Sandia’s participation in the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Initiative included work on a nondestructive inspection (NDI) library for manufacturers. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Sandia’s participation in the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Initiative included work on a nondestructive inspection (NDI) library for manufacturers. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Sandia helped wind-turbine blade makers improve the labor productivity associated with blade fabrication & finishing—making domestically produced blades more cost competitive with blades from countries that pay workers lower wages. The Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (AMII), a three-year, $6.3M project, brought together researchers from Sandia, Iowa State University, and TPI Composites of Scottsdale, Arizona, which operates a turbine blade fac­tory in Newton, Iowa. Sandia manager Daniel Laird (of Sandia’s Renewable Energy Technologies Dept.) describes AMII as a col­lection of small, targeted projects including automated laying and finishing, using simu­lation to develop more efficient manufac­turing process flows, and improved nonde­structive inspection (NDI) capabilities. For example:

  • Sandia researcher Diane Callow (in Sandia’s Program & Test Integration Dept.) created a factory logic model of the manufacturing plant—identifying and quantifying bottlenecks due to an overhead bridge crane. The problems were solved by developing novel, ground-based carts.
  • Researchers coupled an engineering data software platform to a 3-D laser projection system to improve fiberglass fabric positioning.
These blade “root” (left) and “tip” carts are a part of the compo¬nent-handling improvements that increased labor productivity by 2% and reduced cycle time by 6.6%.

These blade “root” (left) and “tip” carts are a part of the component-handling improvements that increased labor productivity by 2% and reduced cycle time by 6.6%.

Researchers modeled the curing of a higher-performance spar cap, the part of the blade that carries the bending load.

  • Sandia senior researcher Dennis Roach (in Sandia’s Transportation Safeguards and Surety Group) led development of a reference sample library used to train those who perform blade NDI.
  • “The combined AMII improvements and innovations reduced the cycle time to manufacture a blade by nearly 50%,” Laird said. The project is wrapping up this year with a comprehensive project report, which will be made publicly available.

    Read the Sandia news release.