Project: Fast, quality assured and permanent repair of composite wind turbine blades without the need to dismantle the blades.

PROJECT BACKGROUND_x000D_The wind turbine industry is the fastest growing market for the use of composite materials [1-6]. Current turbines are huge with composite turbine rotor diameters of over 100m becoming standard. EU energy policy calls for 20% of the EU's 3040Th/y electricity demand to come from renewable sources by 2020, which constitutes a market of some 140€ billion and wind energy is the clear front runner. Presently in situ blade inspection is carried out every 3-6 month visually (binoculars etc) or with manual operatives involved in dangerous abseiling. Only limited, crude repairs are performed in situ. In most cases a damaged blade is dismantled & transported to a factory with specialised composite repair facilities, making the turbine downtime very high, especially with the increasing trend towards remote offshore location of turbines. These factors make COtenance costs very high, amounting to over 30% of overall operating costs when allowing for lost revenue. _x000D_THE PROJECT GOAL_x000D_So as turbines grow in size and number to the 2020 target and their deployment becomes more widespread and remote, COtenance costs will escalate. The ideal solution is for blade repairs to be carried out without the blades being dismantled, thus eliminating all transport costs and associated downtime._x000D_The QUALIBLADE project will provide this solution through a complete in situ system for damage identification and location, repair and repair quality assurance that can be rapidly operated by just two human operators in a weather protected cabin, eliminating dangerous rope access. _x000D_The repair involves the following steps: _x000D_-The protected cabin is moved from the base of a turbine tower to the suspected damage location by a TURBINE TOWER CLIMBING RING ROBOT developed in a previous EU project (ConcEPT). _x000D_-The nature and boundaries of the damaged region are traced out using existing ultrasonic and thermographic imaging instrumentation adapted to the environment._x000D_-REPAIR SURFACE PREPARATION. A fully automated portable laser programmed with the coordinates of the damage will cut out & mill the damaged volume of material._x000D_-The boundaries of the cut out region will be covered with adhesive & layers of resin impregnated carbon fibres. _x000D_-HOT BONDING + VACUUM BAGGING. The resin and adhesive will be cured using heating blankets and vacuum holders specially designed for simultaneous in situ application, to simplify & accelerate the repair process._x000D_-The repair will be monitored throughout curing using the same ultrasonic & thermographic equipment, in order to quality assure the repair._x000D_ROBOTICS AND AUTOMATION AIDS _x000D_The human operators will be aided by manually steered, power assisted pick & place tools (developed in the project) to deploy the ultrasound probe, infra red camera & laser preparation tool & place the carbon fibre repair inserts. _x000D_The QUALIBLADE system aims for a target reduction of 50% in COtenance costs (see including the reduction of revenue loss through downtime, reducing them to 15% of overall turbine operating costs. _x000D_TECHNICAL AND MARKET APPLICATIONS_x000D_The QUALIBLADE technology will allow the project SMEs enhanced access to the EU wind turbine COtenance market, set to reach 42 € billion ie 30% of turbine revenue by 2020._x000D_DECRIPTION OF THE PROJECT CONSORTIUM_x000D_The project brings together 4 research intensive SMEs from FR, GR & UK. GMI, the project coordinator, are world leading manufacturers of composite repair technology for aerospace produced entirely by in house research. They see a strong market opportunity to adapt their aerospace repair systems to the wind power sector. CPS is a provider of NDE & condition monitoring services for large scale engineering structures using instruments developed entirely by in-house research. DRAXIS will provide custom designed software for control of commercial pick , place & manipulator hardware & stress distribution modelling based on the IR data. KCC are a software engineering research company who will integrate all the hardware & software components of the QUALIBLADE system. _x000D_The QUALIBLADE proposal was previously presented to the 4th Eurostars cut-off (No E!5733) and was ranked above the threshold on all criteria, being placed in position 2 on the ranking list of 102 projects positively ranked! However due to national rules concerning the eligibility for funding of one of the Ps the proposal was finally not reserved for funding. _x000D_Given this exceptional ranking, the majority of the consortium decided to re-submit the proposal, with the same technical content after replacing the non-eligible P. It is therefore the strong belief of the consortium that QUALIBLADE will keep on enjoying the approval and the exceptional ranking from the EUROSTARS evaluators and will now have the opportunity to proceed towards the implementation phase.

Acronym QUALIBLADE (Reference Number: 6213)
Duration 01/10/2011 - 28/02/2014
Project Topic The QUALIBLADE project will develop a novel system for location and identification of all damage in composite wind turbine blades, fast repair & permanent repair quality assurance without the need to dismantle the blades, resulting in large reductions in repair costs and turbine downtime.
Project Results
(after finalisation)
The inspection and repair of wind turbine blades involves rope access and abseiling in difficult and dangerous conditions. Limited and crude repairs are performed in situ but in most cases damaged blades are dismantled and transported where composite repairs are carried out. A system has been developed within the QUALIBLADE project which has several subcomponents; the first when deployed scans a section of blade in suspension, identifies and locates a damaged area. The second subcomponent then executes repair preparations by routing and scarfing the damaged area. All subcomponents are manipulated by a Cartesian robot specially designed for the inspection and routing of curved wind turbine blades of complex geometry. The developed robotic system identifies curved surfaces and manipulates the required equipment with dexterity and compliance. In addition some wind turbine blades are made of GPRF and also foam which renders inspection techniques using ultrasonic very difficult to use. The system developed within the project includes a subcomponent which uses IR as an additional inspection technique. This inspection technique enables 2D mapping of a section of blade for both GPRF and foam. However the use of IR implies an intricate deployment system and software development which allows a reconstruction of the inspected area and diagnosis of potential repair. Finally, an extensive range of surface treatment (cutting & milling) and heating (control & application) equipment has been developed, fully adapted to the wind-turbine industry requirements
Network Eurostars
Call Eurostars Cut-Off 5

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
4 GMI-AERO SAS Coordinator France
4 Coaxial Power Systems Limited Partner United Kingdom
4 Kingston Computer Consultancy Limited Partner United Kingdom