To achieve this project, the British manufacturer has collaborated with the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) in Canada. For all the stakeholders involved in this project, this was an opportunity to see how metal AM can improve the efficiency of renewable sources. A project that is of paramount importance in the AM industry as metal AM is often considered as a very expensive technology. Beyond the capabilities of metal AM, the challenge was to prove how it could help Biome save costs.
The Ontario-based design firm specializes in designing wind turbines. The whole project started when they decided to expand into tidal wave energy. When they approached NSCC, the college realized that their plastic solutions were inappropriate for tidal environments, hence the need of metal AM that can fabricate stronger parts.
As part of this collaboration, Renishaw first assisted in designing two parts for Biome.
Named PowerCone®, the modern part goes on the hub of an existing turbine and enables to improve efficiency by 10-15 per cent by letting the blades rotate at slower speeds. Next to the PowerCone®, the metal AM specialist also supports in the production of propellers. Since they are produced via AM, their curved design enables to reduce drag when the blades turn in the water.
Once finished, the two parts serve for the production of 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 also tested. Results show that additively manufactured components enable to improve levels of power of the device, over a wide range of tidal velocities.
“Tidal turbine energy is one of many growing renewable energy markets and it was really exciting to be involved in a project like this,” continued Mark Kirby, Additive Manufacturing Business Manager at Renishaw Canada. “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.”
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