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Wind Turbine Repair Robot

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - WindTRRo (Wind Turbine Repair Robot)

Reporting period: 2020-11-01 to 2021-07-31

The wind power market is experiencing high growth rates due to the need for clean, reliable and affordable power. One of the challenges in the industry is that the leading edge on turbine blades erodes when the blade tip is hit by rain and other particles in the air. Eroded edges result in less energy generated.For this reason, there is a high demand for leading edge repair services. Today, rope technicians carry out these repairs hanging from ropes from the nacelle of the wind turbine, a dangerous and expensive task.

In order to support and secure the continuous growth of using wind turbines as energy generators a decrease in repairing cost is needed as well as a more efficient and safe way to maintain the turbine blades. Rope Robotics has developed this solution – a robot that can conduct repairs of the wind turbine blade up. Using the robot will replace the previously described hazardous, manual task and minimize the cost of wind turbine blade repair overall.

Repairing a turbine blade is all about maintaining the structural integrity and aerodynamics. The robot makes a 3D model of the blade based on laser scanning and pictures taken by the attached camera. The 3D model of the blade is used to ensure the correct placement of the robot tool towards the leading-edge. Software ensures the correct speed, pressure, material flowrates and geometry which are key for ensuring a successful repair. The robot undertakes all the repair processes needed, such as cleaning, sanding and finally the application of the two-component leading-edge protection coating., which is the final step to rebuild the original shape of the blade. Throughout the whole repair process, validation pictures are taken and collected into a superior documentation package. The robot pilot operates the robot from the ground and ensures the processes are done correctly and with a high-quality standard complying with the customer’s specification.

The overall objective of the project 848747 WinTRRo is to demonstrate and document to the blade maintenance market that the robot meets the demand for safer and more efficient repairing processes and thus aims to become the new industry standard for wind turbine blade repair. This is done via field tests at potential customers wind farms. Results and expertise from these field tests will provide the base for further optimization of the robot and shall give Rope Robotics the knowledge and know-how needed to define the final business model and go-to-market strategy.
This project has made it possible for Rope Robotics to finalized and implement the optimizations of the robot and the repair solution to the stage ready for commercialisation. This includes their complete operational set-up to perform wind turbine blade repair and all aspects making their organisation ready for business acceleration and upscale.
The project has been running in simultaneous tracks. Simplified they can be defined as areas covering the:
• Technology
• Operational set-up
• Business acceleration and upscaling
Technology wise, Rope Robotics has upgraded their robot significantly during this project. The main achievement has been an essential change of the way the robot move around the wind turbine blades.
Rope Robotics aimed for and succeeded with the implementation of a dynamic move concept. This means the robot now move along the leading-edge of the blade while it perform operational tasks, like sand, clean and apply leading edge protection.
The robot uses tools while repairing the blade. The tools are caried on its back and the robot arm is used to hold and control the tools. Rope Robotics has also qualified a new leading-edge material and the tools used for its application. Rope Robotics have invented both a Leading-edge application tool and an application tool used specifically on the blade-tip, as the tip is significantly different from the rest if the blade. They have optimized their sanding and cleaning tools to fit to fit the new move concept .
This makes the Rope Robotics repair solution complete. It has not only raised the quality but also taken several steps out of the original repair process. Specifically. it has meant a reduced repair time to approximately 8 hours per blade.
The field tests have been the exploitation windows of this project and Rope Robotics have been running field tests both in both DK, Germany, Sweden and South Africa.
For a successful field operation, a complete operational set-up is crucial. Rope Robotics now have a complete operational process in place with all support equipment well incorporated, clearly defined operational routines and a well working communication set-up. Safety and well-educated robot operators are very important and necessary to run an operation as well. The wind industry requires specific training and safety certifications and Rope Robotics have now determined processes and material that makes sure they have the safety and training certificates needed to operate.
They have developed support equipment which among others means transportation gear to make the transport of the robot on the ground possible. They have developed control centres for the operators to control the robots. Mobile centres, which also works as transportation units for the robot and operational gear, as well as workshop for miner robot service and maintenance tasks and warehouse to store the consumables used within the operation.
Finalizing the project has meant high focus on defining and implementing the aspects that are going to take Rope Robotics from being mainly an R&D company to be a commercial success.
During this project Rope Robotics has received valuable support from business developers and has involved stakeholders, that have helped them to clarify the market from all angles. They have identified the mutual dependencies seen in the market and their customers buying behaviours as well as determined the key success factors needed for a successful business upscaling. These thorough analyses have led to a clear go-to-market strategy and valuable knowledge that has matured the organisation to be well prepared in the challenges to come.
Rope Robotics has a fleet of 6 robots running in the market. Their solution meets the standards required by the wind industry and they offer a superior documentation package. They are well on their way to become one of the preferred industry standards for the wind turbine repair.
Cost savings for repair services will be one of the major industry impacts of this project providing the wind power industry with an important tool to become financially viable as compared to other energy sources. Another important impact of this project is the minimized level of dangerous work performed in heights when repaired the blades using manual work. Replacing manual labour with the robots will set new standards for health and safety pertaining to maintenance personnel.
Another important social impact of this project is that it will support the European goal of becoming less dependent on fossil fuels as Robe Robotics invention will be able to reduce the total costs of wind power operations thus making the sector more competitive.
Robot in operation applying LEP
Robot in operation during validation programm