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Published: 22 January 2019 22 January 2019
A new research collaboration is utilising UK aerospace technology to develop a leading-edge protection system for offshore wind turbines. Improving protection for offshore wind turbine blades against erosion can significantly reduce turbine blade repair costs and loss of power production through maintenance downtime. It can also enable the development of longer, lighter turbine blades with higher tip speeds.
 
The Leading Edge for Turbines (LEFT) project, part-funded by Innovate UK, is a two-year, £1 million collaboration between Doncasters Bramah and Performance Engineered Solutions (PES), plus the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult.
 
Doncasters Bramah is a specialist aerospace component manufacturer, which is applying its expertise in supplying leading edge erosion shields for aircraft and helicopters, to solutions for the offshore wind industry. Meanwhile the PES design engineers are utilising their experience in component performance and composites optimisation on the project.
 
Doncasters Bramah manufacture civil and military aerospace components and assemblies, utilising a variety of forming and fabrication processes. One of these processes is called electroforming, which is an electrodeposition based additive manufacturing process, similar in principal to electroplating. Parts are grown in a chemical bath onto a preformed mandrel to produce near net shape parts, removing the need for multi-stage forming operations associated with conventional metal forming techniques. Parts are typically electroformed in a nickel cobalt alloy, which has a high tensile and yield strength, as well as a high hardness value compared to titanium and stainless steel. This makes it ideal for producing lightweight erosion shields.
 
If successful, this project might lead to the introduction of a new product for the offshore wind industry:
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