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The ACC printer will be designed to print molds for key
components of wind turbines. Picture credit: voxeljet

GE in tie-up to develop 3D printer for wind turbines

MUNICH, September 19, 2021

GE, Fraunhofer IGCV and voxeljet AG have announced a research partnership to develop the world’s largest 3D printer for offshore wind applications to streamline the production of key components of GE’s Haliade-X offshore wind turbine.

The Advance Casting Cell (ACC) 3D printer under development will benefit from financial support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and will be capable of printing molds to cast components for the nacelle of the GE Haliade-X that can each weigh more than 60 metric tons, reducing the time it takes to produce this pattern and mold from ten weeks or more to just two weeks.

In addition, the use of the 3D printer is expected to reduce the product’s carbon footprint by eliminating the need to transport the large parts from a central manufacturing location. The partners expect to launch the project during the third quarter of 2021 with initial printer trials starting during the first quarter of 2022.

The project involves the development of a new, large format 3D printer capable of producing sand molds for casting the highly complex metal parts of different shapes and sizes that make up an offshore wind turbine nacelle. The modular 3D printing process, which is based on voxeljet’s core “Binder-Jetting” technology, can be configured to print molds for castings up to 9.5 meters in diameter and 60-plus tons in weight.

Juan Pablo Cilia, Senior Additive Design Engineer at GE Renewable Energy, said: “The 3D printed molds will bring many benefits including improved casting quality through improved surface finish, part accuracy and consistency. Furthermore, sand binder jet molds or additive molds provide cost savings by reducing machining time and other material costs due to optimized design. This unprecedented production technology will be a game changer for production efficiency allowing localized manufacturing in high cost countries, a key benefit for our customers looking to maximize the local economic development benefits of offshore wind.”

The Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV is responsible for casting and materials technology issues as well as digital process monitoring.

“We are taking a close look at thermal management during casting, and we will evaluate the ideal proportions of the printing materials,” said Dr. Daniel Günther, Head of Department Molding Processes and Molding Materials at Fraunhofer IGCV. “Also, we will develop and test new approaches to process monitoring as part of the project.”

The International Energy Agency3 has projected that global offshore wind capacity will increase 15-fold by 2040, becoming a 1 trillion dollar industry, thanks to falling costs, supportive government policies and technological progress like that behind the Haliade-X offshore turbine from GE Renewable Energy.

GE Renewable Energy has been selected to supply its Haliade-X turbine for 5.7 GW worth of projects in Europe and the US. The company is a member of the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) and as part of that supports various initiatives that aim at increasing the production of sustainable wind energy. – TradeArabia News Service




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