Fraunhofer to Create Automation Process for Rotor Blade Production
Manufacturing the rotor blades for wind turbines like this one, from REPower Systems AG, is still mainly a manual process. Now Fraunhofer Institute has embarked on a research project to find a way to leverage automation to cut more than 10 percent of the costs out of the current process. REPower is one of the partners on the project, called BladeMaker. (Source: REPower Systems AG)
I think this is a very well-intentioned and much-needed effort by Fraunhofer to try to inject automation into the blade-building process. Automation has already cut costs and reduced production times for other industries, and I think if the same can be done for turbine blades it would also help promote the use of turbines as alternative energy sources. Wind is an abundant and plentifull source of energy and more adoption (within reason due to economic impact of turbines) is one of the ways out of traditional energy dependence.
This is one of many pieces of the puzzle for renewable energy. Cost reduction -- particularly through elimination of manual labor for big parts like turbine blades -- is going to be important going forward.
That's very true, Charles, and Fraunhofer seems to have the reputation and the knowhow to make some inroads here. They've also partnered with industry leaders, so hopefully if they put all their heads together they can come up with some good ideas.
Fraunhofer sure has its fingers in a lot of R&D pies. This sounds like the clever and innovative stuff they've come up with in materials, as well as other automated manufacturing techniques from composite production for autos, to repair robots, to big 3D printers for car makers. Thanks for reporting this.
It is very surprising that this process isn't already automated but clearly reducing system cost (and total installed cost) is a must for nearly all renewable energy projects. Good to see work being done on this, an important step toward viability in the future.
Size has absolutely been an issue, no doubt about it. The servo system to handle the lenngth of a blade must have high resolution over a 150 foot, or more, length, a width of perhaps 25 feet, and possibly ten feet in the third direction. So just that part of the composite blade building system is a big deal. The other part of the challenge has been the low production rate, which has not been enough to support the investment for a fully automated system. That has been a real impediment.