The team that produced the first wind turbine blade from a 3-D printed mold has been recognized for a design that could help shorten the time and expense of developing new wind technologies.
Sandia National Laboratories last week said it won the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer’s national 2018 Technology Focus Award for the 3-D printed mold design.
According to Sandia, the design could help reduce the time it takes to create prototypes for wind turbine parts from 16 months to about three months.
Sandia said it led a partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and wind turbine blade manufacturer TPI Composites for the project, which included 3-D printing the mold directly from a digital design. The demonstration focused on 13-meter blade. Blades of a 1.5-MW wind turbine, for example, are about 35 meters long. Sandia said that if the smaller demonstration design were to be applied at larger scales in industry, “designers could take more risks with experimental designs and accelerate innovation in wind technologies.”
Sandia led the design of the blade, including an assessment of the feasibility of using additive manufacturing. TPI consulted on the mechanical parameters and performed the structural design and computer aided design geometry required to successfully mold the blade. Oak Ridge printed the mold in several sections in two weeks, with the final assembly and manufacturing of the blade at TPI.
“The wind department at Sandia has expertise is designing blades, but our group doesn’t work with additive manufacturing,” Sandia researcher Josh Paquette said in a statement. “This project was an opportunity to combine expertise from two laboratories and an industry adviser that could immediately bring this knowledge into the private sector.”
Image right: courtesy of Brittany Cramer, Oak Ridge National Laboratory