Innovating on Borrowed Ideas Sets Wind Turbine Record

A system said to break new ground in manufacturing large wind turbine components is based on tried-and-true automotive manufacturing concepts.

The three-spindle Megaflex system employs a number of technologies common in automotive production lines, including multiple spindles, offline setup and quick part loading via the use of a fixture interface plate and lifting bracket, and minimum quantity lubrication.  
“It’s like watching an orchestra play.”
That’s how Jeff Metts, president of Astraeus Wind Energy, described the Megaflex, a multi-spindle system that he says could represent a machining concept with the potential to push wind turbine manufacturing competiveness to new levels. In initial supplier qualification tests at Astraeus, the system simultaneously machined all three blade faces of one of the industry’s largest wind turbine hubs in record time.
Designed by Mag Industrial Automation Systems, the Megaflex consists of three large boring mills arranged around a B-axis rotary table. While this configuration might represent a first for wind turbine production, it’s based largely on proven concepts that have been applied in other facilities for years. “This is automotive technology scaled up an order of magnitude,” says Pete Beyer, Mag director of product development.

No doubt, similar origins underlie the development of many other manufacturing technologies that might be considered innovative—and that fact doesn’t make them any less so. A quote attributed to French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard reads: “It’s not where you take things from; it’s where you take them to.” This message can apply to manufacturing as much as any other discipline. Keep your eyes open, and you might just find something to borrow and make into an innovation of your own.