ZF recruits Vestas as first gearbox customer

GERMANY: Vestas has become the first customer for newly arrived German gearbox manufacturer and potential purchaser of Hansen, ZF Friedrichshafen.

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Earlier this year ZF, perhaps best known for the design and manufacture of advanced automotive transmissions, announced plans to enter the wind market in 2012 with a new wind-turbine gearbox design.

Vestas will be its first customer when it fits the gearboxes into all of the company's new GridStreamer turbines.

The new modular design gearbox is claimed to be more compact with a lower mass compared to existing gearboxes of a similar power rating.

The gearbox-development project commenced in 2008 and took three years to complete. The design team benefited from the in-house know-how of ZF's service organisation, which specialised in upkeep, repair and overhauling services for third-party wind-turbine gearboxes.

The gearboxes will be manufactured in a new US-based €90-million facility. Additionally, the heavy castings will be US made.

Company spokesperson Marcel Pooth added that ZF — being a wind-industry entrant — decided to initially focus on a reliable conventional gearbox-design concept in the 2MW class, but that a bigger 2.5MW unit is also planned.

ZF's recent takeover bid of leading Belgium gearbox supplier Hansen Transmissions could, if successful, substantially accelerate the initial company ambition to gain market share and build confidence through a parallel process.

Germany-headquartered ZF Friedrichshafen is an automotive supplier for Driveline and Chassis Technology with 117 production companies in 26 countries.

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