The UK’s Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (ORE Catapult) will invest in a state-of-the-art prototype blade manufacturing facility, helping to reduce manufacturing costs, raise production speeds and explore the potential for sustainable new materials
Its Additive Manufacturing for Wind Blades project will be located at the national renewable energy centre in Blyth. Additive manufacturing – also known as 3D printing – allows prototypes to be created quickly and cheaply. It is already being used in the construction materials sector.
ORE Catapult’s researchers say the facility will “challenge traditional blade manufacturing processes by using sophisticated 3D robotic printing techniques, investigating the use of sustainable materials, as well as flexible and more productive manufacturing methods”.
It will also allow for the “rapid production” of prototype blade enhancements, such as vortex generators and edge erosion protection systems. Wind-vortex generators energise the flow around a blade's surface and reduce aerodynamic separation, improving turbine performance in terms of power, loads and service.
ORE Catapult research and disruptive innovation director, Dr Stephen Wyatt, said the new facility would “allow us to quickly develop new blade design concepts and move from the drawing board to our test hall or development turbine in just a few days rather than months”.
He added: “The low-cost, agile nature of this process is a game-changer for the Catapult blades team, who will work with innovators to rapidly develop new and more sustainable designs for our booming sector.”
ORE Catapult plans to use the facility to support the supply chain in accelerating new and innovative prototype blade designs, as well as forging further ties with key players in industry and academia.
Ben Wood, the founder of UK wind turbine aerodynamics specialists Anakata, said that the need for ever-more efficient performance and reliability from wind turbine blades was critical.
He said: “Access to expertise and facilities such as this advanced manufacturing cell at ORE Catapult are critical to keeping UK innovators at the absolute forefront of clean energy technology.”