Title:
Optimized Graphite Electrode Pin Configuration
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A pin for use in connecting graphite electrodes into a joint, where the pin has at least one male tang having a tang factor, defined as the ratio of male tang length to diameter of the electrode into which hit is to be threaded, of at least about 1.0.



Inventors:
Smith, Robert E. (Strongsville, OH, US)
Burton Batty, Lionel D. (Westlake, OH, US)
Coleman, Philip D. (Avon, OH, US)
Application Number:
12/818755
Publication Date:
08/11/2011
Filing Date:
06/18/2010
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
373/92
International Classes:
H05B7/06; H05B7/14; H05B7/085
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
NGUYEN, HUNG D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GrafTech International Holdings Inc. (Brooklyn Heights, OH, US)
Claims:
1. A pin for use in a forming a graphite electrode joint, the pin comprising at least one male tang having a ratio of male tang length to diameter of the electrode into which it is to be threaded of at least about 1.0.

2. The pin of claim 1, wherein the ratio of the diameter of the male tang at its base to male tang length is no greater than about 2.5 times the ratio of male tang length to the diameter of the electrode into which it is to be threaded.

3. The pin of claim 2, wherein the ratio of the diameter of the male tang at its base to male tang length varies with the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter such that for every 0.01 higher than 0.60 the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter is, the ratio of the diameter of the male tang at its base to the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter should be about 0.016 lower than 2.5.

4. The pin of claim 1, wherein for a pin having a ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter of 0.85 or lower, the ratio of the taper of the male tang to the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter is at least about 15.

5. The pin of claim 4, wherein the ratio of the taper of the male tang to the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter varies with the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter such that for every 0.01 lower than 0.85 the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter is, the ratio of the taper of the male tang to the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter should be about 1.25 higher than 15.

6. The pin of claim 1, wherein the ratio of male tang length to diameter of the electrode into which it is to be threaded is no greater than about 1.2.

7. An electrode joint comprising a pin and two graphite electrodes, the pin having a male tang having a ratio of male tang length to diameter of at least one of the electrodes of at least about 1.0, and the at least one electrode comprising a female threaded socket, wherein the male threaded tang engages the female threaded socket to form the joint.

8. The joint of claim 7, wherein the ratio of the diameter of the male tang at its base to male tang length is no greater than about 2.5 times the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter.

9. The joint of claim 8, wherein the ratio of the diameter of the male tang at its base to male tang length varies with the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter such that for every 0.01 higher than 0.60 the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter is, the ratio of the diameter of the male tang at its base to the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter should be about 0.016 lower than 2.5.

10. The joint of claim 7, wherein for a pin having a ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter of 0.85 or lower, the ratio of the taper of the male tang to the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter is at least about 15.

11. The joint of claim 10, wherein the ratio of the taper of the male tang to the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter varies with the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter such that for every 0.01 lower than 0.85 the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter is, the ratio of the taper of the male tang to the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter should be about 1.25 higher than 15.

12. The joint of claim 7, wherein the ratio of male tang length to diameter of the electrode into which it is to be threaded is no greater than about 1.2.

13. A process for preparing a pin for use in forming a graphite electrode joint, the process comprising (a) mixing coke and a pitch binder, to form a stock blend; (b) extruding the stock blend to form a green stock; (c) baking the green stock to form a carbonized stock; (d) graphitizing the carbonized stock by maintaining the carbonized stock at a temperature of at least about 2500° C. to form a graphitized stock; (e) machining the graphitized stock so as to form a pin having at least one male tang having a ratio of male tang length to diameter of the electrode into which it is to be threaded of at least about 1.0.

14. The process of claim 13, wherein the ratio of the diameter of the male tang at its base to male tang length is no greater than about 2.5 times the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter.

15. The process of claim 14, wherein the ratio of the diameter of the male tang at its base to male tang length varies with the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter such that for every 0.01 higher than 0.60 the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter is, the ratio of the diameter of the male tang at its base to the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter should be about 0.016 lower than 2.5.

16. The process of claim 13, wherein for a pin having a ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter of 0.85 or lower, the ratio of the taper of the male tang to the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter is at least about 15.

17. The process of claim 16, wherein the ratio of the taper of the male tang to the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter varies with the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter such that for every 0.01 lower than 0.85 the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter is, the ratio of the taper of the male tang to the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter should be about 1.25 higher than 15.

18. The process of claim 13, wherein the ratio of male tang length to diameter of the electrode into which it is to be threaded is no greater than about 1.2.

19. A pin for use in forming a graphite electrode joint, the pin comprising two symmetrical male tangs wherein a ratio of the diameter of each male tang at its base to male tang length is no greater than about 2.5 times the ratio of the male tang length to the diameter of the electrode into which it is to be threaded, whereby the joint exhibits improved thermal and mechanical stresses as compared to a joint with a conventional pin.

20. The pin of claim 19 wherein the electrode column exhibits improved strength.

21. The pin of claim 19 wherein the ratio of the male tang length to the diameter of the electrode comprises at least about 0.6.

22. The pin of claim 21 wherein the ratio of the male tang length to the diameter of the electrode comprises at least about 0.85.

23. The pin of claim 19 wherein the pin formed of the same material as the electrode.

24. The pin of claim 19 wherein the electrode diameter comprises about 220 mm to about 700 mm.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. §120 from copending and commonly assigned U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/489,772, filed Jul. 20, 2006, entitled “Optimized Graphite Electrode Pin Configuration,” which in turn claims priority under 35 U.S.C. §120 from U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/975,607, filed Oct. 28, 2004, entitled “Optimized Graphite Electrode Pin Configuration,” now U.S. Pat. No. 7,103,083, the disclosures of each of which are incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

The present invention relates to the configuration of pins used to join graphite electrodes into an electrode column. More particularly, the invention concerns a unique design for a pin, and the electrodes for which the pin is used.

2. Background Art

Graphite electrodes are used in the steel industry to melt the metals and other ingredients used to form steel in electrothermal furnaces. The heat needed to melt metals is generated by passing current through one or a plurality of electrodes, usually three, and forming an arc between the electrodes and the metal. Electrical currents in excess of 100,000 amperes are often used. The resulting high temperature melts the metals and other ingredients. Generally, the electrodes used in steel furnaces each consist of electrode columns, that is, a series of individual electrodes joined to form a single column. In this way, as electrodes are depleted during the thermal process, replacement electrodes can be joined to the column to maintain the length of the column extending into the furnace.

Conventionally, electrodes are joined into columns via a pin (sometimes referred to as a nipple) that functions to join the ends of adjoining electrodes. Typically, the pin takes the form of opposed male threaded sections or tangs, with at least one end of the electrodes comprising female threaded sections capable of mating with the male threaded section of the pin. Thus, when each of the opposing male threaded sections of a pin are threaded into female threaded sections in the ends of two electrodes, those electrodes become joined into an electrode column. Commonly, the joined ends of the adjoining electrodes, and the pin therebetween, are referred to in the art as a joint.

Given the extreme thermal stress that the electrode and the joint (and indeed the electrode column as a whole) undergoes, mechanical/thermal factors such as strength, thermal expansion, and crack resistance must be carefully balanced to avoid damage or destruction of the electrode column or individual electrodes. For instance, longitudinal (i.e., along the length of the electrode/electrode column) thermal expansion of the electrodes, especially at a rate different than that of the pin, can force the joint apart, reducing effectiveness of the electrode column in conducting the electrical current. A certain amount of transverse (i.e., across the diameter of the electrode/electrode column) thermal expansion of the pin in excess of that of the electrode may be desirable to form a firm connection between pin and electrode; however, if the transverse thermal expansion of the pin greatly exceeds that of the electrode, damage to the electrode or separation of the joint may result. Again, this can result in reduced effectiveness of the electrode column, or even destruction of the column if the damage is so severe that the electrode column fails at the joint section. Thus, control of the thermal expansion of an electrode, in both the longitudinal and transverse directions, is of paramount importance.

Of course, the optimal way of achieving thermal compatibility between pin and electrodes is to form the pin of the same material from which the electrodes are formed; however, in conventional pin joints, the pin must be formed of a graphite material that is stronger than the material from which the electrodes are formed needs to be. If the pin is not formed of a stronger material, it would fail (i.e., suffer cracks and breakage) to an unacceptable degree while in use in an electrode column. In order to avoid this, the pin can be formed, e.g., of a graphite material of a higher density than that needed for the electrodes.

What is desired, therefore, is a pin/electrode joint having sufficient strength and integrity to reduce column damage in use and create a more stable joint, without a significant reduction in electrode performance. It is also highly desirable to achieve these property benefits without using high quantities of expensive materials and, most advantageously, by use of the same graphite materials to form the pin as are used to form the electrodes in order to more closely match the thermal properties of the pin and electrodes.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to provide an improved pin configuration for graphite electrodes.

It is another object of the present invention to produce an improved graphite electrode joint using the inventive pin.

It is still another object of the present invention to provide a joint for graphite electrodes which is designed to better withstand the thermal and mechanical stress on an electrode column in use.

It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a pin for graphite electrodes which produces electrode column joints having improved strength and stability.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a pin for graphite electrodes formed of the same graphite materials used to form the electrodes, without significantly affecting performance.

Still another object of the present invention is a graphite electrode joint, having improved resistance to stub loss, defined as the loss of the part of the electrode column lying from the arc tip to and sometimes including the joint closest to the arc tip, as compared to art-conventional graphite electrode joints.

These objects and others that will become apparent to the artisan upon review of the following description can be accomplished by providing a pin for use in a forming a graphite electrode joint, the pin having at least one male tang having a ratio of male tang length to diameter of the electrode on which it is to be used of at least about 1.0 and, preferably not greater than 1.2. This is especially true for electrodes having a diameter of at least about 220 mm, up to and including 800 mm and greater. In the preferred embodiment of the application, the ratio of the diameter of the male tang to the length of the male tang should be no more than about 2.5 times the ratio of the length of the male tang to the diameter of the electrode on which it is to be used, when the ratio of the length of the male tang to the electrode diameter is about 1.0 or higher. Indeed, the ratio of the diameter of the male tang at its base to the male tang length should vary with the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter such that for every 0.01 higher than 1.0 the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter is, the ratio of the diameter of the male tang at its base to the male tang length should be about 0.016 lower than 2.5.

The inventive pin, when having a ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter of 0.85 or lower, should preferably also have a ratio of the taper of the male tang, expressed in degrees, to the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter of at least about 15. Moreover, the ratio of the taper of the male tang to the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter varies with the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter such that for every 0.01 lower than 0.85 the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter is, the ratio of the taper of the male tang to the ratio of male tang length to electrode diameter should be about 1.25 higher than 15.

The invention also includes an electrode joint formed from the inventive pin and two graphite electrodes, each having a female threaded socket, wherein a male threaded tang of the pins engages a female threaded socket of each electrode to form the joint.

A process for preparing the inventive pin is also presented, including mixing coke and a pitch binder, to form a stock blend; extruding the stock blend to form a green stock; baking the green stock to form a carbonized stock; graphitizing the carbonized stock by maintaining the carbonized stock at a temperature of at least about 2500° C. to form a graphitized stock; and machining the graphitized stock so as to form a male tang having a ratio of male tang length to diameter of the graphitized stock of at least about 1.0.

It is to be understood that both the foregoing general description and the following detailed description provide embodiments of the invention and are intended to provide an overview or framework of understanding to nature and character of the invention as it is claimed. The accompanying drawings are included to provide a further understanding of the invention and are incorporated in and constitute a part of the specification. The drawings illustrate various embodiments of the invention and together with the description serve to describe the principles and operations of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side plan view of a pin in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a partial side broken-away view of a graphite electrode joint employing the pin of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a partial side cross-sectional view of opposing graphite electrodes, each having a female socket for the pin of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The pins used to connect graphite electrodes can be fabricated by first combining a particulate fraction comprising calcined coke, pitch and, optionally, mesophase pitch or PAN-based carbon fibers into a stock blend. More specifically, crushed, sized and milled calcined petroleum coke is mixed with a coal-tar pitch binder to form the blend. The particle size of the calcined coke is selected according to the end use of the article, and is within the skill in the art. Generally, particles up to about 25 millimeters (mm) in average diameter are employed in the blend. The particulate fraction preferable includes a small particle size filler comprising coke powder. Other additives that may be incorporated into the small particle size filler include iron oxides to inhibit puffing (caused by release of sulfur from its bond with carbon inside the coke particles), coke powder and oils or other lubricants to facilitate extrusion of the blend.

Most preferably, the carbon fibers (when used) are preferably present at a level of about 0.5 to about 6 parts by weight of carbon fibers per 100 parts by weight of calcined coke, or at about 0.4% to about 5.5% by weight of the total mix components (excluding binder). The preferred fibers have an average diameter of about 6 to about 15 microns, and a length of preferably about 4 mm to about 25 mm, and most preferably less than about 32 mm. The carbon fibers used in the inventive process should preferably have a tensile strength of at least about 150,000 psi. Most advantageously, the carbon fibers are added to the stock blend as bundles, each bundle containing from about 2000 to about 20,000 fibers.

Preferably, the fibers are added after mixing of the particulate fraction and pitch has already begun. Indeed, in a more preferred embodiment, the fibers are added after at least about half the mix cycle has been completed, most preferably after at least about three-quarters of the mix cycle has been completed. For instance, if the mixing of the particulate fraction and pitch takes two hours (i.e., a mix cycle is two hours), the fibers should be added after one hour, or even ninety minutes, of mixing. Adding the fibers after the mixing has begun will help preserve fiber length (which can be reduced during the mixing process) and thereby the beneficial effects of the inclusion of fibers, which are believed to be directly related to fiber length.

As noted above, the particulate fraction can include small particle size filler (small is used herein as compared to the particle size of the calcined coke, which generally has a diameter such that a major fraction of it passes through a 25 mm mesh screen but not a 0.25 mm mesh screen, and as compared to the fillers conventionally employed). More specifically, the small particle size filler comprises at least about 75% coke powder, by which is meant coke having a diameter such that at least about 70% and more advantageously up to about 90%, will pass through a 200 Tyler mesh screen, equivalent to 74 microns.

The small particle size filler can further comprise at least about 0.5% and up to about 25% of other additives like a puffing inhibitor such as iron oxide. Again, the additive should also be employed at a particle size smaller than that conventionally used. For instance, when iron oxide is included, the average diameter of the iron oxide particles should be such that they are smaller than about 10 microns. Another additional additive which can be employed is petroleum coke powder, having an average diameter such that they are smaller than about 10 microns, added to fill porosity of the article and thus enable better control of the amount of pitch binder used. The small particle size filler should comprise at least about 30%, and as high as about 50% or even 65% of the particulate fraction.

After the blend of particulate fraction, pitch binder, etc. is prepared, the body is formed (or shaped) by extrusion though a die or molded in conventional forming molds to form what is referred to as a green stock. The forming, whether through extrusion or molding, is conducted at a temperature close to the softening point of the pitch, usually about 100° C. or higher. The die or mold can form the article in substantially final form and size, although machining of the finished article is usually needed, at the very least to provide structure such as threads. The size of the green stock can vary; for electrodes the diameter can vary between about 220 mm and 800 mm.

After extrusion, the green stock is heat treated by baking at a temperature of between about 700° C. and about 1100° C., more preferably between about 800° C. and about 1000° C., to carbonize the pitch binder to solid pitch coke, to give the article permanency of form, high mechanical strength, good thermal conductivity, and comparatively low electrical resistance, and thus form a carbonized stock. The green stock is baked in the relative absence of air to avoid oxidation. Baking should be carried out at a rate of about 1° C. to about 5° C. rise per hour to the final temperature. After baking, the carbonized stock may be impregnated one or more times with coal tar or petroleum pitch, or other types of pitches or resins known in the industry, to deposit additional coke in any open pores of the stock. Each impregnation is then followed by an additional baking step.

After baking, the carbonized stock is then graphitized. Graphitization is by heat treatment at a final temperature of between about 2500° C. to about 3400° C. for a time sufficient to cause the carbon atoms in the coke and pitch coke binder to transform from a poorly ordered state into the crystalline structure of graphite. Advantageously, graphitization is performed by maintaining the carbonized stock at a temperature of at least about 2700° C., and more advantageously at a temperature of between about 2700° C. and about 3200° C. At these high temperatures, elements other than carbon are volatilized and escape as vapors. The time required for maintenance at the graphitization temperature using the process of the present invention is no more than about 18 hours, indeed, no more than about 12 hours. Preferably, graphitization is for about 1.5 to about 8 hours. Once graphitization is completed, the finished article can be cut to size and then machined or otherwise formed into its final configuration.

In order to provide a pin configured to form an electrode joint having improved stability in the furnace, the male tang, and, most preferably, both male tangs, of the pin (and, by extension, the female socket of the electrodes into which the pin is to be threaded) must be dimensioned such that the tang will provide the required strength in use, even where the pin is formed of the same graphite material from which the electrodes are formed in order to match thermal properties. In order to do so, a balancing must be accomplished. More particularly, it is now been discovered that the ratio of the length of the male tang to the diameter of the electrode into which it is to be threaded (referred to herein as the tang factor) is important in optimizing the performance of the joint. More specifically, a tang factor of at least about 1.0, and advantageously no greater than about 1.2, is believed to be important in creating an electrode joint having improved stability and commercially acceptable performance.

The interaction of other joint characteristics can also help optimize the electrode joint. For instance, a ratio (referred to herein as the tang diameter factor) of a factor defined by the ratio of the diameter of the male tang of the pin at its base to the male tang length can be used to provide even further enhancements to the joint. The tang diameter factor should be no greater than 2.5 times the tang factor for an especially effective joint with a tang factor of about 1.0 or higher. Indeed, the tang diameter factor should most preferably vary with the tang factor, such that when a joint with a tang factor higher than 1.0 is produced, the tang diameter factor of the joint should be lower than 2.5 times the stub factor. More specifically, for every 0.01 higher than 1.0 that the tang factor of a joint is, the maximum tang diameter factor should be about 0.016 lower than 2.5. As an example, when a joint having a tang factor of 0.85 is produced, the tang diameter factor of the male tang of the joint should be lower than about 1.28 times the tang factor of the joint.

Another joint characteristic that can come into play in designing an effective graphite electrode joint is referred to herein as the taper factor, which is defined as the ratio of the taper (expressed in degrees, and illustrated in FIG. 1 as the angles designated a) of the male tang to the tang factor. The taper factor for an effective male tang should be at least about 15, where the tang factor is 0.85, and should also vary as pins with different tang factors are produced. For instance, for every 0.01 lower than 0.85 that the tang factor of a pin is, the minimum taper factor should be about 1.25 higher than 15. As an example, when a pin having a tang factor of 1.0 is produced, the taper factor of the male tang of the pin should be at least about 45.

When employing the tang factor of at least about 0.60, and/or the tang diameter factor or taper factor of the pin as described above, a joint is produced that can achieve commercial acceptability, at least in terms of joint strength and stability. A typical graphite electrode joint produced in accordance with the invention is illustrated in FIGS. 1-3 and denoted 10. Joint 10 comprises a pin 20, a first electrode 100 and a second electrode 110, pin 20 having a first male tang 20a and a second male tang 20b. First electrode 100 and second electrode 110 each have a female socket 30. As illustrated, male tangs 20a and 20b, and female sockets 30 cooperate to form joint 10 and thus connect first electrode 100 and second electrode 110 into a column. With proper dimensioning of male tangs 20a and 20b (and corresponding dimensioning of female sockets 30), an improved joint 10 is provided.

The disclosures of all cited patents and publications referred to in this application are incorporated herein by reference.

The above description is intended to enable the person skilled in the art to practice the invention. It is not intended to detail all of the possible variations and modifications that will become apparent to the skilled worker upon reading the description. It is intended, however, that all such modifications and variations be included within the scope of the invention that is defined by the following claims. The claims are intended to cover the indicated elements and steps in any arrangement or sequence that is effective to meet the objectives intended for the invention, unless the context specifically indicates the contrary.