Challenges in wind turbine components
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Challenges in Wind Turbine Components. Charles D. Schultz, PE Beyta Gear Service Winfield, Illinois. What is going on in Wind Energy?. Activity on a national scale. Progress has been made but much remains to be done!. It is all about jobs!. Domestic Content Progress.

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Challenges in Wind Turbine Components

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Challenges in wind turbine components

Challenges in Wind Turbine Components

Charles D. Schultz, PE

Beyta Gear Service

Winfield, Illinois


What is going on in wind energy

What is going on in Wind Energy?


Activity on a national scale

Activity on a national scale


Progress has been made but much remains to be done

Progress has been made but much remains to be done!


It is all about jobs

It is all about jobs!


Domestic content progress

Domestic Content Progress


Us wind resource map

US is the “Saudi Arabia” of wind

Transmission of power from central plains to coasts is a problem

Even states that aren’t “colorful” have wind potential

US Wind Resource Map


Examples of components

Blade Hubs are huge castings – up to 15,000 pounds

Gearbox Assemblies weigh up to 60,000 pounds and are getting larger

Chassis are big fabrications or castings –up to 40,000 pounds and getting larger

Examples of Components


Towers blades

Transport issues, 50 meter lengths & 40 ton weights

High cost items

Potential for big improvements

Big incentive to make locally

Towers & Blades


Big market long term potential

Big Market, Long Term Potential


Where are the problems

Where are the problems?


Quality is a given

Quality is a given

  • Due to high cost of warranty work all parts have strict quality specifications

  • Tolerances test equipment capabilities

  • Documentation requirements similar to aircraft industry

  • Little acceptance of non-conformances

  • Metallurgical cleanliness at aircraft levels

  • Expect to cut up lots of samples for metallurgical checks


Consistency is mandatory

Consistency is Mandatory

  • Expect customers to dictate suppliers, methods, and even tooling

  • Customers will have quality observers in your facility

  • Once a method is approved changes are difficult to make

  • Rework –especially in thermal processing- is subject to extreme scrutiny


Big portion of value is in the nacelle

Big portion of value is in the Nacelle


Large precision gearboxes required

Aerospace precision in a mining machine sized package

Quality levels far in excess of industrial equipment

Huge warranty and maintenance costs

Large, precision gearboxes required


Other geared products

Other Geared Products


Planetary designs predominate

Planetary designs predominate


Typical gearbox parts

Typical Gearbox Parts


Typical pinion

Not dissimilar to industrial gearing

Large cross sections challenge heat treat response

18CrNiMo7-6 typical material

Current weights up to 2500 pounds and getting bigger

Typical Pinion


Typical sun pinion

Large thru hole helps heat treat response

18CrNiMo7-6 typical material

Heat treat distortion common

Current weights up to 2000 pounds and getting bigger

Typical Sun Pinion


Typical gear

Not dissimilar to industrial gears

Large cross sections challenge heat treat response

18CrNiMo7-6 typical material

Super finishing issues

Current weights to 10,000 pounds and getting bigger

Typical Gear


Typical splined hub

Typically thru hardened but some nitrided or induction hardened

Length [up to 30”] is a shaping challenge

42CrMo4 typical material

Current weights up to 2500 pounds and getting bigger

Typical Splined Hub


Typical ring gear

As large as 3 meters

Many thru hardened

Nitriding popular

Induction hardening is also used

Carburizing possible but problematic

Shot peening and super finishing issues

Typical Ring Gear


Typical planet

Lots of planets needed; 3, 4, or 5 per stage

Precision size matching within sets

18CrNiMo7-6 typical material

Current weights up to 2200 pounds and getting larger

Typical Planet


Serial production not job shop

Serial Production – not job shop!

  • 7,000 turbines per year = 27 per day

  • 10,000,000 cars per year = 38,462 per day

  • Typical large industrial gear shop does less than 5 gearboxes per day

  • Aircraft production –similar in quality and complexity – is on the order of 1000 per year


Thermal processing issues

Large parts require large furnaces

Economic load sizes typically over 5,000#

Large teeth require deep cases

Cycle times of 60+ hours not uncommon

Aerospace quality required at all steps

Thermal Processing Issues


Volume price pressure drive equipment purchases

Volume & price pressure drive equipment purchases

  • Customers want lowest possible costs

  • Existing job shop equipment can’t keep up

  • New technology offers improved quality with faster cycle times


Dramatic cycle time reductions possible

Dramatic Cycle Time Reductions Possible

  • Shaping an internal ring takes 30 hours

  • Gashing takes 3 hours

  • Hobbing a gear can take 8 to 10 hours

  • Gashing takes less than 2 hours


Big non chip making investments needed

Big non-chip making investments needed

  • SPC needed on everything

  • 100% magnaflux, UT, & nital etch typical

  • Shot peening required on everything

  • Full met lab checks on every furnace load

  • Verification of geometry requires big CMM

  • Everything that can be inspected must be inspected


Big investments needed in qc

Big investments needed in QC

Super Finishing required on many components

To achieve 4 to 8 AA surface finish


An industrial challenge worthy of a great nation

An Industrial Challenge worthy of a great nation!

  • Potential to transform the economy

  • Positive environmental impact

  • Huge export market available

  • US was once the world leader in wind energy and can be once again

  • Plenty of room for innovation at all levels of the business


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