Designing Turbine Blades for Hydropower Plants with CAD from the Cloud
In the production process for any company, saving time during the design phase and optimizing the final product design are big challenges. Existing general-purpose CAD systems offer a way to create good designs for a multitude of products, but knowing the particular type of product in advance enables the development of dedicated functionality, thus minimizing design time and avoiding repetitive tasks and errors.
The end user Stellba of this case study is a Germany-based SME working on hydropower plant maintenance, repair and overhaul, engineering and manufacturing one-of-a-kind products for the green energy sector with the goal to optimize energy efficiency. Due to the complexity of the underlying free-form shape, the 3D design of a hydraulic turbine blade at Stellba is a long process. In the traditional CAD design approach it is necessary to use a lot of basic operations when modelling such a blade. These operations are mostly repetitive and similar for each design. The goal of this case study is to reduce the amount of time needed to design a popular blade type called Kaplan blade. In Stellba's case, such a design process happens typically bi-weekly. An additional goal is to save, manage and share data by using the Cloud and a Cloud-based PLM system.
To meet the challenge, the CAD system Topsolid by Missler (a French independent software vendor SME) and product lifecycle management software by Jotne (a Norwegian SME) were used in a new approach where the design process is accelerated and optimized by using dedicated functionalities specific to turbine blades. These functionalities are added to the base CAD system via the Cloud. Before – in an error-prone process – the end user's specialist had to perform 40 different operations on each surface to get the desired solid model. Now, the designer is smoothly guided through the process with improved usability, resulting in fewer errors and helping to achieve good results with a minimum number of operations.
Stellba's process to design a new blade is in fact running roughly 25 times faster than before, reducing the design time from 8 hours to less than 20 minutes. Consequently, Stellba is now able to create more designs in a given period and to try out more possibilities to improve the quality of their blades. In addition they can provide their design models to other applications via the Cloud-based PLM, e.g. for a successive simulation step.
For Missler the case study has opened up the opportunity to develop new “plug-ins” for other specific complex CAD design processes of high importance to different end users and to provide such “plug-ins” through the Cloud. This is creating additional revenue for Missler while end users can increase their productivity for a reasonable price. Another benefit of the Cloud approach for Missler is to simplify the process of providing always the latest version of applications and making maintenance easier.