Q&A with Dr Martin Knops, ZF Wind Power

PARTNER CONTENT: 'Innovation is advancing and the race continues' says ZF Wind Power's CTO Dr Martin Knops.

What is the history of ZF? What is its background and heritage within the wind power/energy sector?

In 1979, Hansen Transmission pioneered wind power transmissions and were at the cutting edge of transmission technology until they were acquired by ZF in 2011. In 2015, the former Bosch Rexroth wind power activities were integrated too. Today ZF is a strong player in the market with a unique global footprint.

How is ZF coping with the desire for larger capacity turbines and high torque requirements?

ZF covers the full range of turbine capacity up to the largest offshore applications with 10 MW. With our SHIFT platforms 2k, 4k and 6k we offer tailored solutions from a modular system with up to 7300 kNm torque and with maximum flexibility and upgradability.

Are gearboxes going to continue to get bigger and heavier or is innovation coping with this trend?

"Torque density increase" is the term driving the industry. Our first 6 MW gearbox had a weight of approximately 65 tonnes. The SHIFT 6k gearbox weighs roughly 40 tonnes for a similar torque and power. Proving that innovation is advancing and the race continues.

Is the supply chain in a position to cope with these larger components?

Absolutely. Regionalisation is sometimes a challenge. But, in general, the supply chain is ready. Of course torque density and, for example, the move to multiple planets limits the increase in the size of components.

Will ZF continue to be able to transport these larger components? Will it need to diversify its manufacturing footprint?

ZF has a unique footprint with production hubs in Europe, China and India and this set-up works. However, larger components have an effect on logistics. Today’s big onshore turbines drive trains or power trains are often transported separately from the nacelle to the wind-park due to maximum weight constraints for transportation. 

Is ZF looking at new materials or production techniques to lighten its products?

Yes - we are looking into higher casting material grades and investigating additive manufacturing.

Does ZF have the capability to expand beyond gearbox manufacturing?

Yes - we are ready to assemble and test full power trains. We already use this capability for one of our major customers.

How will ZF be able to keep these new generation gearboxes in operations over its lifetime (20/25/30 years)?

In general, we see very good performances of our gearboxes in the field and we are very engaged in proactive and preventive maintenance. Digitalisation brings enormous potential for optimisation and our respective offerings of "service powered by analytics" are well perceived in the market.

Will additive manufacturing (3D printing) gain greater traction in the drivetrain industry?

We see high potential for different applications, both for saving weight and cost.

Do you have any comments on the future of the renewable industry?

The future is bright. The world is moving away from fossil to green energy and this trend will absolutely continue. But the challenges are enormous and competition is not resting. Also the competition between different sources of renewable energy will further intensify. Solar has seen a tremendous development. Obviously there is room for both wind and solar, but the market share will depend on the innovation power in both technologies.

This article is sponsored by ZF

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles
and free email bulletins.

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in