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