The wind energy industry has succeeded in applying large-scale additive manufacturing technology to create complex blade mold sections that are made of traditional composite materials and can be bonded. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has been focused on innovative thermoplastic composites that are lighter weight, lower cost, and can be recycled at the end of a wind blade’s life. NREL and Montana State University were awarded $75,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Technologies Office’s Water Power Laboratory Seedling Program to delve into applying these technologies to creating additively manufactured composite molds in marine energy applications.

For this project, the researchers implemented a new approach for the renewable energy industry by additively manufacturing internal molds designed to become a permanent part of the final load-bearing structure. Instead of bonding parts together in the blade, the team experimented with a continuous composite construction. printing tidal turbine blade molds in four sections and wrapping them in composite piles to eliminate points of failure.