Rotor blade manufacturing accounts for up to 20 percent of the total cost of a wind turbine and much of the work is still performed manually. The costs of rotor blade production can be noticeably reduced using innovative manufacturing technology and alternative materials. The BladeMaker demonstration center covers the whole production chain of rotor blade production and links design and manufacture in a novel way: innovative materials are used, processes optimized, and new methods applied.
The fundamental integrated machining concept allows significant time savings to be made in the production process and results in constantly high production quality. In the demonstration center, blade manufacturers, suppliers of materials for rotor blade construction, and the engineering industry can conduct test runs with their own molds and materials or can use those provided (18-meterlong segment of a rotor blade with a total length of 40 m) to identify opportunities for cost savings in their production process.
Technical process optimizations
- Different production steps can be carried out at the same machine with the aid of a gantry system by simply changing the tool.
- A direct tooling concept is available that allowes the manufacturing of molds without a master plug by using CNC controlled processes in
combinations with CAD-CAM tools.
- Innovative gripping principle for positioning fabric blanks involves taking hold of several planar layers and placing them on a substrate, where the next step of the forming takes place. The gripper system subsequently places the formed stack in the mold with spot-on precision.
- CNC-controlled production cell with 2 coordinated 6-axis gantries
(5 x 2 x 25 m), payload: max. 400 kg per unit
- Rotor blade molds with flatback airfoils and integrated sensors
(18 m section of a 40 m blade)
- Cutting center
- Prepreg machine and tape-laying system
- Automated placement of large precuts and preforms
- Automated foam application system
- Direct-infusion equipment
- Handling jigs for blade components
- Automated adhesive application and surface finishing systems
Since the demonstration center went into operation in 2017, IWES´ scientists have been working on refining manufacturing technologies extensively. Emphasis is being placed on refining individual process steps and developing new processes such as 3D printing technologies for the efficient production of rotor blade details. The focus remains on the industrialization and digitization of the entire process chain.