Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology (IGCV) and voxeljet AG have partnered to develop a 3D printer for offshore wind applications. The printer will be an advance casting cell (ACC) 3D printer and will receive funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. It is expected to be the largest 3D printer for offshore wind purposes in the world. The management of casting and materials technology as well as digital process monitoring will be undertaken by the Fraunhofer IGCV.

The printer aims to streamline the production of vital components of GE’s Haliade-X offshore wind turbine. It is expected to have a capacity of generating molds to cast components for the nacelle of the GE Haliade-X, each weighing more than 60 metric tons. This will bring down the time to produce a mold from ten weeks to roughly two weeks. The 3D printer molds are expected to improve the casting quality through improved surface finish. The design of sand binder jet molds or additive molds will facilitate a reduction in material costs and machining time. The technology is also expected to boost localized production in countries which presently face high costs of production for offshore wind. Furthermore, the printer will also allow a reduction in the carbon footprint by eliminating the need for transport of manufacturing parts from long distances. The trials are likely to begin during the first quarter of 2022.

By the year 2040, the global offshore wind capacity is anticipated to increase 15-fold, as per the International Energy Agency. The industry is witnessing falling costs owing to rapid technological progress and regulatory support. The Haliade-X offshore turbine from GE Renewable Energy is one such technological advancement. The company has planned to supply its Haliade-X turbine for 5.7 GW capacity of projects in Europe and the US.

REGlobal’s Views: Offshore wind has fast gained traction across the globe and especially in Europe due to its cost competitiveness and massive potential to generate energy. Thus, various technological innovations are focused on further improving the cost efficiency and logistical issues in this space.