Wind turbine: GE plans to 3D print towers for wind turbines


The operators of wind turbines want to go higher and higher: larger wind turbines that are further away from the ground promise higher yields. However, the large components also cause problems. The US company General Electric (GE) wants to solve this: The bases are to be built with a 3D printer in the future.

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The bases are currently assembled from prefabricated reinforced concrete parts. The parts have to be transported to the construction site, which is often complicated and expensive. Together with the Danish 3D printer manufacturer Cobod and the Swiss building material manufacturer Lafarge-Holcim, GE wants to develop a process to create the elements for the wind turbine tower on site.

GE’s Renewable Energy division will bring knowledge of the design and construction of wind turbines to the partnership. Lafarge-Holcim wants to develop a concrete that can be processed with a 3D printer and meets the requirements for the giant wind turbines. Finally, Cobod is responsible for 3D printing technology.

The partners believed that additive manufacturing processes had the potential for disruption in the wind power industry, said Matteo Bellucci, Head of Advanced Manufacturing Technology at GE Renewable Energy. “Printing with concrete has made significant progress in the past five years and we believe it is getting closer to being used in the industrial world.”

3D printing projects have been increasing in the construction industry for several years. The organization New Story, for example, produces houses in southern Mexico for poor agricultural workers using 3D printing. The first 3D-printed house has already been occupied in Nantes in France. In Madrid, a bridge built using a 3D printer has spanned a watercourse in a park for two years.

GE Renewable Energy, Lafarge-Holcim and Cobod have already started a pilot project: In autumn last year, they built a 10-meter-high base for a wind turbine using 3D printing in Copenhagen.

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