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Factory-Scale Simulation and Economic Modeling for the Advancement of the Manufacturing Process of Composite Wind Turbine Blades



Despite the ongoing interest of blade makers to identify and to implement new manufacturing concepts with high probability of good ROI, there is a lack of sophisticated models for the evaluation of the ROI for these concepts. As a result, the manufacturing process for wind blades has not changed significantly since the early 1990s with the implementation of vacuum infusion processes. Thus, there is a need for an alternative to the invest-and-test approach to enable the implementation of new manufacturing concepts. In the current research, a factory-scale simulation of the operations of a wind blade manufacturing facility is developed using DELMIA, a graphical process flow simulation software that provides a virtual means to investigate the performance of a manufacturing process with analysis capabilities well-suited to highlighting inefficiencies. The simulation of the blade manufacturing facility is developed with the flexibility to be easily customized for a given manufacturing scenario and to enable the introduction and evaluation of the impact of changes to the overall wind blade manufacturing process, i.e. the insertion of automation or other process alternatives. The DELMIA factory simulation is being developed alongside a complementary Excel/VBA-based Techno-Economic model (TEM). The TEM uses detailed blade design data with baseline economic factors, manufacturing parameters and process models to generate cost estimates for a given manufacturing scenario. The TEM is formulated to include multi-year cost-predictive capabilities that account for the evolution of costs over a product lifecycle and factory changeover. The integration of the DELMIA factory flow simulation and the TEM provides a comprehensive modeling tool for the analysis of the economic feasibility of new composite manufacturing concepts for wind blade manufacturing.


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