Additive Manufacturing blows the wind of change through renewables
The key publication for the wind power generation industry, Windpower Monthly, has recently called Additive Manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D Printing, a “game changing” technology for the wind and renewable power industries.
It hails AM as the best way to eliminate labour-intensive, manufacturing and assembly processes in the manufacture of wind turbines. (It also hails the US efforts in making turbine moulds by a unique and unusual AM process). It describes how AM’s unique build properties have the ability to combine components into new geometries, which were previously impossible.
As the number of wind turbines manufactured increases the costs of production become ever more important. The magazine notes that AM’s ability to turn CAD drawings directly into components reduces the lead-time and cost of production because there is no need to develop tooling before moving directly to manufacture.
The article notes that AM is the ideal medium to manufacture production parts which are complex in shape and comprise of multiple parts. It comments that AM’s ability to add internal channels, make lightweight structures and integrate functions or add functionalities makes AM production a key component of wind turbine manufacture in the future. As AM pushes the costs of manufacture down it will assist the spread of the technology, bringing electricity generation to communities around the world.
It is not just in the manufacture of turbine generators that AM is adding value. It is also in the supply chain that AM will enable the growth of wind generation. Supply chain management is simplified as AM allows true Just In Time supply. Put simply, AM allows parts to be made just as they are needed. As 3T RPDs customers in the Formula 1 industry have found, AM also allows part suppliers to incorporate design changes and improvements immediately into components, rather than wait for tooling to be updated and changed. This ability to make changes on the run allows suppliers to continually update the generator components at a reduced cost, improving their efficiency and longevity. In due course AM will enable generators to be kept in service as they come to the end of their working lives and suppliers need to provide legacy parts for them.
Wind generation is supporting the production of ‘green’ energy around the world. This competitive market is being strengthened and developed through its use of AM. The development of ‘green’ energy and the need to lighten, simplify and reduce the manufacturing costs of the generators will mean that AM manufactured products will play a growing role in this vital industry for the future.
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We have produced an infographic showing the breadth of products which are manufactured by AM for the wind power generation industry. Click on the image to download it.