Here at 3D Rapid Print, one of the fastest growing 3D Printing companies in the Thames Valley, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.

On January 28th 2021, The University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Centre (UMaine) announced that it had been awarded $2.8 million from America’s EERE to develop large 3D printed, segmented wind turbine blade moulds. (EERE is short for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.) In addition, UMaine announced that it would be collaborating with the ORNL on a $4 million award to apply what UMaine described as “robotic deposition of continuous reinforcing fibers in wind blades.” (ORNL is short for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory of Tennessee.) UMaine argued that innovation in large wind turbine blade technology is expensive and time-consuming, claiming that moulds and tooling for large blades can cost more than $10 million, and that their time to market measures between 16 and 20 months.

UMaine intends to 3D print the moulds using unspecified recyclable bio-based materials reinforced with wood, estimating that this could reduce the new blades’ development costs by between 25% and 50% and accelerate their time to market by at least 6 months. (The term bio-based materials refers to usually biodegradable materials that are made from living organisms.) Other examples of 3D printing’s use in wind turbine manufacturing involve GE Renewable Energy of Paris, France and RCAM Technologies of Irvine, California. (GE Renewable Energy is a division of multinational conglomerate General Electric (GE) of Boston, Massachusetts. RCAM Technologies describe themselves as “Founded to develop concrete additive manufacturing technologies initially for wind energy technologies.”)

In June 2020, GE announced that three companies would be engaging in a multi-year long collaboration to develop wind turbines that would measure up to a record-breaking 200m tall, made possible via concrete bases that could be 3D printed on site. These were: GE Renewable Energy; 3D printing construction company COBOD of Copenhagen, Denmark, and multinational building materials manufacturer LafargeHolcim of Jona, Switzerland. (COBOD is short for construction of buildings on demand.) At the time, GE proclaimed that their first prototype wind turbine base had been successfully 3D printed back in October 2019 and measured 10m tall.

In November 2017, RCAM Technologies was awarded $1.2 million from the California Energy Commission (CEC) for the development and testing of what the CEC referred to as “a reinforced concrete 3D printing technology that will be used to manufacture high performance, ultra-tall, low-cost wind turbine towers onsite.” On the same day as GE’s announcement, RCAM technologies proclaimed that the CEC had awarded them another $3 million to further their wind turbine research. (It is unknown if RCAM’s announcement being on the same day as GE’s was just a coincidence.)

3D printing is an amazing tool. It can grow your small business or start a mini revolution in an industry. Explore what it can do for you when you contact us today.

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