Researchers Employ Robots in Wind Turbine Blade Manufacturing

by | 8. May 2024 - 12:35 | Knowledge

Automation in clean energy manufacturing could reduce costs and increase competitiveness.

Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a U.S. Department of Energy research facility, have successfully incorporated robots in constructing wind turbine blades. In a paper published in the journal Wind Energy, the team from NREL outlined the benefits of employing automation in the field as cost-saving, more efficient, and increased worker safety. Robots would work faster, are more precise, and use the materials such as sanding pads for post-molding steps more efficiently, leading to an overall cost reduction. This could give companies using automation an edge by reducing prices compared to competitors. In addition, the researchers utilized robots in areas in which otherwise humans would have to use respirators, such as sanding, or work at heights, such as on scaffoldings. Here, the elimination of human labor could help increase worker safety in the supply chain of wind turbines, the researchers argue. To find applicable areas in the first place, the team built a 3D model of a wind turbine blade by compiling a series of scans. The model was then used to help program and adjust the robot.

China Leading the Field in Automation

The most well-known field in which automation is employed is the automotive industry. With recently reaching a milestone of one million active units, this sector hosts roughly one-third of all operating robots across all industries, according to a report from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). According to IFR, the largest market for robots is China, which imports most units from Europe, Japan, and Korea. In 2021, the People’s Republic announced a five-year development plan to ramp up its own production and increase adoption across its industries.

Photo: iStock/PhonlamaiPhoto

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