Innovating the supply chain of wind energy through the application of additive manufacturing
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- Master Thesis 
3D Printing, more commonly known today as Additive Manufacturing, is an industry that is growing at tremendous rates, with a forecasted market size of over $20 Billion USD within the next 3 years. Firms like Ford Motor Company, Boeing, Airbus, Lotus, BAE, Maersk, and General Electric are already using Additive Manufacturing technology in their manufacturing processes, in applications such as creating molds for casting, and rapid prototyping. Additive Manufacturing stands to create numerous benefits over traditional production processes, and as the industry matures, we will see it become more prevalent in various aspects of our lives. When looking to the energy and environmental sector, studies say that an expected 10% of oil & gas companies will have adopted Additive Manufacturing by 2019. However, the wind power sector presents another opportunity, maybe not yet tapped, to utilize this technology to manage their supply chain better, gain better control of production processes, and most importantly, cut costs and speed up time to market with new designs. The question at hand was, “Does Additive Manufacturing have the potential to contribute to lowering the cost of wind energy through aiding innovation in the wind power sector and/or lowering the cost to produce wind energy”? To answer this question, we aimed to determine the feasibility of producing various components of a wind turbine through the Additive Manufacturing process. After careful consideration, it was determined that the greatest opportunity would be to pursue the production of turbine blades. Additive manufacturing provides the opportunity to produce lightweight components, reduce manufacturing lead times, and decrease material wastage in the manufacturing process. The primary aim of this project was to determine a method to reduce overall turbine costs, however, several additional supply chain and logistics benefits were derived along the way. Through extensive cooperation with a variety of industry experts, this study was able to determine that a cost reduction was most feasible by leveraging Additive Manufacturing to produce molds for turbine blades. This would have a significant impact on reducing overall throughput time from design to production, will reduce overall turbine blade costs, and will enable turbine manufacturers to vertically integrate, by either owning processes that were traditionally outsourced, or by removing costly and time-consuming productions steps altogether.