Production launch at new ENERCON foundry

GZO is Germany’s first foun dry specially conceived for serial production of the huge cast iron wind energy converter components. Impressed, Wulff applauded GZO as being “a state-of-the-art foundry”.

At GZO, not far from ENERCON headquarters, serial production of ductile iron components for ENERCON wind turbines is well underway.

Facilities ranging from the smelting furnace to the conveyor and transport mechanisms, the lifting equipment and individual workstations all the way to the air filter system and laboratory are already up and running. And recently, an automatic mixing unit for composite additives to the spheroidal graphite iron was assembled and installed.

“We’re pleased with the results so far and will be continuing to optimise our processes to meet our projected production plan,” reports Co-Managing Director Simon-Hermann Wobben. In the casting shop, the moulders fill sand into the flasks. In the next shop, 1400° molten iron is poured from the melting furnace. A giant crucible transports the molten mass to one of the three main carrier flasks which was manoeuvred into the queue in front of the furnace by rail.

“All shops are now fully operational,” reports Ralf Kelling, also Co-Managing Director. And the foundry’s test phase was more than satisfactory. So far, the casting and melting shops have cast several specimens of each of the three components to be produced at GZO: main carrier, rotor hub and stator shield, in this case for the E-82 wind turbine.

First components installed at wind farm near Paris

“Our first finished components have already been installed at the Mont de Gerson wind farm near Sorbon, north east of Paris,” says Kelling.

Before the components were dispatched, they were thoroughly in spected and certified by ENERCON’s own Quality Control department
as well as by SKET Maschinen- und Anlagenbau in Magdeburg.

“Compared with top quality components from external suppliers, our components fully meet the standards,” emphasises Kelling. The aim is to build up a capacity for 25,000 tons of ductile iron components per year by the end of 2010.

The GZO site layout was especially tailored to meet specific demands for producing the cast turbine components in series. For example, the work platforms in the mould shop were constructed to fit the exact dimensions of the parts. “We placed a lot of emphasis on health and safety and ensuring ergonomic workplaces,” stated Kelling. Preparing the flasks from fixed work platforms, for instance, increases work safety as compared to working from ladders.

Positioning aids provide better ergonomics

The vast facades of the buildings are designed to allow as much daylight as possible to enter the facilities. Innovative air cleaning systems filter up to 440,000 cubic meters of air every hour. And specially developed flat red transport cars move the flasks from one station to the next along imbedded tracks ensuring smooth production flow.

Once the cast parts have cooled off, huge hydraulically driven positioning aids make sure that they can be easily processed. In planning the details for the casting facilities, GZO was able to benefit from the experience of their cooperation partner, HegerGuss Foundry in Enkenbach-Alsenborn / Rhineland Palatinate.

“The exchange of technological know-how has been a great experience for both companies,” Kelling underlines. Not only did ENERCON benefit from HegerGuss, but HegerGuss also benefited from ENERCON’s experience in automated production processes for oversized machine components.

130 new jobs for the region

Currently, eighty people are working at the foundry in Südbrookmerland-Georgsheil and fifty more are expected to be hired in 2010. Some of the employees are specialists for production planning and quality management from other ENERCON wind power firms.

“Recruiting was done in cooperation with the Federal Employment Agency, the East Frisian Chamber of Commerce and the German Foundry Association (VDG),” explains Simon-Hermann Wobben. “First we invited people to a general info event in Aurich. Eligible applicants could then get their qualification as a ‘skilled foundry craftsman (VDG)’.”

The majority of these employees are from North west Lower Saxony. In addition, GZO was able to gain a number of highly experienced foundry specialists for supervisory positions.

 “By the end of 2010, the foundry will be producing in two shifts and by then we want to have switched most of the dispatch and delivery to rail transport,” says Co-Managing Director Kelling.