Additive Manufacturing Applications for Wind Turbines

University essay from KTH/Maskinkonstruktion (Inst.); KTH/Maskinkonstruktion (Inst.)

Abstract: Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D-printing is an automated manufacturing process in which the component is built layer upon layer from a predefined 3D computer model. In contrast to conventional manufacturing processes where a vast volume of material is wasted due to machining, AM only uses the material that the component consists of. In addition to material savings, the method has a number of potential benefits. Two of these are (1) a large design freedom which enables the production of complex geometries and (2) a reduced compexity in supply chain as parts can be printed on-demand rather than be kept in stock. This master thesis has been performed at Vattenfall Wind Power and aims to investigate the feasibility to reproduce and/or to refurbish one or two spare parts on a wind turbine by AM and if it can introduce any practical benefits. Components with a high failure rate and/or with an suitible design for AM have been investigated. A rotating union or fluid rotary joint (FRJ) was selected for further analysis. A comprehensive background study has been conducted. A current status of metal AM is described as well as a comparison between conventional and additive processes. Furthermore, current and future applications for AM witihin the wind turbine industry are presented. The mehodology "reverse engineering", main components in a wind power plant including the fluid rotary joint as well as fluid dynamics are also treated in the background study. As a part of the process, a fluid rotary joint with worse historical failure data was disassembled and examined. In order to find other design solutions that contributes to a better and more reliable operation, another better performing fluid roraty joint was investigated. Since detail drawings and material information are missing for the examined units, reverse engineering has been carried out to gather details of the designs. A concept for the first unit has been developed, in which improved design solutions has been introduced and a number of changes have been implemented in order to minimize material consumption and to adapt the design for AM. The concept has been evaluated by the use of numerical methods. Costs and build time have also been estimated for the developed concept. This project has illustated that it is feasable to manufacture spare parts by the use of AM. The developed concept demonstrates several improvements that are not possible to achieve with conventional manufacturing processes. Nevertheless, a number of limitations such as insufficient build volume, costs as well as time cosuming engineering effort and post-proccessing methods are present for AM. These restrictions, in combination with lack of 3D-models, limits the possibility to make use of the technology. However, the future looks bright, if the technology continues to develop and if subcontractors are willing to adapt to AM it will probably have a major breakthrough within the windpower industry.

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