How Is 3D Printing Technology Applied To Wind Turbine Manufacturing?

- Nov 27, 2018-

How is 3D printing technology applied to wind turbine manufacturing?

If you've ever driven a truck over a large part of a wind turbine, you'll find that its limitations are obvious. As the blades get longer and longer, the towers are getting higher and higher, and it becomes very difficult to transport these large parts on the highway.

A California startup has come up with a solution: RCAM Technologies recently received a $1.25 million grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to test the feasibility of manufacturing concrete towers on the wind farm through 3D printing.

At present, the average tower height of the US wind turbines is only 80 meters. RCAM Technologies, founded by Jason Cotrell from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), plans to use a 3D printing technology, reinforced concrete additive manufacturing technology, to make towers of 140 meters or more. Cotrell left the National Renewable Energy Laboratory NREL in May to seek funding to develop the technology.

With NREL's Cost of Energy (LCOE) modeling tool, the company expects a 140-meter-tall tower to increase power generation by more than 20% in areas with suitable wind-shear wind energy. By enabling the blades to capture more stable and stronger wind energy, the ultra-high tower will significantly increase the capacity factor and greatly reduce power generation costs.

According to the funding application form submitted to the California Energy Commission (CEC), RCAM Technologies believes that 3D printing technology "will make it possible to manufacture towers on the wind farm site at half the cost of traditional steel towers, in areas with lower wind speeds, It can reduce the power cost of wind power by 11%."

Digital concrete

Cotrell said in a video released by NREL: "When building a wind farm, we tend to use the highest possible wind turbines to capture wind energy resources with higher wind speeds. However, in this case, the diameter of the tower It will also become very large, greatly increasing the difficulty of road transport. 3D printing technology allows us to use an automated concrete manufacturing process to produce towers at the wind farm site, thus avoiding transportation and logistics restrictions."

Under an agreement with the California Energy Commission, RCAM Technologies will be responsible for designing the lower half of two ultra-high hybrid wind turbine towers between 140 and 170 meters high. The upper half of the tower will use a traditional tapered steel tower, while the lower half will be constructed using reinforced concrete additive manufacturing techniques. The prototype part of the concrete tower will be manufactured using a robotic arm and a 3D printer and will be tested at the University of California, Irvine.

In practice, RCAM Technologies plans to manufacture these large-diameter concrete towers at the wind farm site, either by concrete transported by standard transport vehicles or by concrete from mixing equipment such as foundation casting.

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