Siemens and ORNL print 11-kilogram turbine blades from metal

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have 3D printed large blades for steam turbines used in power-generating components in power plants. This achievement, a collaboration with Siemens Technology and Lincoln Electric, demonstrates the viability of wire arc additive manufacturing (WAAM) in the large-scale production of high-performance wear parts that have traditionally relied on casting and forging methods.

WAAM technology is rooted in welding technology, not only facilitating the production of new parts, but also simplifying the repair and maintenance of existing components. Siemens Energy, a company involved in the project, plans to use this technology to maintain and modernize machines as part of service contracts with energy companies.

Originally focused on component repair, the project expanded during the C19 pandemic to include 3D printing of entire replacement parts, solving the problem of extended wait times for new cast turbine blades. ORNL scientists experimented with various materials and developed improved methods for assessing the mechanical properties of printed parts. The manufactured steel alloy turbine blade is the culmination of these efforts.

While traditional casting and forging turnaround times have been reduced, ORNL’s ability to print a blade in 12 hours, with a total production time of two weeks, including machining, represents a significant improvement in production efficiency. This approach also overcomes the challenge of producing turbine blades with complex geometries and lack of standard retaining features.

Funded by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management and conducted at the DOE Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, the project demonstrates a significant shift toward more reliable, on-demand production methods. This method not only increases efficiency, but also ensures a more flexible and reliable future of manufacturing, potentially changing the landscape of industrial component production.


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