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Lighter Windmill Blades Require Precise Servo Control

Wind turbines bring requirements for new and advanced composite materials, in turn bringing new manufacturing challenges.

Design Challenge:

Precision control of 18 servo axes to fabricate a new class of high-strength composite materials.

Key Technologies:

  • electronic gearing
  • multi-axis motion
  • data acquisition and communication

Windmills at work
Developing new renewable energy sources is often a matter of dramatic increases in efficiency, requiring innovation in technologies, techniques and materials.

To create lighter, stronger and more rigid blades for wind turbines, Webcore Technologies (part of the TYCOR® family of engineered composite core products of Milliken & Company) needed machines to coordinate the winding of fiberglass over a substrate to extremely precise tolerances. To do so required exacting control over the servos performing the weaving process, while simultaneously performing other related machine automation functions and gathering and transmitting data to validate the finished product.

The CTC model 5300 was chosen due to its strong motion control and communications capabilities, and the CTC staff was called upon to stretch these capabilities to new levels to make the application a success.

Custom becomes Standard

Absolute consistency in the application of the fiber is required for high structural integrity of the final product. Meeting with Webcore’s machine designers, CTC learned that concurrent, real-time dispersal of information to 18 servos was needed for consistent fiber application. To meet this requirement, we developed a virtual master that would be able to send its position and velocity information to all servos moving in an electronically-geared mode. At the same time, the controller communicates with a data acquisition system for product validation and to verify the all-important tolerances.

The virtual master we created to meet this machine’s requirements is now a standard feature in CTC’s 5300 controller. Meeting one customer’s need sometimes translates into a new feature for all our customers, while also ensuring its continued off-the-shelf availability to the customer originally requiring the capability.