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GE awarded DOE grant to research 3D printing of wind turbine blades

Group will focus on AM for blade tips, enabling the design of larger rotors

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GE Research, GE Renewable Energy, and LM Wind Power, a GE Renewable Energy business, were recently selected by the Department of Energy to research the design and manufacture of 3D printed wind turbine blades. GE Renewable Energy already manufactures the world’s largest wind turbines and has been evaluating a number of different AM technologies.

The GE business units will partner with the Oakridge National Lab and the National Renewable Energy Lab on a 25-month $6.7M project to develop and demonstrate an integrated additive manufacturing process for novel high- performance blade designs for the future of large rotors.  The award was announced by DOE on January 13.

“We are excited to partner with the DOE Advanced Manufacturing Office, as well as with our world’s class partners to introduce a highly innovative advanced manufacturing and additive process to completely revolutionize the state of the art of wind blade manufacturing,” commented Matteo Bellucci, GE Renewable Energy Advanced Manufacturing Leader: “AdditivemManufacturing can bring a step change in cost and performance competitiveness in the wind industry and help GE Renewable Energy support our customers in driving the energy transition farther and faster.”

The project will deliver a full-size blade tip ready to be structurally tested, as well as three blade tips that will be installed on a wind turbine. The proposed project will focus on low-cost thermoplastic skin coupled with printed reinforcement.

“This grant will greatly help LM Wind Power to accelerate our advanced design and manufacturing technology program. It is also a clear acknowledgment of the advanced technical engineering capabilities in our two technology hubs in Greenville, SC and New Orleans, LA,” added Torben K. Jacobsen, Senior Director Advanced Technology Systems and Chief Engineering, LM Wind Power: “We look forward to work with our partners in this program and deliver tangible outcomes including the use of recyclable materials and reduced manufacturing waste.”

wind turbine blades

This project will advance the competitiveness of both onshore and offshore wind energy when commercialized, by lowering manufacturing cost, increasing supply chain flexibility, providing lighter weight blades made with more recyclable materials. All of this will help reduce the cost of Wind Energy. Design cycle time is also reduced enabling more wind farm optimization, which will yield further increases in farm annual energy production and reductions in the levelized cost of energy.

Todd Anderson, Principal Investigator at GE Research, concluded: “Through GE’s Research Lab, we literally have an entire business portfolio at Wind’s back. Over the years, GE scientists have been successful at applying our legacy of materials and composites expertise in Aviation to the wind energy space. We were the first to introduce lightweight composite fan blades in our jet engines more than two decades ago.  Today, with our business partners and leading National Laboratories, we’re bringing that experience and more to deliver a more advanced wind blade to take wind power to the next level of cost and performance.”

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites and, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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