GE Research selected voxeljet AG as its partner in a project to develop and commercialize large-dimension binder-jet printing of sand molds, working with a $14.9-million award from the U.S. Dept. of Energy. The DoE is backing the Advanced Casting Cell project, which is described as a step toward “clean power,” aims to produce 3D-printed sand molds for casting nacelles of the GE Haliade-X offshore wind turbine.
Earlier, in 2021, a partnership of GE Renewable Energy and voxeljet sought to develop “the world’s largest binder-jet printer for sand molds,” to streamline production of castings for the nacelles of offshore wind turbines. Such castings may weigh over 60 metric tons and measure up to 9.5 meters in diameter. That project also included Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology.
The Haliade-X offshore turbine is offered in 14-, 13-, or 12-MW capacities, with a 220-meter rotor and 107-meter blades.
Voxeljet’s binder-jet additive manufacturing process involves a printhead selectively depositing a liquid binder onto a thin layer of powder — in this case, foundry sand — to construct a final shape defined by a CAD model. “We’re excited to be a part of this future-driven and innovative project,” stated voxeljet CEO Dr. Ingo Ederer. “The development and cost-efficient manufacturing of clean power-generation technologies is in high-demand because it is key to meeting and overcoming global climate challenges.
"We are confident that additive manufacturing, and specifically our large-scale binder-jetting technology, is the right choice to manufacture complex parts used in these next-generation wind turbines,” he added/
TheDoE’s ACC project will create digital mold designs for nacelle castings, and a complete “techno-economic analysis of cost and supply chain challenges.”
Other ACC project partners are GE Hydro, GE Onshore Wind, GE Offshore Wind, Clemson University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Hodge Foundry as partners. A “manufacturing curriculum” is being created for local workforce development, to train workers on the specifics of additive manufacturing processes.
The Advanced Casting Cell project aims to accelerate the production time for nacelles, from around ten weeks to two weeks.
In addition to casting nacelles, ACC will address production optimization of a 16-ton rotor hub and development of a robotic welding process for assembling a >10-metric ton Francis runner (a type of water turbine that combines radial and axial flow processes.)