Additive manufacturing (AM) was developed in the 1980s to create three-dimensional prototypes through layer-wise approaches to fabrication. Since then, these approaches have seen improvements in both materials and processing technologies. To date, there are now 7 types of additive manufacturing processes and hundreds of materials, which can be directly printed – going directly from digital design to fabricated components. In this project, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Vestas Wind Systems, and The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) collaborated to evaluate the effectiveness of state-of-the-art large-scale AM processes in the production of a structural component for use in a wind turbine nacelle, through both direct and indirect manufacturing approaches.
Here, experienced AM design engineers detail techniques for AM design, including topology optimization (TO), support minimization, reverse engineering, and techniques for mitigating poor interlaminar performance. Fabrication of the components is presented, including printing parameters and postprocessing, and followed with full-scale component testing by a 3rd party testing laboratory. To evaluate the potential of the developed approaches, a complete techno-economic analysis is provided which evaluates the cost of these techniques given current and near to long-term projections of AM system capabilities.