A manufacturer of equipment that places composite material quickly and a quick-cure-molding system for wind blades says the combination reduces labor content by two-thirds, doubles throughput, and produces a consistently high-quality blade. Manufacturing firm MAG Industrial Automation Systems, Sterling Hts, Mich.,
says its Rapid Material Placement System (RMPS) combines automation and repeatable process control for what has largely been a manual or piecemeal automation. RMPS, an automated blade molding facility, is capable of spraying in-mold coatings, dispensing and lay-up of glass and carbon-fiber materials, and applying adhesive. It places material at 3 m/sec (lay-up speed) on blade skins, spar caps, and sheer-web molds, with laser and vision-based wrinkle detection in cross or longitudinal directions. Depending on a laminate schedule, MAG says the system can cut up to 85% off the lay-up time of a 45-m blade.
The CNC-controlled system consists of a gantry with multi-axis end effectors that manipulates spray heads and adhesive applicators, along with tooling for spooling and placing materials. After spraying on a gel-coat, a ply-generator with a ten-roll magazine of material cuts and dispenses plies to the lay-up end effector on the gantry. The lay-up end effector spools out material supplied by the ply generator.
Two such gantries adjacent one another can each produce a 45-m blade-shell half in less than two hours, with half the manual labor of conventional methods. The gantry rides on rails flush with the floor. It also carries bulk supply systems for gel-coat and adhesive. Off-line programming software developed by the company creates the CNC code from imported CAD data.
The company has also developed a quick-cure mold system using tooling it supplies. Molds are produced from client CAD data. The system yields a finished blade to spec with each cycle. It can be infused with resin in an hour followed by a two-hour cure, about half the normal time. One sample part represents a 100 mm-thick root section and root spar-cap system. The latter has three zones of material and three thicknesses, demonstrating the system can infuse and quickly cure all three zones at the same time. Like the lay-up system, the company says the infusion and curing system includes process control metrics for resin metering, temperatures, and blocked channels with alarm limits.
On the finishing side of blade automation, MAG says it is introducing a five-axis machining system for root drilling, milling, and sawing. For metalworking production of wind-power parts, the company is introducing a line of horizontal turning centers in the U.S. that combines unusual capabilities for finishing a large part in one setup. Well suited for rotor shafts, pinions and similar shaft parts, these machines perform operations unusual for typical turning centers, such as deep-hole drilling, serrating, grinding, hard turning, notch milling, hobbing, as well as cut-to-length and centering, rough and finish turning. European wind industry manufacturers are using these machines to produce parts up to 1,500-mm diameter and 2,800-mm long.