Molding Systems automate wind-turbine blade fabrication.

Press Release Summary:

Delivering repeatable process control as automated blade molding facility, CNC-controlled Rapid Material Placement System (RMPS) offers integrated manufacturing capable of spraying in-mold coatings, dispensing/lay-up of glass and carbon fiber materials, and dispensing/application of adhesive. Also available, quick-cure molding system produces molds using customer CAD data, yielding finished blade to spec with each cycle. It can be infused with resin in 1 hr and followed by 2 hr cure.

Original Press Release:

New Systems Automate Composite Wind-Turbine Blade Fabrication, Double Throughput and Increase Quality

Rapid Material Placement and quick-cure molding systems combine to reduce lay-up, infusion and curing time by 50 percent; produce consistently high-quality parts

April 2009 - MAG is revolutionizing the manufacture of composite wind-turbine blades with the introduction of two patent-pending technologies at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) WINDPOWER 2009 show in May at Chicago's McCormick Place. The company's new Rapid Material Placement System (RMPS) and quick-cure molding system for wind blades combine to reduce labor content by two-thirds, double throughput, and produce a consistently high-quality blade from the start of a shift to the end.

The new Rapid Material Placement System (RMPS) brings integrated manufacturing - with automation and repeatable process control - to what has largely been a manual or piecemeal-automated process. RMPS is an automated blade molding facility unto itself, capable of spraying in-mold coatings, dispensing/lay-up of glass and carbon fiber materials, and dispensing/application of adhesive. It brings 3 m/sec (10 ft/sec) lay-up speed to placement of materials in blade skin, spar cap, and sheer web molds, with laser- and vision-based wrinkle detection in cross or longitudinal directions. Depending on the laminate schedule, the system can reduce lay-up time 85 percent on a 45-meter blade.

Programmed off line, the CNC-controlled system consists of a gantry system with multi-axis end effectors capable of manipulating spray heads and adhesive applicators, as well as tooling for spooling and placing materials. After application of gel-coat with spray-head tooling, a ply-generator with a ten-roll magazine of material cuts and dispenses plies to the lay-up end effector on the gantry. The lay-up end effector spools up the material supplied by the ply generator. As the fabric is paid out onto the mold, a pair of articulating powered brushes smoothes it to the tool surface. The lay-up system is mechanically repeatable to ±2 mm, with application tolerance of ±5 mm.

Two such gantry systems adjacent to one another can each produce a 45-meter blade-shell half in less than two hours, with half the manual labor of conventional methods. The gantry system rides on rails that are flush with the floor. It also carries bulk supply systems for gel-coat and adhesive.

The RMPS is controlled by a CNC and powered with programmable drives and servomotors. Off-line programming software developed by MAG creates the CNC code from imported CAD data.

MAG has also developed a new, patent-pending quick-cure mold system utilizing tooling it will supply. The molds are produced using the customer's CAD data. The system yields a finished blade to spec with each cycle. It can be infused with resin in an hour, followed by a two-hour cure, about half the normal time. At the show, MAG will exhibit sample parts representing a 100 mm-thick root section and root spar cap system. The latter will show three zones of material and three thicknesses, demonstrating the system can infuse and cure all three zones at the same time quickly. Like the lay-up system, the infusion/curing system includes process control metrics for resin metering, temperatures, blocked channels, etc., with alarm limits.

On the finishing side of blade automation, MAG will introduce a five-axis machining system for root drilling/milling/sawing. The company is the leading supplier of composites processing technology for the aerospace industry, and produces a full range of upstream and downstream composites solutions, such as tape laying, fiber placement, machining, robotic painting and optical inspection systems, as well as an extensive service support capability.

For metalworking production of wind-power parts, MAG is introducing a new line of horizontal turning centers (HTC's) in the U.S. that combines a wide array of unusual capabilities for finishing a large part in one setup. Ideal for rotor shafts, pinions and similar shaft-type parts, these machines can perform operations unheard of on a typical HTC: deep-hole drilling, serrating, grinding, hard turning, notch milling, hobbing, grinding, as well as cut-to-length and centering, rough and finish turning. European wind industry leaders are already using these machines to produce parts up to 1500 mm diameter and 2800 mm long.

From blade tip to output shaft, MAG demonstrates at WINDPOWER 2009 that it has a total package of automation solutions for turbine and component manufacturers.

About MAG

MAG is a leading machine tool and systems company serving the durable-goods industry worldwide with complete manufacturing solutions. The company offers a comprehensive line of equipment and technologies including process development, automated assembly, turning, milling, automotive powertrain production, composites processing, maintenance, automation and controls, and core components. Key industrial markets served by these technologies include aerospace, automotive and truck, heavy equipment, oil and gas, rail, solar energy, wind turbine production and general machining.

With manufacturing and support operations strategically located worldwide, MAG ranks as a leader in the capital equipment market. A growing number of leading international companies are relying on the impressive innovation power of MAG to assure their technological leadership and prepare for future challenges.

For more information about MAG, please visit:

All Topics