GE Taps Voxeljet to Develop Manufacturing Tech for U.S. Energy Transition

They're building a large sand binder jet 3D printer called Advanced Casting Cell.

Offshore Windturbine From Ge Renewable Energy (© Ge Renewable Energy)
GE Research

GE Research has selected voxeljet as its partner for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DoE) $14.9 million award in federal funding for the development and commercialization of a large sand binder jet 3D printer, called Advanced Casting Cell (ACC), to accelerate the United States’ transition to clean power. In addition to voxeljet, GE Research has also selected GE Hydro, GE Onshore Wind, GE Offshore Wind, Clemson University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and Hodge Foundry as partners on the ACC project.

The Advanced Casting Cell project was established to strengthen the U.S. manufacturing industry and expertise to boost the cost-effective domestic production of large metallic near net shape (NNS) components in alignment of the Biden Administration’s clean power-generation strategy. The ACC will be developed and deployed to produce sand molds to manufacture metallic NNS parts. With development of the ACC, the project includes the digital creation of mold designs via a digital foundry as well as the completion of a techno-economic analysis of cost and supply chain challenges.

The project aims to produce 3D-printed large scale sand molds to cast components for the nacelle of the GE Haliade-X Offshore Turbine. The nacelle, where mechanical components are housed, can weigh more than 60 metric tons. The goal is to reduce the time it takes to produce this pattern and mold, from around ten weeks to two weeks. According to Data Bridge Market Research, the global wind turbine nacelle market has estimated to be valued at $6.6 billion in 2021 and projected to be over $15 billion by 2029.

Representative hydro turbine form GE Renewable Energy.Representative hydro turbine form GE Renewable Energy.GE Renewable Energy

This novel manufacturing technology has the potential to reduce overall hydropower costs by 20% and lead times by four months. The project will also include the production optimization of a 16-ton rotor hub using the ACC as well as the development of a robotic welding process for the assembly of a >10-ton Francis runner. To help ensure successful implementation of ACC, an advanced manufacturing curriculum is being created for local workforce development to train and engage workers on the specifics of this 3D printing manufacturing technology.

“We’re excited to be a part of this future-driven and innovative project,” said Dr. Ingo Ederer, CEO of voxeljet. “The development and cost-efficient manufacturing of clean power-generation technologies is in high-demand because it is key to meeting and overcoming global climate challenges. We are confident that additive manufacturing, and specifically our large-scale Binder Jetting technology, is the right choice to manufacture complex parts used in these next-generation wind turbines.”

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