DriveMAX Ring Gear is shown to have extended fatigue life compared to the original ring gear specification through Sentient Science third-party analysis and DigitalClone comparison.
Today, many wind turbine operators make gearbox purchasing decisions based on price. With new decision support tools, these operators can now make that decision on price and quantified life extension to maximize the value of their fleets.
Wind owner-operators make decisions focused on price because they do not have the tools and data necessary for properly assessing and compare the future reliability and life of gearboxes. When a company issues a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a gearbox replacement, suppliers are compared based on an analysis of historical and engineering assessments to determine future reliability.
However, traditional tools for engineering assessments cannot accurately predict how gearboxes, bearings and gears will perform during future operations in a wind turbine. They do not account for material microstructure, surface finish, or lubricant and cannot predict non-classical failure modes such as surface-initiated fatigue. In fact, these tools suggested wind turbine gearboxes would last 20 years, but in reality, gearboxes began to fail as early as 3-5 years of life.
This presented a challenge to new market entrants who were looking to remanufacture and upgrade gearboxes to extend wind turbine life. These new solutions to improve life and performance could not prove themselves and quantify their benefits compared to alternatives without building years of operational data. Since any life extension benefits of the solutions couldn’t be qualified, they couldn’t be effectively valued in a business case and sold in a large enough sample size. This became a chicken or the egg problem.
In 2014, Broadwind was looking for a way to quantify the life extension enhancements the company has made to gearing elements used in the remanufacturing of an OEM gearbox for 1.5MW turbine equipment.
Broadwind approached Sentient Science to use DigitalClone modeling capability to compare and validate the upgraded DriveMAX ring gear life. With the outputs of the life extension model, Broadwind could quantify how the improvements at the component level of a gearbox remanufacture design could extend future turbine life. And, ultimately, Broadwind could understand any warranty risk and have a third-party assessment of life extension and how to value their solution to the marketplace.
The results of the analysis substantiated that Broadwind’s DriveMAX ring gear provides 8 times design life of the OEM and over twice the life expectancy of a competitor’s gear. Therefore, it can be shown that the ring gear’s increased useful life can protect operators from future failure maintenance expenses and lost production from turbine down-time. At the same time, these upgrades can be installed uptower at a 20% savings compared to a traditional gearbox replacement.
Now, operators have a new set of performance and reliability data to evaluate suppliers before making a buying decision. Broadwind is now sharing the results from the project with customers and wind turbine owner-operators to reinforce confidence in Broadwind remanufacturing expertise and commitment to provide them with gearboxes that maximize life cycle.