Iowa State University

Iowa State University
College of Engineering

Laser scan of blade surface


Advance the state of the art in wind turbine component manufacturing.

Wind Energy Manufacturing

The Wind Energy Manufacturing Laboratory (WEML) is the newest and largest laboratory space in the IMSE department. This new facility contains over 2500 sq. ft. of space including high-bay space, climate control, and offices for graduate and undergraduate research assistants. Smaller scale wind turbine blades, on the order of 9meters long (~29 feet), can be easily accommodated in this facility. Research problems being addressed include the following:

  1. Where are the sources of dimensional variability in such a large product and how can they be mitigated?
  2. How can we control the deposition of flexible fiberglass fabric into complex 3D molds with high throughput, cost effectively?
  3. How can we use Non Destructive Evaluation (NDE) technologies to measure blade characteristics during manufacturing?

This new lab provides the unique opportunity to test new solutions to these questions at a scale, using smaller versions of the molds involved in creating mega-watt class fiberglass turbine blades. With a current focus on improving the manufacturing of large turbine blades, the team already has one patent-pending device developed in the lab; a machine that reduces the cycle time for a labor intensive molding process by an order of magnitude. Results of their research will be shown at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) WindPOWER conference this May, where two posters will be presented amidst an attendee list of over 20,000 in Anaheim California. The current research efforts are part of a $6.3 million dollar project with Sandia National Laboratories and TPI Composites. Sandia is part of the US Department of Energy, while TPI composites is a company headquartered in Scottsdale AZ, with its newest blade facility located in Newton, Iowa. Funding for the project comes from the US DOE, TPI Composites and the State of Iowa Power Fund. New research projects are under development in two primary areas 1) Large offshore wind turbines, where blade sizes can grow to the 70-100 meter range, and 2) wind turbine Tower manufacturing research to enable taller towers. In either case, the goals are similar, making wind energy cost effective through new manufacturing technologies that make these systems lighter, cheaper, and more reliable.