VTT: Artificial Intelligence Road to Erosion-Free Blades

Artificial intelligence and 3D printing can help in solving the problem of erosion on wind turbine blades, according to a project conducted by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

The antiAGE project saw VTT develop an optimized solution to the material problem through a design process using virtual testing and machine learning in less than a year.

According to Principal Scientist Anssi Laukkanen, blade material erodes due to rain, hailstones and sand dust, which reduces the lifetime of turbines and accelerated replacement becomes expensive, with up to 2-4% of the value of all wind-generated power lost.

“It is a question of a classic problem within this particular industry that costs billions of euros and brings additional costs to all wind energy. As wind turbine sizes increase and wind farms are placed out on the sea in increasingly demanding conditions, the significance of the problem becomes emphasised,” said Laukkanen.

Although it is possible to find a number of different variations for the material used in blades composed of the same material components but differing slightly from one another, the one that is best suited for the purpose and that meets its operational requirements needs to be found, VTT said.

By using artificial intelligence, it would be possible to find a tailored material solution optimized for a specific purpose for every component of a single product, however, producing such highly tailored materials would be difficult if traditional manufacturing techniques were used.

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, allows the production of the desired material in any shape without unreasonable costs and when applied, 3D printing will do exactly what it is supposed to, VTT said.

“Human perceptive skills are insufficient to visualise all the dimensions related to the optimisation of material solutions. AI, on the other hand, is capable of unravelling very complicated cause-and-effect relationships, simulating solutions and going through an infinite number of alternatives to find the one that works best in relation to the requirements set,” Laukkanen said.

“When we published the news about our solution, wind turbine manufacturers became immediately interested in it. We are now negotiating details with commercial operators.”

VTT also said it is applying for additional funding for the project.