Upgrade your steel quality with automation and XRD

How modern XRD and cutting-edge automation solutions can help the steel industry achieve greater efficiency and lower emissions in a challenging market environment.

Two workers wearing in the steel manufacture hall room

Steel is the foundation of our modern world, but using carbon-based iron oxide reduction to produce steel is a huge source of human-driven carbon dioxide emissions. Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) offers a more environmentally friendly alternative without compromising steel quality. By using a reducing gas such as hydrogen or carbon monoxide, DRI reduces iron ore directly, which significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions.

As DRI is increasingly adopted, new opportunities are opening up to make the steelmaking process not only greener, but also more efficient. In this blog, you’ll learn how you can use modern X-ray diffraction (XRD) technology and process control automation solutions to fully enhance your steelmaking processes.

Not familiar with DRI yet? Check out this handy Knowledge Center article by Dr. Uwe König, Global Mining & Metals Segment Manager at Malvern Panalytical.

Automate your steelmaking to the next level

It’s tempting to think of DRI solely as a means of reducing emissions, but it also offers the opportunity to make steel more efficiently. At Malvern Panalytical, we’d suggest that finding these efficiencies is less of a luxury and more of a necessity. Here’s why:

  • The number of samples to process has increased. Automation handles them more quickly.
  • Price sensitivity has increased too. Automation reduces costs.
  • Labs are perceived as an expense rather than a value driver. Automation unlocks the full potential of your existing instruments.
  • It’s harder to find trained operators. Automation removes much of the training burden.
  • Compliance requirements are becoming more stringent. Automation can account for every single action it takes and handle hazardous materials safely.

Fortunately, just as regulatory and societal pressure to decarbonize steelmaking has grown, technology has now matured to the point where this level of automation is possible.

Today, we can automate interactions between instruments, such as data exchange and sample handling. Even better: Malvern Panalytical has resourced a dedicated team to help you identify these automation opportunities – the Process Automation Group.

What are the benefits? From what we’ve seen in automating production control processes of many of our customers, it eases many of the challenges of modern steelmaking, not only the environmental concerns.


Automation goes hand-in-hand with XRD analysis – a modern method that adds value to your DRI process monitoring.

As DRI establishes itself as a leading method of steelmaking, it becomes necessary to monitor processes more frequently and accurately so that manufacturers can have confidence in the efficiency and reliability of newly developed technologies. The problem is that physical testing – the most common testing method – is time-consuming, as are other methods such as wet chemistry and elemental analysis. The result? The key properties of DRI don’t get checked often enough; your visibility into the quality of your steelmaking is diminished.

Aeris, one of Malvern Panalytical XRD instrument, can help with analysis to ensure steel quality

But with XRD, this kind of detailed process control can be done quickly and accurately. Thanks to its speed, XRD is more suitable for use in production environments than other analytical methods. In turn, the ability to analyze steel as it’s being made opens up analytical possibilities that didn’t exist before.

At-line XRD can rapidly optimize the parameters of your DRI process, adding to the direct energy savings of using DRI. Modern XRD instruments are also designed to operate autonomously, so these adjustments are made automatically and in real-time.

In short, XRD means faster analysis, closer to the action, in an automated way: a hat-trick of efficiencies. Malvern Panalytical has been supplying industry-leading X-ray diffractometers for many decades. Our solutions are trusted by mining and metals customers around the world. To find out how we can help, why not visit our dedicated iron and steel production page?

Improve steel quality with Malvern Panalytical solution

Malvern Panalytical has been successfully automating laboratories since 1994, with over 250 projects completed to date. We have worked with some of the biggest names in the industry to deliver the efficiencies they need across a wide range of analytical technologies.

We offer a dedicated Process Automation Group – a one-stop shop for laboratories of all sizes. Whether your lab is 3m2 or 300m2, our Process Automation Group offers extensive analytical knowledge across many technologies, so you start getting more out of your instruments – whatever function they perform individually.

Curious? We know automation comes in many forms, so why not test us? We’ve designed systems where two complete labs can work together in a fully redundant setup, and we’ve designed others where human intervention is still necessary, making operatives more efficient than they would be without automation.

To find out more about Malvern Panalytical automation solutions and how they can benefit your lab, please visit our automation web pages. Any questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us!

Further reads