The world’s largest 3D printer will provide cheaper wind turbines

GE wants to print molds for its offshore wind farm Haliade-X. To succeed, the company must build 3D printers that the world has never seen before.

With a production capacity of 3.6 GW, British Dogger Bank Wind Farm will be able to supply up to six million households. This makes it the world’s largest offshore wind farm, and it is based on General Electric’s Haliade-X. The huge wind turbine reaches a height of 248 meters, and has a rotor with a diameter of 220 meters.

Now GE Renewable Energy will accelerate the production of the giant wind turbine with the help of additive manufacturing. It reports Offshore Wind. The idea is to print sand molds that will then be used to cast parts for the metal casing that covers the wind turbine’s engine house. According to GE, this will shorten the process of developing molds from today’s ten weeks – to two weeks.

The complicated metal parts can have a diameter of up to 9.5 meters, with a weight exceeding 60 tons. To this end, GE will develop the world’s largest 3D printer. The task has been outsourced to the German Voxeljet, which uses binder-jetting technology. There, a powder of metal, composite or just sand is bound with a liquid medium.

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– This unparalleled manufacturing technology changes the playing field when it comes to production efficiency, and makes it possible to locate production locally in high-cost countries – which is a crucial advantage for our customers who want to maximize the economic development that offshore wind power delivers locally, says Pablo Cilia, who leads the work with additive technology at GE Renewable Energy to Offshore Wind.

The casting itself is done by the Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV, with surrounding material technology and digital processes.

The entire project will be launched during the third quarter of this year, with the first printer tests during the first quarter of 2022.


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