3D printing of turbine blades

Between 2020 and 2030, it has been forecasted that approximately 4,091 offshore turbines will be installed throughout all of Europe.[1] Counting the modern standard design of 3 blades each, we can anticipate that 12,273 turbine blades are needed. Current practice is already facing transportation challenges, where blades being produced at inland facilities, need to be transported by trucks to ports and onto jack-up vessels that are raised above the sea level at the construction site for installation.[2] Currently, 10 MW blades are 80 meters long and 164 meters in diameter, making transportation of blades even more difficult and expensive.[3]

3D printing these blades on-site on the offshore jack-up platforms will afford significant reduction of transportation costs. Transport of blades can currently amount to 20% of development costs. Additionally, 3D printed blades have already reached the strength and effectiveness of current blades, and have shown to cut down manufacturing time by 35% and requires fewer materials.[5,6] Jack-up platforms are moveable, and can be repositioned at the installation site to print blades where they are needed, leading to higher production efficiency and a smaller carbon footprint.[5,7,8] The challenge remains to put these very large printers onto floating platforms.

When will it become accepted practice that turbine blades will be 3D printed offshore, at the sites of wind park development projects?

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[1] Nghiem, A., Pineda, I (2017), Wind energy in Europe: Scenarios for 2030. Calculation:(70GW*-25**)/11MW***=4091
[2] Ziton: Efficient Turnkey Solutions (2020).
[3] Hill, J (2018), Vestas unveils world’s first 10 MW wind turbine.
[4] Gosman, T., (2010), Cutting transport costs down to size
[5] GlobalData Energy (2019), 3D printing and the power industry: How technology is transforming the sector.
[6] Bassett, K., Carriveau, R., Ting, D., (2015), 3D printed wind turbines part 1: Design considerations and rapid manufacture potential
[7] Atwell, C., (2019), Energy Industry to Utilise 3D Printers
[8] David (2018), Sandia's first 3D printed wind turbine blade mold wins national Technology Focus Award
More information:
Allied Market Research (2018), 3D Printing Market Outlook - 2025
Galbraith, K., (2009), Slow, Costly and Often Dangerous Road to Wind Power
Cohen, A., (2019), As Global Energy Demands Grows, So Does Appetite For Offshore Wind
Post et al., (2017), Big Area Additive Manufacturing Application in Wind Turbine Molds
Cotrell, J., et al., (2014), Analysis of Transportation and Logistics Challenges Affecting the Deployment of Larger Wind Turbines: Summary of Results
Markets and Markets (2017), Offshore Wind Market worth $55,109.6 million by 2022
Gao, W., et al. (2015), The status, challenges, and future of additive manufacturing in engineering

By Matthew J. Spaniol