British composites engineering company Aviation Enterprises Ltd. (AEL, Lambourne, Berkshire) recently announced the molding of a single piece prepreg box-spar demonstrator to production-ready quality levels. While this development has been made particularly with tidal energy blades in mind, AEL believes that the new technology should also confer benefits across a wide variety of applications in the aerospace, offshore and industrial sectors.
The new spar represents a major milestone on the road toward tidal blade industrialisation: When compared to the current state of the art in tidal blade construction, a single-piece spar enables a significant reduction in both part count and assembly stages. Additionally, adoption of a single piece spar will negate the need for adhesive bonding during the spar manufacturing process. The net effect will be large reductions in materials and labor costs, streamlining of blade production and the avoidance of critical processes.
Cost, efficiency, reliability and quality have been watchwords throughout the program: From the outset, AEL has aimed to perfect an externally-moulded spar without recourse to an autoclave, and using materials developed at AEL specifically for rapid application. The excellent quality of the finished spar more than justifies the many months allocated to this project, and is testament to the attention to detail for which AEL is known.
Further work will focus on the application of the new moulding technique to a full-size spar, integration within the blade, and the opportunities for mechanisation and process refinement that volume production will bring.
AEL serves aerospace, industrial, renewable & offshore sectors and is the world leader in the design and manufacture of tidal turbine blades. It offers an integrated service, with in house design, analysis, tooling, prototyping, testing & manufacture and welcomes novel and challenging projects.