Rhode Island-based TPI Composites, a manufacturer of large-scale composite structures, has signed a long term agreement with GE Energy to manufacture wind turbine blades in a new production facility that will be established in Taicang, China.
Production at the 190,000 square feet facility will begin early in 2008 and TPI expects to employ approximately 450 people when it is operating at full capacity.
The agreement between the two companies also provides GE with a license to TPI’s patented SCRIMP (Seemann Composites Resin Infusion Molding Process) process technology.
The SCRIMP process is a vacuum assisted resin transfer molding process that uses a vacuum to pull liquid resin into a dry lay-up. It results in lighter, stronger, and more reliable composite structures.
In the basic SCRIMP process, fibre reinforcements, core materials and various inserts are laid up in a tool while dry, followed by a vacuum bag that is placed over the lay-up and sealed to the tool. The part is then placed under vacuum, and the resin is introduced into the part via a resin inlet port(s) then distributed through the laminate via a flow medium and series of channels, saturating the part. With SCRIMP, it is possible to flow a lot of resin, a long way, very quickly.
Because the vacuum pressure compacts or debulks the dry fibres, components made using the SCRIMP process have a higher fibre content by weight and volume than conventionally laid-up components. Glass-to-resin ratios of 70-30% or less can be achieved versus typical 50-50% resulting in lighter and stronger parts. The vacuum removes air and gasses during processing eliminating voids. Pressure differentials drive resin uniformly throughout the part providing consistent laminate.
By using a variety of core materials, the structural characteristics of the component part can be highly engineered to suit the specific needs of the end user. Core materials include closed cell foams, end grain balsa wood or any number of different fibre reinforcements such as carbon fibre, fibreglass and/or aramids, vinylester, polyester or epoxy resins.