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The global drive for cleaner energy has resulted in an increase demand for wind turbine construction, which are typically placed offshore.  Blades are of composite construction and extremely large where road transportation is not a constraint, with blades ranging from 50 to over 100m in length.  Such large structures require careful definition to be safe, reliable, and efficient.

Aerodynamic profiles are defined in order to maximise the effectiveness of the turbine, and the structure must be delivered within this space and shape constraint.  The blade must be able to resist aerodynamic loads in dynamic conditions with a range of wind speeds applied.  Furthermore the manufacturing of such large structures provides additional constraints on the structural design, in addition to the surface durability requirement of the outer leading edge of the blades.

Penso were contracted to define the correct and most efficient structure within the myriad of constraints due to their capability to manage engineering problems with a high variable count.  The final design offered many advantages to structural efficiency, but also managed to consider material usage efficiency thus ensuring manufacturing costs are minimised.

Using Finite Element Analysis and Optimisation techniques, the problem is defined using the aerodynamic package constraints, available material properties and a variety of load cases.  Preliminary solutions are quickly converged upon, ready for inspection by the Analysts and Engineers at Penso.

A process of refinement is worked through, in which more definition is added to the models to capture further manufacturing details, fixing inserts and adhesive application details.  At each stage the weight walk is monitored alongside a performance index so the design efficiency direction is fully understood.

The final realised design features an unusual non-symmetric construction which proved to be the best compromise of performance, manufacturability, and weight.  The design is fully modelled in the FEA toolsets for further interrogation.  The characteristic deflection and frequency response performance of the blade is established.

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Our Computer Aided Designers then set about describing the design detail in CATIA and the corresponding manufacturing details are added for the manufacturing teams.  The manufacturing teams assess the feasibility and efficiency of the new design for manufacture, taking the opportunity to input any further changes before the blade is produced.  Supporting reports, layup books, hand calculations and CAD data are delivered to the customer as a turn-key service.

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