Typically these departments deal with different phases of blade production. Design Engineering works primarily in the conceptual world of numbers and programming, while GEE works with the physical equipment used to create molds and blades.
But, collaboration between the two teams has notable value — leading to a new “Easy Plug” tool to save time and increase design accuracy by automatically calculating the geometry of mold plugs. In fact, this new tool will now complete calculations in one hour that used to take one engineer a full week of work!
“Our engineers are highly educated. If they have to spend too much time doing a routine job, then we are doing something wrong,” said Wei Zhang, Design Engineering Senior Engineer. “We should have a program to do routine tasks, so engineers can be freed up to do innovative projects.”
Designing plugs requires cooperation
Each time LM Wind Power designs a new blade type, GEE first has to design a plug to create the blade mold around. This plug is basically an item that has the same shape as a blade.
Though the plug itself is built by sub-suppliers, GEE does the design in-house because it is very linked to the blade geometry created by New Product Development.
“We have a very close cooperation on the design side, because if you need a mark on the blade, then it needs to be in the mold,” said Rasmus Duegaard Jensen, GEE Senior Portfolio Manager. “How the blade looks on the surface and its geometry is how the plug and mold look as well.”
That’s where Easy Plug comes in
Easy Plug is essentially a design optimization tool for GEE to use when generating plug designs.
“The plug is always the start of any project here in GEE, and this new program will deliver the final plug geometry to our manufacturer (the supplier) one week earlier than before,” Rasmus said. “Saving one week of work on approximately 2-3 new plugs per year won’t mean we need fewer employees, but it will optimize our project lead time.”
In addition to saving time, Wei said the new tool removes the risk of human error when manually creating a design. “Now the output is based on the computer, which ensures the result is 100 percent correct,” he said.
What comes next?
Saving time on plug design is only a first step. Wei and others in his department are working on other programs for generating blade designs and frames, for example. With the potential to significantly improve design efficiency, Rasmus expects future projects to continue in this direction.
“We are asking questions about the bigger picture: What if every time we have a routine job, then you can actually write a code that can do the job? What if that is 30% of our engineering job?” Rasmus said. “Instead of working on a single task, you could manage many tasks simultaneously, which could really reduce both design time and cost. When engineers can use even more of their time on innovation rather than routine tasks, this will benefit our business.”