Romax Technology Inc. has signed a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to perform a major redesign of the research gearbox for the dynamometer testing facility at NREL's National Wind Technology Center (NWTC).
The primary goal of the redesign is to allow for the exploration of the effect of design details on the loads and deflections within the gearbox. In addition, the project will aim to improve the previous configuration's design.
Romax has developed a detailed drivetrain engineering model of the current gearbox and has performed extensive validation of the model versus test data generated so far by the program, the company explains.
In an effort to document and assess the design process, NREL previously completed a redesign/rebuild of two heavily used gearboxes that subsequently underwent in-field operation and dynamometer validation testing. With the help of industry and academic partners, NREL has highlighted significant findings to reduce the number of gearbox failures seen by the wind turbine industry.
"Gearboxes are a reliable workhorse for so many industries – they increase the output velocity and provide a large saving in the costs of the electrical machine," says Ashley Crowther, vice president of engineering at the NWTC. "Programs such as this one at NREL are important, as they improve the knowledge across the industry, allowing the progression of the wind turbine gearbox into a reliable product."
"By improving this aspect of the design, we can return to simulation, and test and demonstrate the engineering approach to ensure future gearboxes don't have such problems," adds Christ Halse, engineering manager at Romax. "An original goal of the project was to ensure modeling tools are up to the tasks of predicting gearbox behavior, and we have certainly shown Romax is on top of that."
The gearbox will be redesigned by this summer, and rebuilding will commence later in the year. Romax will be supported with engineering and drafting services from Powertrain Engineers Inc.