Iowa State University Researchers Work To Improve Wind Turbine Manufacturing Process

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Iowa State University (ISU) researchers are working with researchers from TPI Composites, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company that operates a wind turbine blade factory in Newton, Iowa, and the Department of Energy's (DOE) Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., to improve the process currently used to manufacture wind turbine blades.

The researchers' work is supported by a three-year, $6.3 million project called the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Initiative. One-third of the project's funding is from the Iowa Power Fund, a state program to advance energy innovation and independence. TPI Composites and the DOE are also providing equal shares of funding.

The grant will allow ISU to establish a Wind Energy Manufacturing Laboratory on campus. The lab will feature the work of four faculty researchers. The grant will also support the research of five graduate students and several undergraduates.

‘The current manufacturing methods are very labor-intensive,’ says John Jackman, an associate professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering at ISU. ‘We need to improve throughput – we need to get more blades produced every week in order for it to be economical to continue to produce wind energy components in the United States.’

The researchers' goal is to develop new, low-cost manufacturing systems that could improve the productivity of turbine blade factories by as much as 35%.

SOURCE: Iowa State University

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