3D-printing of offshore turbine components can cut costs
The world’s largest polymer 3D printer at ORML. Author: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. License: Creative Commons, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Recent researches show that additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D-printing, can be used to produce components for offshore wind and tidal energy turbines at lower costs, according to Belgian technological centre Sirris.
The 'Offshore Wind Infrastructure Application Lab (OWI-Lab), an R&D initiative coordinated by Sirris, presents the advantages of using this technology in the renewables space in an article published on Monday. It says that additive manufacturing comes with further costs compared to traditional production methods, but these can be offset by savings within the product development cycle and the fact that the 3D-printing technology facilitates the addition of more functions in the components.
The article mentioned a recent research project implemented by the US energy department’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) and partners, as part of which mold sections measuring almost 2 metres were printed using a Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) 3D printer at an Oak Ridge National Laboratory facility in the US state of Tennessee. Various blades have been produced as demonstrator during this research project using the mold assembled from 3D-printed pieces.
OWI-Lab points out that 3D-printing not only cuts prototyping costs but also allows for the introduction of new production methods that create less waste, have shorter lead times and offer more flexibility at the design stage. Printers are also increasing in size, expanding the range of opportunities for tidal and wind turbine blades.