The answer is blowing in the wind

Ultra advanced product lifecycle management software is allowing wind energy companies to reap the harvest of an industry set for global expansion.

A breeze through history
The Wind Energy Industry brings together skills, technologies and science that have not been previously combined on a single system. Dassault Systèmes V5 and V6 PLM technology, which is used by thousands of enterprises throughout the world to develop and bring leading products to market, has proven an ideal match for the needs of this emerging industry. For example, light weight, very robust, able to deal with severe climate, intricate mechanisms and advanced power handling are common requirements to both the aerospace and wind energy industry allowing an ideal technology and knowledge transfer to the wind energy sector.

Harnessing energy from the wind has been part of man's technical repertoire for at least 5500 years since the first sailing boats were launched and its has been used to provide mechanical power for 3700 years in Babylonian irrigation systems and for 2500 years with blast furnaces that could reach temperatures of 1200°C. The first windmill is dated to the year 50AD and by 700AD vertical axis shaft driven technology was in use, grinding corn, in what is now Afghanistan. The windmill helped open up the American west pumping water for locomotives and has now become an American icon.

The first modern wind turbines were developed in the 1980s. Despite the age of the industry wind turbine manufacture and use, represents only a tiny fraction of the energy generation scene. However it is an increasingly important one.


In the vanguard
The companies leading the field in wind generation are using the most advanced design and production techniques in their work. Aerodynamicists teamed with geophysicists are working with composites engineers and production specialists to conceive, design build and operate wind turbines that represent some of the most advanced products ever devised, that use an elemental source of power as old as time.

The prize for humanity is that an estimated 70 TW of power could be harnessed from the wind compared to a current total global consumption amounting to 20% of that figure. Arguments over the actual amount that can be harnessed vary and reference to Betz law must be made (this estimates a total yield of under 60%) although figures of 30% have also been offered. Regardless of these figures, there is a race to develop ever more efficient wind turbines. One company leading the field in this industry is UK-based wind energy company quietrevolution which has deployed Dassault Systèmes PLM solutions to enhance design and manufacture of its wind energy generators.


Math + Wind = E
Having calculated a mathematically correct shape for its aerodynamically-optimised vertical axis rotor blades, quietrevolution use Dassault Systèmes' CATIA to design, engineer and manufacture wind energy turbines. CATIA helps quietrevolution to capitalise on the growing demand for wind energy systems by providing an efficient design, development and production technology platform that allows the company to make the most of its resources.

Quietrevolution's design manager, Richard Kingsley, said: "Product development is at the heart of our work. In the short time that we have been using Dassault Systèmes' CATIA virtual design solution, it has significantly improved our ability to efficiently complete the design-to-manufacture processes of advanced structures." Mr. Kingsley, who has experienced PLM at Lotus Cars, Proton, Ascari and Aston Martin, added, "Dassault Systèmes PLM allows us to digitally design, sign off, investigate tooling feasibility, build products, and communicate 3D designs. CATIA is the industry standard among our supply chain and it allows us to exchange native files with partner companies leading to more efficient production processes."

The advantage of the quietrevolution design is that the 120 degree blade twist means that the rotor is always working. This makes the design especially suitable for urban environments where wind direction is often variable. Using CATIA allows the company to not only develop a more efficient and very elegant design, but also to communicate through internal and external supply chains using native CATIA files or data formats that suit the needs of suppliers and sub contractors. Richard Kingsley added: "Working efficiently with suppliers is crucial. The Dassault Systèmes data environment ensures that this level of communication is smooth and error free with absolute control over versions iterations and release procedures"


Cycle time
Mike Crow, director, Dassault Systèmes said: "We are glad that quietrevolution is utilising CATIA leading-edge virtual design solutions to be at the forefront of the wind energy industry. Using best practices developed in conjunction with leading manufacturers from other industries for design and production, wind turbine manufacturers can avoid costly trial and error in the real world and significantly reduce development cycle time while manufacturing stronger products with higher energy outputs by integrating design, testing, and manufacturability analysis in a single environment."

Darren Cairns of Intrinsys, the Dassault Systèmes value added reseller that implemented and supports the solution said: "quietrevolution is an example of a cutting-edge company using advanced 3D PLM technology to lead the world in this sector of the wind energy industry. We are proud to make our CATIA expertise available to help quietrevolution develop new energy solutions by providing advanced production software and the services that optimize its rewards."


You're so vane
Becoming more proficient through advanced training and technical support has enabled wind energy expert consultancy RomaxWIND to evolve its productivity, capability and ability to efficiently deliver to the wind energy industry.


You don't need a weatherman…
Based in Nottingham UK and with facilities across Europe, Asia and the US, RomaxWIND offers its clients with design services, technical consultancy and simulation technology for the development of wind turbine drivetrain systems.

Using its own specialist software coupled with Dassault Systèmes CATIA V5 and a nascent ENOVIA SmarTeam capability, the company provides design and analysis of gearboxes, bearings and drivetrain systems to manufacturers and operators in the wind energy industry. Using a combination of their technical team and Romax simulation technology RomaxWIND is able to offer a wide range of services to its clients including, product design, expert assistance for gearbox certification, technical due diligence on bearing and drivetrain design, manufacturing support, strategic consulting, technology transfer, and training.

Key to the company's work is a strong design capability that produces significantly increased drivetrain efficiencies in wind turbines. This is achieved through understanding gear and supplementary systems and their optimisation through analysis and iterative development.

David Reetham, senior project engineer at RomaxWIND, explained some of the complexity of ensuring maximum efficiency: "Equal load sharing between planetary or epicyclic gears is crucial to ensure reliability and low vibration. By taking into account the effects of structural deflections, mounting conditions, gravity, assembly and manufacturing tolerances RomaxWIND uses software simulations to predict load sharing through each planet gear. Add this to gear contact patterns, durability calculations, phasing calculations and noise minimisation and the complexities increase."


Let the four winds blow
David Reetham continued: "Once we have optimised the drive train specification and features, CATIA is deployed to develop and refine the concept and bring it to a manufacturable state. CATIA is also used to evolve the initial design so that production will be as closely related to the 3D digital model as possible. As the design develops re-analysis often takes place with the 3D model being transferred through various systems in a design/analysis feedback loop."

For this complex set of activities to proceed with ease, ENOVIA SmartTeam is being deployed with technical assistance and support from Dassault Systèmes Value Added Reseller, Applied PLM solutions. Applied also provide ongoing support for RomaxWIND's CATIA installation. Shaun Clark, managing director of Applied said. "The introduction of ENOVIA SmarTeam will improve design productivity by offering enhanced configuration and release controls as well as providing sophisticated links between parts and assemblies. Designers will be able to log parts and assemblies in and out while version control ensures that order and traceability are always maintained. This will allow designers to do more designing and also improve overall data security and quality."


Fair stood the wind
David Reetham commented: "Applied offers a number of training options to RomaxWIND which allow us to make the most of our Dassault Systèmes installation and to develop systems and methodology that suit our needs for seamless integration within and beyond our enterprise and our supply chains. We work on projects internationally with much work in Germany, Denmark, China, India and the US where major wind power developments are taking place. Dassault Systèmes software is ideal for this type of operation and Applied has been instrumental in ensuring that we achieve maximum productivity from its' deployment."

Shaun Clark added: "Applied's expertise across many industry sectors ranging from automotive and aerospace, in the energy sector and beyond, has given us the experience to bring to RomaxWIND the training and support services that enable them operate with great efficiency. Our knowledge and understanding of V5 PLM allows RomaxWIND to gain maximum productivity from their software using the advanced methodology deployed at the highest levels of design and manufacture."

The globally expanding industry of generating energy from wind power is pushing technical boundaries, but RomaxWIND sought to meet this challenge by transferring the knowledge gained in the aerospace, automotive, marine and heavy industries, in which Romax has been operating for 20 years. Now with over five years experience and a large portfolio of wind energy projects, RomaxWIND considers itself at the forefront of technical development in wind energy engineering.


Wind is of service to those with direction
The business opportunities in the wind energy industry are significant and rely on innovative companies adopting technology transfer and marketing strategies that take advantage of the prevailing energy climate. It is with technology that new energy generation systems can be developed and the reliance on fossil fuels reduced as a consequence.

Using CATIA and ENOVIA software in many projects has given RomaxWIND a strong understanding of the methods that deliver optimum results. Subtle alterations to the drive train, blade pitch and yaw, along with highly considered materials choices and their associated manufacturing techniques have positioned RomaxWIND in the forefront of wind turbine design and development while data control and management using Dassault Systèmes software helps maintain this enviable status.

David Reetham concluded: "Future developments in wind energy will come from the refinement of existing techniques and methodologies as well as from the use of new materials, control systems and their market acceptance. The situation that RomaxWIND has achieved through deploying Dassault Systèmes PLM and the support that we enjoy from Applied allows us great manoeuvrability and the confidence to work in the knowledge that our fully optimised designs can be manufactured to a standard that matches their ingenuity"


The infinite wind
The use of Finite Element Analysis (FEA) has been a great boon to the wind energy industry. Dale Berry, director of technical marketing of SIMULIA, an FEA company, spoke about the use his company's software in this application.

"Questions such as, 'What's the ideal configuration of a turbine blade?' or 'How can you adapt a land-based wind turbine design to a deep-water installation?' are best answered with the use of FE technology. Engineers generally start with a CAD model – perhaps of an airfoil, or the blade of a wind turbine – and then use Finite Element Analysis software to transform that model into a 3D mesh of geometric units, which are the 'elements' in finite element analysis.

"Once an FEA model is set up, any number of static, dynamic, linear or nonlinear events, including contact, collisions, buckling and/or collapse scenarios, and even multiphysics analyses (thermal-structural, fluid structure interaction and/or computational fluid dynamics), can be analyzed. Feedback from the FEA solution ('virtual testing') is then used to evaluate and modify the CAD design, repeatedly if necessary, until the desired product functionality and durability are reached.

"The results of FEA are typically verified with real-world tests. However, when used in the correct process, and leveraging historical engineering test data, FEA is capable of reducing design time as well as the expense of extensive physical prototyping. The technology has been accelerated in recent years with the addition to the engineer's toolbox of process integration and design optimization software, as well as multi-core, high-performance computing."


Fertile ground for development
Dale Berry continued: "The diverse engineering needs of power generation have benefited greatly from advancements in FEA cross-fertilization between. In the case of Dassault Systèmes' Abaqus unified FEA software from SIMULIA, structural design and soil interaction capabilities, proven through analysis of oil & gas platforms, are now being applied to the development of offshore wind structures.

"The wind power industry is experiencing a boom as government and private sector support continues to grow in this energy field. Taller structures are being designed to take advantage of stronger wind speeds at higher elevations and also to offset greater installation costs in the case of offshore wind farms.

"The design and simulation of wind turbine towers and foundations is second nature for FEA software vendors with extensive experience in the oil and gas offshore industry. All of the necessary material models are available for simulating foundations, such as concrete, the behaviour of soils, and soil/structural interactions. Linear dynamics capture vibration (earthquake) effects, while static and dynamic nonlinear analyses simulate complex fluid-structure interactions or failure mechanisms.

"Rotor blades are possibly the most visible and critical part of a wind turbine. Composites are a leading blade material; FEA modelling techniques for composites, initially driven by aerospace, are highly applicable when exploring such new materials for strength and durability in challenging weather. The software supports composite pre-processing steps such as definition of layups, distribution of orientations and thickness, and visualisation of various plies. For modelling purposes, a wide range of element types (solid shells, continuum shells, and so forth) can be used together with different material and failure models, such as the Virtual Crack Closure Technique (VCCT), which was developed by Boeing and refined by SIMULIA.

"Less visible, but still critical, components of a wind turbine are the bearings; several bearings manufacturers use Abaqus FEA to model and simulate the contact behaviour of parts in a bearing quickly and accurately. The software solution takes advantage of built-in stabilization features and advanced contact algorithms. Process automation and optimization tools can be applied to FEA analysis of bearings and other aspects of wind power development to identify optimum design parameters for the most efficient and cost-effective design".

Author
Nick Lerner, Dassault Systèmes

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