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Renishaw uses AM to optimise ocean turbine production

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Engineering firm Renishaw has collaborated with the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) in Canada to optimise the production of two ocean turbine parts using metal additive manufacturing (AM).

Production costs of the parts were reduced by 80 per cent using metal AM compared to traditional manufacturing methods, while their production time was also reduced down to two months.

The parts were fabricated for Biome Renewables, a Canadian industrial design startup specialising in wind turbines. The company approached NSCC when it decided to expand into tidal wave energy, due to the college's specialism in ocean technology and its engineering research facility, which builds prototypes for different industries.

The plastic solutions used by NSCC were inappropriate for tidal environments however, and so it decided to use metal AM to make the parts stronger, turning to Renishaw for its specialist knowledge on the subject.

Renishaw assisted in designing the two types of part for Biome. The first was a 'PowerCone', a retrofit part that sits on the hub of an existing turbine and improves efficiency by 10-15 per cent by letting the blades rotate at slower speeds. The second were propellers with a curved design to reduce drag when the blades turn in the water.

The parts were used to build a prototype turbine, which was tested at Strangford Loch in Northern Ireland. The PowerCone and propellers were then added to an existing turbine, which was then tested. After the turbine was submerged, the test showed that the modification produced significant levels of power over a wide range of tidal velocities.

'Additive manufacturing allowed us to produce the final parts in two months, which would be unthinkable using traditional methods,' explained Mark Kirby, AM business manager at Renishaw Canada. 'The ocean turbine project...was a chance for us to see how metal AM can improve the efficiency of renewable sources. Tidal turbine energy is one of many growing renewable energy markets and it was really exciting to be involved in a project like this.

'While people often think of metal AM as an expensive venture, the technology allowed Biome to reduce the cost of building the turbine by 80 per cent. We look forward to working on more projects like this and seeing how other companies benefit from metal AM.'

Combating Covid-19

Renishaw is one of hundreds of industrial companies that have rallied to respond to the UK government’s call for aid in manufacturing medical devices in the fight against Covid-19.

Reported by the Financial Times, three industrial consortia – one from aerospace and two from automotive – are working develop a new medical ventilator in order to address a critical shortage of equipment with the ongoing development of the virus.

The consortia, made up of aerospace firms led by Meggitt and automotive firms led by Nissan and McLaren, are already developing a basic ventilator prototype. Their target is to manufacture 5,000 ventilators as soon as possible, with a goal of a further 30,000 eventually. Manufacturing is expected to start within a month, according to FT.

In addition to Meggit, the aerospace consortium includes GKN, Airbus, Thales and Renishaw. Meggitt makes oxygen systems for aircraft, while Airbus is expected to bring its expertise in 3D printing for small components. Renishaw has also offered to rapidly produce components through additive manufacturing, alongside its machining and electronics capabilities. 'We stand ready to respond rapidly to any requests for assistance from BEIS and other businesses who are contributing their services,' the company told FT.

Top image supplied by Renishaw.

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