3D Printing Processes

Goldwind recycles wind turbine blades into 3D printing material

Using crushed blade particles from retired turbine blades from a wind farm in Mongolia

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At Goldwind headquarters, China’s first renewable energy, carbon neutral, business park, flower beds have been printed from the recycled solid waste of retired turbine blades – forging a new path for the solid waste recycling. The material is made from retired turbine blades that come from a wind farm in Inner Mongolia. With the help of 3D printing robots, the materials containing crushed blade particles can be pre-formed – promising a solid waste recycling rate of over 30%.

The technical difficulty of adding the crushed blade particles into the printing materials lies in maximizing the ratio of blade solid waste while ensuring a specific strength for the printed product.

During Goldwind’s blade waste-based 3D printing trials, the researchers repeated a number of experiments and demonstrations – constantly adjusting the ratio of various raw materials, as well as the particle size and gradation of the crushed blade particles. They finally landed on a ‘golden ratio’ that met the strength requirements of the printed products while consuming maximum turbine blade solid wastes – resulting in a series of material systems suitable for 3D printing.

Goldwind recycles wind turbine blades into 3D printing material. Using crushed blade particles from retired turbine blades.
A wind turbine blade being transported

The mechanical properties, durability, and working performance of the finished product made from this new printing materials are equal to that of conventional building concrete.

According to Goldwind, data estimates show that China’s retired turbine blades will generate 5,800 tons of composite solid waste by 2025 – nothing compared to the estimated 74,000 tons by 2028. The solid waste from wind turbines remains a long-lasting problem for many companies in the industry.

As an intelligent, environmentally-friendly, and efficient construction method, solid waste-based 3D printing, when compared with traditional construction technologies, features no mold, lower labor costs, more efficient consumption of materials, increased freedom of design, greater construction efficiency, and a lower risk of personnel security, especially in the construction of uniquely shaped structures.

On the other hand, as wind power projects are mostly scattered throughout China’s most remote areas, the cost of transporting recyclable materials to various locations accounts for a large part of the recycling costs. Another advantage of solid waste-based 3D printing is that it enables integration into other construction projects around the wind farm thanks to its applicability. With the help of mobile 3D printing robots, wind turbine blade solid waste can be used for local production and consumption – lowering long-distance transportation costs.

Goldwind recycles wind turbine blades into 3D printing material. Using crushed blade particles from retired turbine blades.
Flower beds, at Goldwind’s headquarters in China, 3D printed using the recycled solid waste of retired turbine blades

“Garbage is simply resources handled improperly. The original intention behind our decision to develop such technology was to change our position as a blade solid waste producer into a raw material supplier for solid waste-based 3D printing, making use of the vast construction market to enable more consumption of materials after blade recycling and giving full play to the decisive role of the market in resource allocation, so that environmental protection can be more valuable,” said the person in charge of the project. “Our ultimate vision is to drive the development of China’s green industry with innovative green technologies and to create a complete industrial chain for blade solid waste that is characterized by local recycling, local crushing, material screening, solid waste-based 3D printing, and product manufacturing.”

In ‘China Wind Power 2021’, Goldwind released a white paper titled, ‘Goldwind towards Carbon Neutrality: Action and Vision’, pointing out that “by 2040, the recycling ratio of Goldwind products will reach 100%.” The application of blade solid waste-based 3D printing is a crucial step in such a program.

By continuing to invest in wind power recycling, Goldwind plans to explore more innovative low-carbon technologies and the systematic application of solutions to accelerate a carbon-neutral ecosystem – moving towards a zero-carbon, renewable future.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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