Purdue University engineers are conducting research on a way to make components for the offshore wind industry using 3D-printed concrete, a material they believe would be less expensive than steel
Together with an enterprise working on 3D-printed concrete, RCAM Technologies, Purdue is examining the feasibility of using 3D concrete printing to produce components such as suction pile anchors for floating wind turbines.
RCAM Technologies has an interest in building 3D-printed concrete structures including anchors and, potentially, wind turbine towers. At the end of 2019, the company was awarded a contract by the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium to develop a novel concrete foundation for offshore wind turbines.
In March 2019, the company was one of the winners in a Carbon Trust competition to address manufacturing challenges in floating wind. It proposed a concrete anchor, produced using 3D-printing technology, which would be sunk and then embedded in the seabed through suction.
Conventional concrete manufacturing methods require a mould to shape the concrete into the desired structure, which adds to costs and limits design possibilities. 3D printing would eliminate the cost of a mould.
The team working on the project is developing a method that would involve integrating a robot arm with a concrete pump to fabricate anchors and wind turbine substructures.
The project is a continuation of research on 3D printing cement-based materials into ‘bio-inspired’ designs, such as ones that use structures mimicking the ability of an arthropod shell to withstand pressure.
The group’s current research involves scaling up 3D printing by formulating a special concrete that uses a mixture of cement, sand and aggregates, and chemical admixtures to control shape stability when concrete is still in a fresh state.
The goal is to understand the feasibility and structural behaviour of 3D-printed concrete produced on a larger scale than what the team has previously studied in the lab.
Purdue professor of materials engineering Jeffrey Youngblood said, “Offshore wind power is a nearly perfect platform for testing 3D printing.”
The researchers will determine how gravity affects the durability of larger-scale 3D-printed structures. They say the research could also be applied to optimising and reinforcing structures in general.
Riviera will host a week of free to attend 45-minute webinars focused on offshore wind commencing 8 June. Register your interest now