the production of metal that allows to deliver the correct amount of inert material inside the tapping channel, regardless of the level of wear and/or incrustations of the latter.

It is also a purpose of the present invention to provide an apparatus for the production of metal which allows maintenance personnel to carry out maintenance or restoration operations in an easy, rapid, efficient and safe way.

Another purpose of the present invention is to provide an apparatus for the production of metal which reduces the risk of accumulation and stratification of slag and metal in correspondence with the covering panel.

Another purpose of the present invention is to provide an apparatus for the production of metal which allows safe access for the visual inspection of the tapping channel, as well as allowing an easy introduction of the flow of inert material without it being deflected, along its fall trajectory, far from the tapping channel itself.

Another purpose is to perfect a method for the delivery of an inert material, preferably granular and with a high melting temperature, into a furnace for the production of metal for the cyclical filling of a tapping channel disposed on the bottom of the furnace. The Applicant has devised, tested and embodied the present invention to overcome the shortcomings of the state of the art and to obtain these and other purposes and advantages.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is set forth and characterized in the independent claims. The dependent claims describe other characteristics of the invention or variants to the main inventive idea.

In accordance with the above purposes, an apparatus for the production of metal, which overcomes the limits of the state of the art and eliminates the defects present therein, comprises:

- a furnace for melting metal provided with a crucible inside which a metal charge is melted and with a covering panel, the furnace being provided with means for tapping a liquid metal disposed on the bottom of the crucible and comprising a tapping channel for the transfer of the liquid metal from the furnace to another receptacle for transport toward the treatments downstream,

- a unit for delivering inert material, comprising at least one delivery device for the selective delivery of inert material into the tapping channel,

- a hatch unit disposed on the covering panel, which is disposed above the tapping area, that is above the zone of the bottom of the crucible where the tapping channel is provided, and configured to allow access to the inside of the crucible for the delivery of the inert material.

The unit for delivering inert material comprises support means configured to rotatably support the delivery device, in order to take it at least from an operative condition, in which it faces toward the furnace and is aligned with the hatch unit, to a stand-by or parked condition in which it is disposed outside the bulk of the furnace, and vice versa.

The possibility to free the movement of the delivery unit from the structure of the furnace and from the covering panel makes the system much more flexible and allows to considerably simplify the maintenance operations of both the furnace and also the delivery unit.

In addition, the parts involved in the delivery of the material are less likely to be dirtied or encrusted by splashes or metal particles coming from the inside of the furnace. According to one aspect, the apparatus as above also comprises slag-break means configured to break the layer of slag and metal that may have settled on the upper internal walls of the furnace. The slag-break means comprise the hatch unit as above or a specific slag-break device, or a combination of both.

The presence of a hatch unit of the horizontally pivoting type, which selectively covers the aperture in the covering panel of the furnace, allows to use the same hatch unit to carry out operations for breaking the slag that forms in the proximity of the aperture, freeing it and facilitating and speeding up the filling cycles.

In the event that the hatch unit, due to the geometry of the furnace, were not entirely effective, the presence of the slag-break device as above allows to independently carry out, or complete, the breaking of the layer of slag and metal that has formed on the upper internal walls of the furnace and which can prevent access for the correct filling of the tapping channel.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS These and other characteristics of the present invention will become apparent from the following description of some embodiments, given as a non-restrictive example with reference to the attached drawings wherein:

- fig. 1 is a partial lateral view of an apparatus for the production of metal in accordance with some embodiments;

- fig. 2 is a top plan view of fig. 1 , wherein the delivery device is in the operative condition;

- fig. 3 is a top plan view of fig. 1 , wherein the delivery device is in the stand-by or parked condition;

- figs. 4-6 show a possible operative sequence of the apparatus for the production of metal of fig. 1 ;

- fig. 7 shows a lateral section view of the delivery device;

- figs. 8-10 show a partly sectioned schematic lateral view of the hatch unit in which the components are represented in different operative positions;

- fig. 11 shows a schematic top view of the hatch unit.

- fig. 12 is a partial lateral view of an apparatus for the production of metal in accordance with other embodiments described here;

- fig. 13 is a lateral view of the delivery unit of fig. 12 in which the rotation movement of the slag-break device is visible;

- figs. 14-15 show a possible operating sequence of the apparatus for the production of metal of fig. 12;

- fig. 16 shows an operative step in which the delivery of the inert material is carried out with the furnace inclined.

To facilitate comprehension, the same reference numbers have been used, where possible, to identify identical common elements in the drawings. It is understood that elements and characteristics of one embodiment can conveniently be incorporated into other embodiments without further clarifications.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF SOME EMBODIMENTS

We will now refer in detail to possible embodiments of the invention, of which one or more examples are shown in the attached drawings. Each example is supplied by way of illustration of the invention and shall not be understood as a limitation thereof. For example, one or more characteristics shown or described insomuch as they are part of one embodiment can be varied or adopted on, or in association with, other embodiments to produce other embodiments. It is understood that the present invention shall include all such modifications and variants.

Before describing the embodiments, we must also clarify that the present description is not limited in its application to details of the construction and disposition of the components as described in the following description using the attached drawings. The present description can provide other embodiments and can be obtained or executed in various other ways. We must also clarify that the phraseology and terminology used here is for the purposes of description only, and cannot be considered as limitative.

Embodiments described here concern an apparatus for the production of metal, identified with reference number 10 in the attached drawings.

In accordance with some embodiments, shown in figs. 1-3, an apparatus for the production of metal 10, hereafter apparatus 10, comprises a furnace 11 for melting metal provided with a containing receptacle, in this specific case a crucible 12, inside which a metal charge is melted.

The furnace 11 is provided with means 14 for tapping liquid metal disposed on the bottom of the crucible 12 and comprising a tapping channel 15 for the extraction of the liquid metal.

The furnace 11 comprises a covering panel 13 disposed on the upper part of the crucible 12.

The apparatus 10 comprises a delivery unit 16 for the selective feed of inert material S into the tapping channel 15.

The delivery unit 16 comprises a delivery device 17 configured to selectively deliver a determinate quantity of the inert material S as above into the tapping channel 15 through a hatch unit 18 disposed on the covering panel 13 of the furnace 11. The delivery unit 16 also comprises means 19 for supporting the delivery device 17.

The support means 19 comprise, in this specific case, a pedestal 20, stably attached to an installation surface 100 outside the furnace 11. The installation surface 100 can be, for example, that of the frame where the furnace 11 is installed and which allows the horizontal pivoting thereof for the tapping operations.

The support means 19 comprise a mobile base 21 stably attached to the pedestal 20 and configured to rotatably support the delivery device 17 in order to take it from an operative condition (figs. 1-2), in which it faces toward the furnace 11 and is aligned with the hatch unit 18, to a stand-by or parked condition, in which it is disposed outside the bulk of the furnace 11 (fig. 3). Since the delivery unit 16 is substantially independent of the furnace 11, since it is not constrained to it in any way whatsoever, it is possible to rotate the delivery device 17 in a stand-by or parked condition, for example in case it is necessary to carry out maintenance in the furnace 11, or if it is necessary to extract the furnace 11 with a bridge crane. Evidently, this is also advantageous in case it is necessary to carry out maintenance interventions on the delivery unit 16, since the operators can intervene safely by operating far from the furnace 11. In the stand-by or parked condition the delivery device 17 is also completely protected from the heat of the furnace 11 or from any bursts of flames that can come out of it.

According to some embodiments, the apparatus 10 comprises slag-break means 30 configured to break the layer of slag and metal that may have settled on an internal surface 27a of the access panel 27 (fig. 8), or on an internal surface of the covering panel 13 during the operative steps of the furnace 11. This layer of slag can prevent the correct filling of the tapping channel 15 and therefore has to be removed.

The slag-break means 30 described here can comprise the hatch unit 18 itself or, as shown in figs. 12-15, a specific slag-break device 55, or possibly both, as will be described in more detail below.

In accordance with some embodiments, the hatch unit 18 comprises a support plate 23, stably associated with the covering panel 13, and provided with an aperture 22 and a closing door 24, having the same size as that of the aperture 22 and configured to allow or prevent access to the aperture 22, for example in case it is necessary to carry out maintenance interventions.

The aperture 22 is aligned with a corresponding passage 53 defined on the covering panel 13, fig. 1 and figs. 4-6.

The closing door 24 can comprise cooling devices 31, for example a coil of pipes inside which a cooling fluid can flow.

The hatch unit 18 comprises first pivoting means 25 and the closing door 24 is rotatably associated with the first pivoting means 25 in order to pass from an operative position, in which it prevents access to the aperture 22, to a maintenance position, shown in fig. 10, in which it allows access to the aperture 22.

The first pivoting means 25 can be associated with the support plate 23.

The first pivoting means 25 can be disposed in correspondence with an end edge of the closing door 24.

The first pivoting means 25 are rotatable along a first axis of rotation XI and are disposed in correspondence with the end edge of the closing door 24 closest to the delivery unit 16.

The closing door 24 is provided with a central aperture 26 and an access panel 27 configured to selectively open and close the central aperture 26, even only partly. The central aperture 26 is substantially vertically aligned with the tapping channel 15 located below, on the bottom of the crucible 12. Possibly, the central aperture 26 can be slightly offset with respect to the tapping channel 15. As shown in fig. 16, the delivery of the inert material S takes place, in fact, with the furnace 11 inclined. The central aperture 26 is determined in such a way that, in this inclined configuration of the furnace 11, the direction of delivery of the material S (see for example numerical references 43a and 43b of fig. 7) passes through fne vertical of the upper hole of the tapping channel 15.

The access panel 27 is configured to pass from a closed position, in which it is substantially parallel to the closing door 24 and prevents access to the central aperture 26, to an open position, shown with a dashed line in fig. 8, in which it is inclined, for example it is orthogonal, with respect to the closing door 24, allowing access to the central aperture 26 for the introduction of the inert material S by the delivery device 17.

In accordance with the embodiment shown in fig. 5 and fig. 9, the access panel 27 is able to be inclined with respect to the closed position as above, both toward the inside and also toward the outside of the furnace 11 , possibly in an alternate manner in order to break the layer of slag and metal that may have settled on an internal surface 27a of the access panel 27 during the operative steps of the furnace 11. For example, before carrying out the filling of the tapping channel 15, the access panel 27 can be inclined in an alternate manner toward the inside and toward the outside of the furnace 11 in order to break the layer of slag and metal as above, fig. 5 and fig. 9.

The hatch unit 18 comprises second pivoting means 28, and the access panel 27 is rotatably associated with the second pivoting means 28 in order to pass from the closed position as above to the open position as above, possibly through intermediate inclined positions, toward the inside and/or toward the outside of the furnace 11, figs. 8-9.

The second pivoting means 28 can be disposed in an intermediate position between the end edges of the access panel 27. In this way, when the access panel 27 passes from the closed position to the open position, it is possible to limit the vertical bulk of the access panel 27 and considerably reduce the force necessary to break the layer of slag and metal that forms on the internal surface 27a.

The second pivoting means 28 are rotatable along a second axis of rotation X2 substantially parallel to the first axis of rotation XL

The second pivoting means 28 can comprise a pair of fixed peripheral elements, in this specific case a pair of bearings, 28a, 28b attached to the closing door 24 on one side and the other with respect to the central aperture 26, and a fixed central element, for example a lever or similar element, 28c, stably attached on the access panel 27, fig. 2-3 and figs. 8-11.

The fixed peripheral element 28a and the central element 28c are associated with each other by means of a first pin 50. The fixed peripheral element 28b and the central element 28c are associated with each other by means of a second pin 51. The first pin 50 and the second pin 51 rotate about the second axis of rotation X2.

The hatch unit 18 can comprise an actuation assembly 52 for operatively controlling the movement of the closing door 24 and of the access panel 27.

The actuation assembly 52 can comprise first actuation means, configured to move the closing door 24, and second actuation means configured to move the access panel 27.

The first actuation means and the second actuation means can be attached to the support plate 23.

The first actuation means can be different and separated from the second actuation means.

In accordance with the embodiment shown in figs. 8-9, the actuation assembly 52 comprises, for example, an extendable arm 47 attached, with respect to a first end, to the support plate 23 and with respect to an opposite second end to a lever 49 associated with the second pivoting means 28. When the extendable arm 47 is driven, it allows the rotation of the lever 49 in order to move the access panel 27 from the closed position to the open position and vice versa, and to allow an alternate movement thereof in order to break the layer of slag and metal.

The lever 49 is pivoted, with respect to a first end, to the extendable arm 47 and with respect to an opposite second end to the first pin 50 for the transmission of motion to the access panel 27. The access panel 27 moves integrally with the lever 49, so that when the lever 49 makes the first pin 50 rotate, the access panel 27 rotates simultaneously.

In case it is necessary to move the closing door 24, the access panel 27 can be clamped with respect to the closing door 24 itself and allow the rigid rotation motion of the closing door 24 from the closed position to the maintenance position and vice versa.

Possibly, the movement of the closing door 24 can be operated by a loading and movement device, for example a bridge crane, which lifts the closing door 24 in rotation by means of hooks or lifting rings.

In accordance with some embodiments, at least the access panel 27 can be made of copper, or an alloy thereof. The high thermal conductivity of copper allows to optimally convey the heat produced in the furnace 11 during the operative steps of metal production. Possibly, the access panel 27 can also be provided with a cooling circuit in order to improve and speed up the heat exchange.

In accordance with some embodiments, at least the internal surface 27a can be smooth, possibly polished, in order to limit as much as possible the possibility that the slag and the metal can stick on it.

In accordance with some embodiments, the delivery device 17 comprises a fixed support structure 32 configured to slidingly house a mobile storage and delivery structure 33 (fig. 6).

The fixed support structure 32 is associated with the mobile base 21. In particular, the fixed support structure 32 is pivoted to the mobile base 21 so as to adjust the inclination of the delivery device 17 on a preferably vertical plane. This allows to direct the flow of inert material into the tapping channel 15 even with a curved trajectory, for example a parabolic one.

For this purpose, the fixed support structure 32 is hinged to the mobile base 21 on hinging means 34 disposed below the fixed support structure 32 in a substantially central position. Adjustment means 35, in this specific case a pair of arms, hydraulic or pneumatic, operatively connect the fixed support structure 32 with the mobile base 21 in order to allow the rotation of the delivery device 17 on the hinging means 34. The adjustment means 35 can be associated with a rear edge of the fixed support structure 32 and with a corresponding rear edge of the mobile base 21 (fig. 6).

The mobile storage and delivery structure 33 comprises a storage cavity, or tank, 36 configured to contain the inert material S, delivery means 37 in selective communication with the storage cavity 36 and configured to introduce the inert material S through the central aperture 26, when the access panel 27 is in the open position, and control means 38 configured to verify the correct filling of the tapping channel 15 after the filling step thereof, or to verify the correct operative functionality thereof, after the step of tapping the melted metal (fig. 6).

The mobile storage and delivery structure 33 also comprises a mobile actuator 39 configured to allow or deny communication between the delivery means 37 and the storage cavity 36. The mobile actuator 39 is operatively commanded by a mechanism 40 disposed inside the mobile storage and delivery structure 33. The mobile actuator 39 allows to control the flow of inert material S in a precise and defined manner, in a continuous or discontinuous manner, that is, according to a filling curve which depends on the size of the tapping channel 15. The mobile actuator 39 can be, or comprise, for example a guillotine valve, fig. 7.

When the delivery device 17 is in the operative condition as above, the mobile storage and delivery structure 33 is mobile in order to pass from a retracted position, fig. 4, in which the delivery means 37 are positioned far from the central aperture 26, to an extended or delivery position, fig. 6, in which the delivery means 37 are positioned close to the central aperture 26, for example aligned, or almost aligned, with the central aperture 26 in order to deliver the inert material S, through it, into the tapping channel 15.

When the delivery device 17 is in the stand-by or parked condition as above, the mobile storage and delivery structure 33 can be moved from the retracted condition to the extended condition, for example in order to allow the storage cavity 36 to be resupplied with new inert material S.

The delivery device 17 comprises an actuator 41, electric, hydraulic or pneumatic, attached at the back to the fixed support structure 32 with respect to a first end, and at the front to the mobile storage and delivery structure 33 with respect to an opposite second end in correspondence with a connection joint 42, fig. 7.

The delivery means 37 comprise a delivery channel 43 provided with an initial segment 43 a, advantageously in the shape of a funnel, and a final segment 43 b having a substantially constant section. Possibly, the delivery means 37 can be inclined in order to define the correct trajectory of the flow of inert material S.

In accordance with some embodiments, the control means 38 can comprise a video camera 44, or another suitable device, in a position that is fixed or that can be adjusted from remote, directed toward a control aperture 45 defined on the storage and delivery structure 33. The video camera 44 can be disposed in a housing compartment 46 defined at the front in the mobile storage and delivery structure 33.

At the end of the step of filling the tapping channel 15 with the inert material S and/or before it, the mobile storage and delivery structure 33 can be moved so as to align the video camera 44, and therefore the control aperture 45, with the central aperture 26, and therefore with the tapping channel 15. The video camera 44 can be used to visually inspect the tapping channel 15 even at different times during the filling cycle of the tapping channel 15 with the inert material S.

According to some embodiments, fne mobile base 21 is rotatable along a vertical axis of rotation Z, fig. 1, in order to take the delivery device 17 from the operative condition to the stand-by or parked condition and vice versa, figs. 2-3.

The possibility of rotating the delivery device 17 into a position not interfering with the covering panel 13 allows to freely access it in case of need and to protect the device from the heat coming from the furnace 11.

In a possible functioning variant of the apparatus 10, the rotation movement of the delivery device 17 (fig. 2), possibly combined with the translation movement described above obtained by means of the actuator 41, allows to take the delivery device 17 into an appropriate position for loading the tank 36 by gravimetric fall, for example, from a storage hopper positioned above it through a tube and a valve.

For this purpose, the delivery unit 16 comprises a drive device 54 configured to activate/deactivate at least the movement of the mobile base 21, fig. 1.

In the operative condition, the delivery device 17 is substantially aligned with the access panel 27, that is, with the central aperture 26. In this condition, the mobile storage and delivery structure 33 is mobile between the retracted or stand by position and the extended or delivery position.

According to some embodiments, shown in figs. 12-15, the slag-break device

55 is associated with the delivery unit 16 and is provided with a slag-break punch

56 configured to be lowered through the passage 53 and break the layer of slag that may have formed on the internal surface of the covering panel 13.

The slag-break punch 56 can be activated pneumatically, hydraulically or electrically.

The slag-break device 55 can be attached to the mobile base 21 of the support means 19, figs. 12-13, or to the fixed support structure 32 of the delivery device 17. In both cases, the movement is the same, since the fixed support structure 32 moves integrally with the mobile base 21.

With particular reference to figs. 14-15, the slag-break device 55 is disposed laterally with respect to the delivery unit 16.

The slag-break device 55 is rotatable independently between a work position in which the slag-break punch 56 is substantially orthogonal to the gap of the passage 53, and a stand-by position, in which the slag-breaking punch 56 is inclined in order to limit its bulk should it be necessary, for example, to uncover the furnace 11 in a step of loading it, fig. 13.

In the work position the slag-break punch 56 is substantially parallel to the vertical axis of rotation Z, while in the stand-by position it can be inclined, for example, by about 45°.

The alignment of the slag-break punch 56, that is, of its operating axis along which it is lowered and raised, with the passage 53 occurs by activating the rotation of the mobile base 21, figs. 14-15.

When neither the delivery device 17 nor the slag-break device 55 need to be used, the mobile base 21 rotates them laterally, fig. 15.

The slag-break device 55 can be particularly useful in the event the covering panel 13 has a considerable thickness, for example in order to be able to contain a cooling circuit inside it, the breaking of the layer of slag cannot occur with the rotational movements of the access panel 27 already described above.

In the event the slag-break device 55 is present, the hatch unit 18 could have, although not necessarily, a simplified configuration. For example, the access panel 27 may not have the inclination ranges for breaking the slag and could simply be openable and reclosable.

In accordance with some embodiments, a method is provided for the production of metal in the melting furnace 11 as above. The method comprises at least one step of filling the tapping channel 15 of the furnace 11 with the inert material S.

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, the device 17 for delivering the inert material S is supported and moved in rotation by the support means 19, which are outside the furnace 11, at least from the stand-by or parked condition, in which the delivery device 17 is disposed outside the bulk of the furnace 11, to the operative condition, in which the delivery device 17 is cooperating with the tapping channel 15, and vice versa. In particular, in the operative condition, the delivery device 17 is at least partly above the covering panel 13.

In accordance with some embodiments, when the delivery device 17 is in the operative condition as above, the mobile storage and delivery structure 33 is made to translate toward the hatch unit 18, in particular toward the access panel 27. At the same time, or just before, the method provides to move the access panel 27 in order to make available the access to the central aperture 26 from which the inert material S is discharged toward the tapping channel 15.

In accordance with some embodiments, the access panel 27 can be moved in rotation in an alternate manner, toward the inside and toward the outside of the furnace 11 in order to break the layer of slag and metal which may have settled on the internal surface 27a of the access panel 27.

In accordance with possible embodiments, the delivery device 17 can be moved in rotation into a loading condition, different from the operative condition and possibly also different from the stand-by or parked condition, in order to make the tank 36 available to be loaded/filled.

According to one embodiment, before discharging the inert material S toward the tapping channel 15, it is provided to control the central aperture 26 by means of the inspection means 38 and, optionally, it is provided to drive the slag-break device 55 taking the slag-break punch 56 into a position substantially perpendicular to the central aperture 26 and aligned with a central axis thereof, inserting the slag-break punch 56 through the central aperture 26 in order to break the layer of slag present.

Subsequently, it is provided to withdraw the slag-break punch 56 up to an inactive position outside the melting furnace 11 and to reposition the delivery device 17 in an operative condition for the discharging of the inert material S.

The action of inspection can be done through the central aperture 26 or through the aperture 22, which are both aligned with the passage 53 defined on the covering panel 13.

The alignment of the slag-break device 55 is operated by means of the support means 19, in particular by means of the mobile base 21.

It is clear that modifications and/or additions of parts may be made to the apparatus for the production of metal as described heretofore, without departing from the field and scope of the present invention. It is also clear that, although the present invention has been described with reference to some specific examples, a person of skill in the art shall certainly be able to achieve many other equivalent forms of an apparatus for the production of metal, having the characteristics as set forth in the claims and hence all coming within the field of protection defined thereby. In the following claims, the sole purpose of the references in brackets is to facilitate reading: they must not be considered as restrictive factors with regard to the field of protection claimed in the specific claims.