The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult has outlined its ambition to boost the wind turbine blade designs of the future with investment in a state-of-the-art prototype blade manufacturing facility.
The Additive Manufacturing for Wind Blades project will install an advanced manufacturing cell at ORE Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth, capable of proving technologies which can reduce blade manufacturing costs, increase production speeds and explore the potential for new materials with a reduced environmental impact.
The blade 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. The facility will also allow the rapid production of prototype blade enhancements such as vortex generators and edge erosion protection systems.
ORE Catapult plans to use the facility to directly support UK SME and supply chain development to accelerate new and innovative prototype blade designs for application in the wind industry, as well as forging further ties with key players in industry, such as original equipment manufacturers and academia.
Dr Stephen Wyatt, Research and Disruptive Innovation Director at ORE Catapult, said: “Our new Additive cell will 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. 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.”
Ben Wood, founder of UK wind turbine aerodynamics specialists Anakata, said: “As we look to drive ever-more efficient performance and reliability from wind turbine blades, so we need to continually strive for improved materials, design and manufacture. 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.”