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Vestas Wind Turbines

October 20, 2017

Filed under: manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 07:49

Have you ever wondered how wind turbine blades are made? I have. Luckily, I was a part of a special tour initiated by SME Chapter 354 that gave a good view into the manufacturing process. I was one of 27 that toured the Vestas blade factory in Windsor, Colorado earlier this week. The blades produced at the impressive facility are 54 meters (178 feet) in length, weigh seven tons, and amazingly complex. When a blade is at work, the speed at its tip is an astounding 251 kph (156 mph).

Denmark-based Vestas began to make wind turbines in 1979 and leads in the production and worldwide sales, with more than 16% of the market. GE, Siemens, and many relatively small companies are also in the business. Vestas has factories in Denmark, Germany, Italy, Spain, China, India, and Colorado. The Windsor and Brighton, Colorado factories produce a significant number of all blades from the company. Windsor, alone, produces about 2,000 annually.

The visit began with an excellent presentation by Hans Jespersen, vice president and general manager of the Vestas blade factory in Windsor. Six other employees were on hand to answer questions and serve as our tour guides. Molds used to produce the blades are the largest—and definitely the longest—I have seen in 30+ years of visiting manufacturing facilities worldwide. The molds are made of a composite material, and the blades, themselves, are made predominantly of fiberglass and epoxy. On the surface, it may sound relatively straightforward, but sophisticated methods, intellectual property, and decades of experience go into the production of the blades.

Thanks to SME Chapter 354 for setting up the tour, and special thanks to the people at Vestas for sharing their time and expertise. Our tour guide, Phil McCarthy, senior production manager at the company, did an outstanding job in showing and explaining the many manufacturing steps and processes at the company. The tour was among the best I have taken in recent years. Vestas rolled out the “red carpet,” spent a lot of time with us, and answered many questions. I now have an even greater appreciation for wind turbines and their contribution to clean energy.

CSU’s Idea2Product Lab

October 9, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education — Terry Wohlers @ 09:53

Note: The following was authored by Ray Huff, manager of the I2P lab at Colorado State University. He is an intern at Wohlers Associates.

At universities worldwide, 3D printing is unlocking doors previously unavailable to students, staff, and others. Five years ago, David Prawel introduced Colorado State University to 3D printing with a single RepRap 3D printer in the mechanical engineering department. News of the new technology spread quickly, and soon Prawel spun off a dedicated lab providing 3D printing education and services. The lab was modeled after Idea 2 Product (I2P) labs originally launched in South Africa by professor Deon de Beer.

I was introduced to the I2P lab in mid 2014. I had spent the first half of that year managing a fledgling web marketing startup in Denver, and was looking to shift into a more dynamic industry. After some preliminary research into the 3D printing industry in Colorado, I came across an open house at Colorado State hosted by the I2P lab. It included a symposium featuring Terry Wohlers, Andy Christensen, and others in Colorado. I was blown away by the amazing, cutting edge developments in my backyard. It was then I knew I had to find a way into this industry. A year later, while working at then 3D-printing startup Aleph Objects, I was encouraged to pursue a degree in engineering, and that brought me back to Colorado State and the I2P lab.

I accepted an offer to serve as lab manager during my first year and was immediately exposed to more developmental projects than I could have imagined. Entrepreneurs came to the lab seeking help in 3D modeling and proof-of-concept development. Researchers designed custom apparatuses for their experiments and fabricated them on the spot. Educators learned to think creatively in completely new ways to clearly demonstrate difficult concepts. Artists came to modify and replicate their models digitally and physically using 3D scanning and printing. Veterinary surgeons brought CT scan data to create bone and organ analogies in preparation for surgical procedures. Countless engineering students began to produce models of their designs from classes and projects. I found that with a little bit of education and guidance, people of all backgrounds can go further and faster with their ideas and innovations than ever before.

Today, the I2P lab looks vastly different than it did in the days of a single student running one 3D printer. Over the past two years, the I2P lab customer base has doubled to more than 700 registered users. The lab boasts 20 3D printers of both material extrusion and vat photopolymerization technologies. Users come from across campus and the community to make their dreams into realities.

As these technologies mature and become less expensive to implement, labs like I2P are developing and multiplying in nearly every corner of education. Already, maker spaces, schools at many levels, and even libraries are benefiting from the creative freedom offered by 3D printing, 3D scanning, and design software to empower the community. They are being challenged to transform ideas into realities that affect and improve lives.