3D-printed turbine components

Europe has over 4,000 offshore wind turbines in operation, supplying a total of 15.8 GW. Installed grid-connected capacity is expected to grow to 25 GW by 2020.[1] As the installed capacity of offshore wind grows, so does the requirements for maintenance. In its third year in operation, the offshore wind turbine will average 10 failures, out of which 8 require minor repairs.[2,3] 3D-printing of offshore wind turbine components promises to reduce downtime, transportation costs, and labour-intensive manufacturing and assembly costs.[4]

3D-printing is a fast-growing industry with a global market value of $4.16bn in 2014, which is projected to reach $44.39bn in 2025.[5] Onsite 3D-printing, requires adaptability for different turbines, wind conditions, and grid resources at a given location.[6]  

Onsite repairs and updates remove the necessity of sending people offshore, minimizing the need for human intervention.[6] Onsite 3D printing of components and repair robots will allow designers, engineers, and service companies, to reimagine not only the maintenance process, but the production process as well, and could lead to a 75% reduction in development time.[6] 3D-printers can make use of damaged components by recycling and reforming them that can reduce the need for the transportation of printing material.[4]

When will onsite 3D-printing and robotic repair of wind turbine components become an accepted practice?

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[1] Wind Europe (2018), Offshore wind in Europe grew 25% in 2017
[2] Carrol, J., McDonald, A. & McMillan D. (2015), Failure rate, repair time and unscheduled O&M cost analysis of offshore wind turbines
[3] Dinwoodie, I., Endrerud, O., Hofmann, M., Martin, R. & Sperstad, I. (2015), Reference Cases for Verification of Operation and Maintenance Simulation Models for Offshore Wind Farms
[4] Oak Ridge National Laboratory, (2017), The Current State of Additive Manufacturing in Wind Energy Systems
[5] Allied Market Research, (2018), 3D Printing Market Outlook - 2025
[6] , Dodd, J., (2017), Additive manufacturing will be a 'gamechanger'
More information:
Gerdes, J., (2017), Is 3-D Printing the Solution for Ultra-Tall Wind Turbine Towers?
Wind Europe, (2018), World’s first offshore wind farm without subsidies to be built in the Netherlands.
Windustry, (2020), How much do wind turbines cost?
Moelgaard-Thomsen, J., (2018), Here is the world’s largest wind turbine blade.

By Matthew J. Spaniol