A collaboration between engineering company Renishaw, Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) and Canadian industrial design firm Biome Renewables has resulted in the production of 80% more cost-effective 3D printed ocean turbine components. Additive manufacturing also enabled the partners to speed up the parts’ development times to just two months.
Based in Ontario, Biome Renewables is an industrial design company that specializes in wind turbine technology. The company is bringing to market a flagship technology called PowerCone, an aerodynamic and hydrodynamic retrofit system for either wind or tidal turbines.
When the firm set out to explore tidal wave energy, a renewable form of hydropower, it reached out to NSCC because of its expertise in ocean technology. Biome was also drawn to NSCC because of its engineering research facility, which is frequently used to develop prototypes for industrial partners and is equipped with various AM technologies. In this case, strength was a critical factor, so NSCC decided to use its AM250 metal 3D printer and reached out to Renishaw for technical support.
Through the collaborative project, Renishaw and NSCC developed two ocean turbine components using metal AM. The first part is a PowerCone retrofit that co-rotates with the turbine’s rotor and can improve efficiency by 10 to 15 perfect by slowing the blades down. The second part is a curved propeller designed to minimize drag when the blades are turning in water.
Prototypes of both parts were 3D printed, leveraging Renishaw’s metal AM expertise, and assembled to build a prototype turbine. This system was then delivered to Strangford Lock in Northern Ireland where it was tested extensively. The PowerCone and 3D printed propellers were also added to an existing turbine for further testing. The results from submerged turbine tests showed that the 3D printed components had achieved significant levels of power over a broad range of tidal velocities.
Not only was the performance of the 3D printed parts more than adequate, Biome Renewables and its partners reported a significant cost saving—of 80%—for the parts’ development compared to the more traditional molding and casting route. Further, the prototypes only took two months to develop and print.
“Additive manufacturing allowed us to produce the final parts in two months, which would be unthinkable using traditional methods,” said Mark Kirby, Additive Manufacturing Business Manager at Renishaw Canada. “The ocean turbine project was not only a great opportunity for us to work with one of our many Canadian customers, it 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.”