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Most powerful end-of-line test bench for ZF Wind Power

ZF Wind PowerZF Wind Power answers the current and future growth in the offshore market with the investment in a 15MW end-of-line test bench for complete powertrains.

The demand for wind energy is increasing worldwide. Turbines are getting bigger and more powerful. As a result, the powertrain – the heart of the turbine – is growing. With the expansion of ZF Wind Power’s portfolio from the serial gearbox to serial powertrain production, the manufacturing processes will be adapted, and the end-of-line test process upgraded.

Wind turbine manufacturers are taking drastic measures to mitigate risks based on strong market fundamentals for achieving sustainable growth. While the wind energy supply chain faces massive challenges, ZF commits to taking important steps in empowering a sustainable future together with its partners.  One of these steps is the integration of powertrain assembly at the shop floor level. The team uses an advanced software tool to build a digital twin of the production facility before building the plant and setting up the assembly processes with maximum use of available production knowledge. “This encompasses all necessary assembly and logistical steps to be virtually predefined, checked in 3D, optimised, and validated”, explains Felix Henseler, CEO of ZF Wind Power. The ZF development of a digital twin for future serial production ensures swift, effective integration in the existing manufacturing facilities. “This involves completely transforming the current set-up for accommodating future product portfolios, including the V236-15.0MW”, concludes Mr Henseler.

In the first quarter of 2024, the first serial-produced 15MW powertrain for the offshore market will leave ZF Wind Power Lommel. Before these powertrains are shipped to the OEM’s destination, the system functionality of the complete powertrain (gearbox, generator, and main bearing assembly) needs to be verified. “An end-of-line test cycle will check the function of the system under load, testing both hydraulics and sensor connections, as well as contact patterns for the gears, in addition to checking lubrication, temperature, pressure, and noise and vibration levels”, explains Martin Knops, CTO of ZF Wind Power. The end-of-line test rig for ZF Wind Power will be delivered by R&D in the fall of 2023. It conducts very energy-efficient load tests, powered by the 15MW generators of the powertrains, providing an impressive 18MNm of torque to test the unit at high load levels. This final test ensures that the powertrain and all its connections work as they should, even when exposed to all forces of nature. “The end-of-line test rig reduces mounting time by up to 90% which enables us to test two powertrains a day. This is a win-win situation for us and our partner Vestas”, summarises Mr Knops.

With new, more powerful turbines about to enter the market, the average installed offshore wind turbines are expected to see their power ratings increase from 2023 on. “With serial production of the 15MW powertrain to commence in 2024, we will be able to support our partner in the prompt delivery of offshore wind projects”, explains Mr Henseler. “Thanks to the close partnership with Vestas, we are now able to manufacture innovative powertrain models for offshore turbines that can produce up to 80GWh/year. These models will accelerate the shift from climate-damaging fuels towards clean, renewable types of energy. We are proud to empower a sustainable future together with our partners.”

Photo: The end-of-line test rig conducts load tests, powered by the +15MW motor, providing an impressive 18MNm of torque to test the unit at high load levels.