The energy industry sustains modern society by providing constant power to all of our appliances and business. As a result, this constant, attentive creation of energy necessitates all kinds of cutting-edge machinery, from solar cells to wind turbine components to hydraulic valves for the oil and gas industry. In order to build these sophisticated gadgets, CNC was essential.
Energy production, along with aerospace and the automotive industries, is one of the major applications for CNC machining. However, the energy sector is at a crossroads where it may need to accommodate more modern, environmentally friendly energy sources alongside conventional energy sources or (more extreme) completely give up on oil and gas in favor of renewable energy sources. After all, from 2007 to 2017, the renewables industry grew by 5% annually, helped along by an increase in projects and global support.
The quality and effectiveness of power generation tools and parts will generally rise with the use of CNC components and sophisticated machining. This article will examine some of the key ways that CNC is influencing this transition.
Wind energy generation requires parts that can withstand extreme stress while preserving accuracy. Manufacturers must craft precision blades with the least amount of wear and tear possible when handling wind pressure. Not just in the fabrication of the blades, but also in components like the enormous bearings that control the angle, metal and carbon fiber machining has been essential. CNC allows for the production of massive bearings with the kind of precision normally only found in smaller parts, such as the adjustment mechanism for wind turbines. Like the blades of an airplane engine, they are large elements whose movement has a significant impact on how well they perform.
In general, rotors, gearbox housings, and other components are turned on multipurpose lathe machines. Given the scale of the typical wind turbine, it necessitates big, powerful machines, with metal cutting accounting for 90% of gear wheel production. These days, gear milling using a hob or disc cutters is predominant in this. Similar to how holes are frequently processed in tube shell heat exchangers for a range of energy systems, CNC drilling machines are employed in this procedure.
CNC machines that produce reinforced carbon-fiber plastics or glass fiber materials are required for wind turbines and windmills. The rotor blades can be made of lightweight woods, aluminum, or fiberglass with a hollow core as far as materials go. Most rotor blades have a blade profile with airplanes, therefore these machines demand extremely high levels of accuracy.
In addition to the solar panels themselves, there are other components including frames, back rails, and carrier rails that require precise construction. For such operations, milling and drilling machines are perfect, and several businesses advertise their CNC machines as being especially designed for creating solar panel parts. Even big production lines for solar panels include a variety of CNC operations, such as drilling and cutting, but they also need several non-CNC operations and multiple operators working at once.
Companies like Fanuc have been providing adaptable robotic arms that can handle geometries with more flexibility and workspace economy because production lines can be huge and garish. Similar to this, businesses like Beam Cut offer software that is specifically designed for the manufacture of solar panels, simplifying the process and requiring just one person to use it. This is one way that CNC is reducing the need for physical space and labor.
For frames and housing, solar panel makers frequently use wire cutters and turning centers. Solar panel manufacturing frequently uses plasma and fiber laser cutting devices, and the solar panels themselves are frequently divided using a variety of lasers. Similar to this, businesses like Protolabs use 3D printing and CNC machining to create solar panels. This does suggest that the development of hybrid products within the solar power sector may have room.
Turbines and generators for hydropower are not merely enormous machinery. Additionally, they must be resistant to pressure and water damage and made of materials that share similar characteristics; frequently, this means using components made of carbon and stainless steel. Manufacturing firms all over the world employ CNC technologies to create a variety of parts, from straightforward shafts and bushings to housings, impellers, and coverings for hydro turbines.
Depending on the requirements of the plant, it incorporates the typical turning, line boring, and milling but frequently on a large scale. As an example, Canyon Hydro in North America makes Pelton and Francis hydroelectric turbines up to 16 feet in diameter and 25 tons in weight using a 7-axis CNC milling machine. The turbine's minor (but possibly harmful) flaws are fixed using the CNC machine. In their fabrication center, this machine is one of several others. On an even larger scale, the Voith Hydro facility in York can fabricate workpieces up to 42′ (12.80 m) in diameter and 350 tons (317.5 t) in weight.
In addition to turbines, the development of dam and hydropower plant gates uses CNC milling and other machining techniques. In some instances, the development of various CNC machines has made it possible to produce these parts locally rather of having them shipped in from a distant manufacturer.
Overall, CNC machining and contemporary technologies have a huge positive impact on the area of green energy. Even though we've only begun to scratch the surface of their potential, there are already countless uses, benefits, and applications for them.