GE Renewable Energy, Fraunhofer IGCV, and voxeljet AG Plan to Develop World’s Largest Sand Binder Jetting 3D Printer for Offshore Wind Turbines
GE (NYSE: GE), Fraunhofer IGCV and voxeljet AG (NASDAQ: VJET) today announced a research partnership to develop the world’s largest 3D printer for offshore wind applications in order to streamline the production of key components of GE’s Haliade-X offshore wind turbine. The Advance Casting Cell (ACC) 3D printer under development will benefit from financial support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and will be capable of printing molds to cast components for the nacelle2 of the GE Haliade-X that can each weigh more than 60 metric tons, reducing the time it takes to produce this pattern and mold from ten weeks or more to just two weeks. In addition, the use of the 3D printer is expected to reduce the product’s carbon footprint by eliminating the need to transport the large parts from a central manufacturing location. The partners expect to launch the project during the third quarter of 2021 with initial printer trials starting during the first quarter of 2022.
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Figure 1 - The basic binder jetting process is defined by spreading a layer of particle material onto a building platform. Subsequently a print head applies a binder into the powder bed where the part is to be printed. Then, a new layer of material is applied and the process repeats until the final part or mold ist printed. (Graphic: Business Wire)
The project involves the development of a new, large format 3D printer capable of producing sand molds for casting the highly complex metal parts of different shapes and sizes that make up an offshore wind turbine nacelle. The modular 3D printing process, which is based on voxeljet’s core “Binder-Jetting” technology, can be configured to print molds for castings up to 9.5 meters in diameter and 60-plus tons in weight, dimensions.
Juan Pablo Cilia, Senior Additive Design Engineer at GE Renewable Energy, said, “The 3D printed molds will bring many benefits including improved casting quality through improved surface finish, part accuracy and consistency. Furthermore, sand binder jet molds or additive molds provide cost savings by reducing machining time and other material costs due to optimized design. This unprecedented production technology will be a game changer for production efficiency allowing localized manufacturing in high cost countries, a key benefit for our customers looking to maximize the local economic development benefits of offshore wind.”