Advanced Manufacturing Initiative Improves Turbine Blade Productivity
The Advanced Manufacturing Initiative (AMI) at DOE's Sandia National Laboratories is working with industry to improve manufacturing processes and create U.S. jobs by improving labor productivity in wind turbine blade construction.
The Advanced Manufacturing Initiative - Blades (AMI-Blades) is a collaborative manufacturing research effort involving DOE/Sandia, TPI Composites, and the Iowa Office of Energy Independence (OEI)/ Iowa State University (ISU).
Certain components of wind turbine blades are naturally more suitable to domestic manufacturing due to significant transportation and storage costs of large parts. Currently, the manufacture of composite wind turbine blades is extremely labor intensive. This fact puts the United States at a disadvantage when compared to low cost-of-labor markets such as Brazil, India, China, and Mexico.
The key to making U.S.-based construction of wind blades competitive is labor productivity. As labor productivity increases, its relative share of blade cost decreases. Therefore, the transportation advantage of domestic manufacture for the domestic market grows. To achieve this increase in labor productivity, significant improvements are needed in manufacturing processes, automation, and part quality. To this end, here are some recent AMI accomplishments:
- Completed a virtual factory model for the TPI-Newton plant generated at Sandia and transferred to TPI-Newton. Utility of model led TPI to purchase (outside AMI) the factory modeling software.
- Successfully demonstrated a true 3D laser projection system coupled to 3D composite part simulation software. This part of the AMI project has now been fully value engineered and the resulting labor savings are 10.4% for blade molding and 3.75% of the total labor per blade. AMI leased the 3D laser projection equipment for this effort.
- Completed a comprehensive study of candidate non-destructive inspection technologies. This study focused on the particular thicknesses and material architectures used by TPI Composites at the Newton, Iowa facility.
AMI's work and accomplishments continue to enable the growth of domestic-supplied blade manufacturers and ensure supply chain advantages.
Sandia National Laboratories is headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and specializes in all aspects of wind turbine blade design and system reliability. Activities focus on reducing the cost of wind-generated electricity and improving the reliability of systems operating nationwide. Sandia's research addresses materials, manufacturing, aerodynamics, aeroacoustics, structural analysis, resource characterization, and integration studies. By partnering with universities and industry, Sandia has advanced knowledge in the areas of materials, structurally efficient airfoil designs, active-flow aerodynamic control, and sensors.