Skip to Main Content

Composite Manufacturing Automation

Title: Design for the Automation of the Manufacture of Composite Wind Turbine Blades
Researchers: Matteo Polcari, James Sherwood, PhD., Matthew Frank, Ph.D. 
Sponsors: National Science Foundation, WindSTAR
Collaborators: Iowa State University
Description: The majority of large wind turbine blades are manufactured from textile-reinforced resin-infused composites using an open mold. The placement of the textile reinforcements in the mold is traditionally accomplished by a manual process where groups of workers hand place each dry fabric in the mold. Depending on the level of skill and experience of each worker and the relative complexity of the mold geometry, local areas may exhibit out-of-plane wrinkling and in-plane waviness. Part-to-part variability in blade manufacturing due to defects associated with manual layup methods could be reduced by the introduction of automation in the performing process.

Commercially successful automated tape-layup methods exist within the aerospace industry but these methods have proven cost-prohibitive for the wind industry. This project seeks to explore past and current proposed methods of automation in fabric layup, especially for wind blade manufacturing.

Researchers at Iowa State University have proposed a method for automated tape-layup specifically with wind turbine blades in mind. This method, called shifting, has been investigated using the finite element method and user-defined material models developed at UMass Lowell. The simulation uses a mesoscopic unit-cell approach and Abaqus/Explicit to capture fabric drape and mechanical behavior by tracking fiber orientations and the evolution of the fabric shear stiffness during the placement process.