GE to establish composites R&D center in Germany

Focus will be automated manufacture of wind turbine blades and similar structures.

GE Global Research, the technology development arm of the General Electric Co., and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) on July 3 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish a world-class carbon composites manufacturing Center of Excellence on the TUM campus in Garching, near Munich, Germany. The Center of Excellence will focus on automated manufacturing of complex composite structures for use in wind turbines, jet engines, and oil and gas applications.

The technology is expected to provide a dramatic improvement over today’s carbon composite manufacturing processes and will enable a new suite of commercial applications not practical or possible today. These applications include the development of a longer, advanced wind blade for increased wind capture and stronger risers to enable high-pressure deep-sea oil exploration and production. Products from GE businesses with locations in the European region, such as GE Wind in Germany and The Netherlands, GE Aviation Systems in the United Kingdom, and GE Oil & Gas in Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom, will benefit from advancements in the manufacturing of carbon composites.

“With this initiative we will be able to leverage the expertise and resources of both GE and the Technical University of Munich to further develop automated manufacturing of composites to improve commercial products,” said Carlos Härtel, managing director of GE Global Research Europe. “This announcement also emphasizes GE’s strong commitment to developing technology in Europe and marks five years of collaboration between the TUM and GE Global Research. The carbon composites Center of Excellence is a key project in GE’s focus on advanced manufacturing technologies.”

The Center of Excellence will benefit from Global Research Europe’s carbon composites manufacturing lab, which opened in September 2007, and the TUM’s newly created Lehrstuhl Carbon Composite (LCC) institute, led by Professor Dr. Klaus Drechsler. The establishment of the LCC at the TUM has been enabled through an endowment by SGL Carbon SE, headquartered in Wiesbaden, which is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of carbon-based products.

“The partnership of the TUM with GE to advance carbon composite research is one of many corporate collaborations that the Center of Excellence will foster as we advance this technology,” said Professor Dr. Drechsler. “The cost and performance benefits to carbon composite and automated manufacturing technology will have benefit to a range of businesses and industries.”