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JFE Steel Corporation

JFE Steel Develops Cleaning Robot for Harsh Operating Conditions —
Reduces Burden on Human Workers and Improves Safety and Productivity

JFE Steel Corporation announced today that it has developed the self-propelled cleaning robot capable of operating under harsh conditions such as high temperatures, in dusty environments, or on uneven surfaces. Deployment of the new robot to perform automated cleaning of steelworks equipment will reduce the burden on human workers and improve safety and productivity.

JFE Steel is deploying robots and implementing other remote operations with the aim of boosting productivity. Automated robots are being deployed predominantly to perform tasks that are complicated, dangerous or otherwise burdensome for human workers. The steelmaking process involves equipment that handles iron ore, coal and other materials containing fine powder or dust. Dust collectors are installed and regular dust cleaning carried out to prevent this from being blown or scattered around the immediate environment.

This cleaning is currently performed by humans, but it imposes an extremely heavy burden on them when carried out in the vicinity of high-temperature equipment. Robots operating in such environments require cooling mechanisms to prevent damage to their internal electronic boards, but the exhaust fans commonly used for this can scatter dust and cause it to be drawn into a robot’s internal components, damaging these. This has impeded the deployment of robots in high-temperature and other harsh operating environments.

To address this, JFE Steel has developed an internal cooling mechanism designed to cope with high-temperature environments and incorporated this into a self-propelled robot. Heat-insulating material installed inside the robot helps to block external heat, and the robot’s unique internal cooling mechanism utilizes the phase transition-associated heat absorption that occurs when substances such as resin or water evaporate.1 This allows the robot to operate continuously without suffering damage to its internal electronics.

So that it can see and navigate through its environment, the robot is equipped with LiDAR sensors2 that monitor the distance to its surroundings and obstacles, with SLAM3 being used as the positioning system. This means that when deployed to clean within a specific area, the robot is able to detect differences between its own position and its target route, enabling it to move autonomously along a target route as it performs cleaning work.

JFE Steel has already carried out durability tests of the new robots within steelmaking environments. The company plans to deploy them within all of its steelworks facilities across all of its sites, partially automating the dust cleaning process and thereby reducing the burden on workers and improving safety and productivity.

JFE Steel is actively adopting digital technologies under a digital transformation strategy designed to make its operations more productive as well as more stable. Initiatives have included the opening of the new JFE Digital Transformation Center (JDXC) and the deployment of cyber-physical systems across the steelmaking process. Looking ahead, JFE Steel plans to address a wide range of issues through digital transformation as it helps to create a more sustainable world.


1. Phase transitions occur when a substance changes to or from a solid, liquid, or gaseous state.

2. LiDAR: Light Detection And Ranging - a sensing method that involves illuminating objects with near-infrared (or other wavelength) light and calculating the distance to those objects based on the time taken for the light to reflect off the objects and hit an optical sensor.

3. SLAM: Simultaneous Localization and Mapping. A system that both maps the environment around an object and detects its position and orientation on that map. The map is generated using LiDAR sensor data to determine how the robot is positioned in relation to surrounding obstacles.

Self-propelled cleaning robot for harsh environments

Self-propelled cleaning robot for harsh environments

Positioning based on SLAM

Positioning based on SLAM


About JFE Steel Corporation

JFE Steel Corporation, one of the world’s leading integrated steel producers, was established through the consolidation of NKK Corporation and Kawasaki Steel Corporation in 2003. The company operates several steelworks in Japan and numerous branch offices and affiliates throughout the world. JFE Steel leverages world-class technologies and know-how to produce a wide range of products based on its “Only One, Number One” strategy of focusing on unique and best-in-class products. The company reported consolidated sales of 2,255 billion yen and consolidated crude steel output of 23.96 million tons in the fiscal year ended March 2021.

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