GE Renewable Energy, LM Wind Power and GE Research, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), have completed trials for the Automated Blade Finishing program.
The initiative, which was launched last year, aims to improve throughput, environmental health and safety, and quality in wind turbine blade manufacturing. Blade finishing includes trimming excess material after molding and grinding blade surface to meet quality requirements.
The program’s vision is to leverage knowledge of advanced composite processing together with sensing, robotics and automation to develop low-cost solutions for wind blade finishing with potential to increase throughput by 30 percent and improve EHS in factories. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the team moved rapidly from concept to prototype boosted by the capabilities offered at NREL’s Composites Manufacturing Education and Technology facilities to perform quick proof of concept trials on blade sections.
The team was then able to collaborate with engineering, operations and EHS group at a LM Wind Power factory in Grand Forks, N.D. to perform successful trials on an actual wind turbine blade in production.
The program is supported by funding from DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) and Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT). AMO, through the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, awarded NREL $800,000. This was matched by $400,000 from OEDIT, with $600,000 in company matching contributions.