Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy leads the wind sector in digitalization

The leader in renewable energy utilizes advanced composites wind blade manufacturing simulation

by Chandragupt Gorwade
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Driving the transformation towards a sustainable world, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy is a global leading provider of wind power product and service solutions, and number one in offshore wind power.

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) is a technological partner of choice, developing innovative solutions based on a proven track record and technological excellence. The company is committed to supporting health, safety, and environmental protection while delivering optimized performance to its customers and helping them maximize returns.

With growing international competition in the wind energy sector, SGRE is defending its dominant position by leading the way in digitalization. Its product development activities are making sure to integrate the latest advances in simulation and virtual prototyping to come up with more sustainable and innovative products. This is achieved by using more sustainable engineering processes, such as replacing traditionally used physical prototypes with virtual ones whenever possible, which reduces material waste and carbon emissions.

This post will look at how blade design experts at SGRE implemented solid digital workflows that help them model, design, and manufacture more efficient and reliable wind turbines and deliver a concrete contribution to the OEM’s sustainability roadmap in reducing emissions.

Pushing the limits of innovation for large wind blades whilst manufacturing them with confidence thanks to composite manufacturing simulation

Wind energy is rapidly growing in a bid to escape fossil fuel dependency. Today, wind blade manufacturers are pushing the boundaries of design and manufacturing to produce increasingly large blades and rotors, as this will increase the total energy output. Also, large blades stand higher into the atmosphere, which helps to improve the turbine’s “capacity factor”, and therefore reduces the levelized cost of energy (LCOE).

Unfortunately, manufacturing larger blades brings about difficult challenges related to materials, manufacturing processes, and handling. Blade manufacturers are looking at innovative methods and technologies to reduce the cost and time associated with new product development. Among the solutions at hand, introducing manufacturing process simulation allows blade manufacturers to test, optimize, and validate the manufacturing process before building the first physical prototype.

Virtual prototyping enables engineers to test their innovative concepts, which are practically impossible to perform in the physical world due to cost and time constraints. Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy has been on this journey with ESI since 2019 leveraging virtual prototyping for blade manufacturing. 

Our willingness to reduce the physical tests and make use of the virtual prototype is mainly driven by two factors:

 

  • reduce the material waste and associated costs
  • gain a deeper understanding of the manufacturing process within a short amount of time

 

Lorenzo Cappugi & Søren Randrup Daugaard Henrichsen
Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy

SGRE collaborated with ESI to make two things possible: (1) reducing material waste and the associated cost and (2) gaining a deeper understanding of the manufacturing process within a short amount of time. So far, the collaboration has proved fruitful. To follow the wind turbine trend, SGRE needed to utilize additional virtual manufacturing tools to better predict their behavior when manufacturing. With virtual testing, SGRE can test out more setups and evaluate their robustness before they build a physical prototype to validate the accuracy of the virtual prototype. All this helps them minimize the development lead time and enhance the quality of the technology. More specifically, ESI’s composite simulation solution allows SGRE to perform infusion and curing simulations to achieve these results. The software’s capabilities allow them to optimize the casting quality and reduce the processing time with a lower effort compared to the physical tests.

PAM COMPOSITES Siemens Gamesa   Kopie

There is immense pressure on blade manufacturers to reduce the cost of manufacturing to be competitive in the global market. Any manufacturing issues identified later than the prototype phase are prohibitively expensive to rectify, not to mention the product development delays.

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy chose ESI as a trusted partner not only for its advanced composite simulation software, ESI PAM-COMPOSITES but also for its expertise to support new product developments and improve existing manufacturing processes.

OEMs like SGRE seek to explore the different variations in composite layup thickness, additional inserts, and cores to meet their objectives in terms of structural strength. The entire blade is generally infused or injected with resin using multiple injection ports and vents. It is very critical to “Get it Right” the first time, hence engineers need to evaluate different resin infusion strategies beforehand.

Today, ESI’s solution empowers SGRE’s manufacturing engineers to perform virtual simulations earlier when there is still flexibility to adapt design or manufacturing processes by eliminating potential manufacturing issues. Using PAM-COMPOSITES, manufacturing engineers can validate and optimize proposed injection strategies based on ESI’s physics-based simulation.

 

Process Automation frees up time for higher added-value tasks

Introducing innovations always requires adapting or changing existing methods and practices. SGRE’s team has taken this challenge to adapt or develop a new efficient workflow from design to manufacturing to integrate with ESI’s composite process simulation solution.

ESI’s Visual SDK solution enables users to automate various repetitive pre-post processes to reduce the time required to set up a model so that users can utilize their time qualitatively to identify and optimize the process rather than spend considerable time on pre-post simulation activities.

Lorenzo Cappugi of SGRE adds that “workflow automation plays a key role in virtual testing. The simulation workflow automation gives us the freedom to run parametric studies and simulate several model configurations with the lowest effort possible. It avoids the long pre-processing time, from material properties assignments to the most time-consuming task, which usually for the CAE is the mesh generation. The process automation also gives us another great advantage, the repeatability of the virtual prototype. This aspect is crucial in a big organization, like ours, where multiple people collaborate daily.”

PAM COMPOSITES Siemens Gamesa process

The Wind Twin project: predicting the real-time performance of the asset

Today, when you hear the word performance – think lifetime performance of the asset, cost of ownership, and the cost-effectiveness of the installation throughout its entire useful life. In the true sense of sustainability.

This shift in mindset, considering the actual performance of an asset as operated, and over a long period of time, has several implications for wind power engineers. On the one hand, they must face the challenge of predicting the actual performance of the asset – early enough, precisely enough, and reliably enough – not only as-designed but also as-manufactured and as-operated. This calls for a good mastery of the physics of materials and the art of modeling – pretty much what ESI has specialized in for over half a century.

On the other hand, engineers must face another challenge: predicting the performance (or health) of their assets as they age, over time. To this aim, many energy companies have ventured into creating Digital Twins for their wind energy installations, basing themselves on data collected from the sensors on the product in use. Sadly, this methodology did fruitfully utilize the models created by engineers in product development, which could have helped decode the physics behind the asset’s behavior. ESI and partner companies recently addressed this via the Wind Twin project, funded by the UK government. For over four years, researchers have worked on enriching data-based models of wind turbines with system simulation integrating real physics, to arrive at some sort of hybrid twin, delivering results in real-time. Additionally, ESI’s Hybrid Twin technology can be replicated to create a digital twin of the blade manufacturing process to make the right decisions based on live sensors data to produce reliable quality blades.

Learn more about ESI's Wind Energy solutions and how we have helped other customers in your industry.

Opportunities for cross-industry know-how transfer

The wind sector stands to benefit a lot from knowledge transfer and cross-industry innovation, adopting proven best practices and technologies from other composite-heavy sectors like aerospace. The FORUM 78 rotorcraft event in May 2022 is your opportunity to witness the unique capabilities of PAM-COMPOSITES live. So if you are based in the US, stop by to meet our composite experts.

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