The recent surge in U.S. wind energy development has prompted two U.S.-based manufacturers of automated machine tools to make significant developmental and strategic marketing decisions.
Ingersoll Machine Tools (Rockford, Ill.) introduced in April two developments for the wind energy industry. The first is the intended launch of an automated wind blade production demonstrator, as a means of prototyping and qualifying processes and processing equipment for sale to wind turbine blade manufacturers. A second development, the MasterWind Lean Manufacturing Center, will put those automated technologies to work — and put Ingersoll in the business of making wind turbine mechanical components, such as hubs, gearboxes, upper and lower plates and nacelles. The first MasterWind Center will be in operation by the end of 2010 at Ingersoll’s headquarters in Rockford, according to the company. Ingersoll president and CEO Tino Oldani says, “Ingersoll’s activities are tailored to meet the new manufacturing requirements of the wind power generation industry and foster an evolution that will propel U.S. manufacturing to a leading position in the global market.”
These initiatives are supported by a grant of $5 million (USD), awarded through the Green Industry Business Development Program, a component of the Illinois State’s Energy Plan, administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and funded by the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act.
CNC machinery supplier MAG Industrial Automation Systems (Erlanger, Ky.) announced the formation of a new Renewable Energy Business unit to design and build automated manufacturing systems for both wind turbine components and solar panels. According to Joe Jones, MAG’s head of operations in the Americas, the renewable energy business is off to a strong start. “In recent years, we have pivoted our composites and machine tool automation businesses to concentrate on wind turbine components, allowing us to bring to market new systems for automated lay up of composite wind blades, finishing, and root-end drilling, all of them based on proven technologies and modules.” MAG is currently sharing a $7 million grant from the U.S. state of Michigan. Grant funds will be used to develop carbon-fiber turbine blades and design and manufacture a reportedly “revolutionary” wind-hub machining cell for high-volume manufacturing.