Improving cement production through Artificial Intelligence - Improving cement production through Artificial Intelligence
November 18, 2021
What role can Artificial Intelligence play in improving the cement manufacturing process? Industry 4.0 is here to stay, and with it comes the potential of integrating cutting-edge technology in processes that have been around for centuries.
CEMEX is already using Artificial Intelligence to improve ball mill performance in its operations as part of its Digital Innovation in Motion ecosystem. The company is testing and refining how machine learning can make an already efficient process even better. Traditionally, this process is controlled by human operators. Under the new model, these operators would supervise and fine-tune the AI’s behavior.
“Data can produce an exponential effect on our efforts to optimize production, energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and provide a superior customer experience,” says Luis Hernandez, Executive Vice President of Digital and Organization Development. “Our Digital Innovation Ecosystem puts our customers at the center and is driving a game-changing transformation in the areas of production, management, and commercial operation.”
Ball mills have been around since the late 1800’s, playing a crucial role in the production of cement. The second-to-last stage of cement production happens in mills, where clinker is ground from a size of several centimeters into pieces less than 100 microns in size. That is smaller than a grain of beach sand! This process consumes approximately 40 kWh per ton of cement, accounting for the most electrical power consumption in the production of cement.
CEMEX is using “Model-Based Optimization”, which consists of using machine learning to generate models that predict the performance of the mill. The factors that must be considered include the speed in which material is fed, how fast the separator is moving, and fan speeds for the main ventilator. The predictive models are used to optimize characteristics that have a direct effect on the quality of the cement produced.
By incorporating AI and high computing power, CEMEX can reduce the amount of energy consumed, while at the same time producing a higher quality product more efficiently. Energy efficiency plays a key role in reducing our operation’s carbon footprint, aligned with our Future in Action program to become a net-zero CO2 company. This example is one of many in CEMEX’s Digital Innovation portfolio, and an example of how Industry 4.0 is transforming the building materials industry of tomorrow.