Additive Manufacturing for Powering the Blue Economy Applications: A Tidal Turbine Blade Case Study




Marine Renewable Energy, Water Power, Tidal Turbine, Additive Manufacturing, 3D Printing, Manufacturing, Blade Design, Turbine Blades, Structural Analysis, Finite Element Analysis, Finite Element Model


As the marine renewable energy industry continues to expand, innovation in the manufacturing space must grow accordingly to reduce costs and ensure the economic feasibility of new technologies. Additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, provides an alternative for rapid prototyping of marine hydrokinetic technologies, particularly supporting Powering the Blue EconomyTM initiatives of the U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Technologies Office. This study explores the application of additive manufacturing in the development of marine hydrokinetic structures, focusing on material and printing method selection, design, and analysis of a 3D-printed spar for an axial-flow tidal turbine blade. Corrosion-resistant metals were deemed ideal due to the loads and harsh marine environment the blade would experience. Laser metal deposition methods were determined to be the most effective and scalable for the considered scale. The designed spar adapts its geometry to the blade—a feature uniquely suited to additive manufacturing—and is intended to serve as the blade's primary structural component. A finite element model was used to study stresses and deformations under loading conditions. The spar was manufactured using 316L stainless steel through direct energy deposition, and defects were assessed and recorded. Future efforts will include mechanical testing of the spar. This research establishes a benchmark process for using additive manufacturing in developing marine hydrokinetic structures, paving the way for future optimization and techno-economic analysis.

Author Biographies

Miguel González-Montijo, University of Washington

  • PhD Structural Engineering Student at the University of Washington
  • Graduate Intern at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Paul Murdy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Researcher III-Mechanical Engineering

Charles Candon, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Water Power Researcher

Ryan Beach, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Researcher III-Mechanical Engineering

Casey, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Casey Nichols is a mechanical engineer at the Flatirons Campus in Boulder, CO specializing in the development of embedded systems for data acquisition in the validation of marine renewable energy devices. Casey is a developer on the MODAQ (Modular Ocean Data Acquisition) project utilizing LabVIEW, instrumentation and embedded compact RIO controllers for field and laboratory testing of ocean energy devices. Casey also participates in research improving the manufacturing methods of composite wind blades through automation, robotic systems, and additive manufacturing.

Prior to NREL, Casey was a graduate research assistant at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where he completed master's research on a novel micro hydropower turbine. His research focused on implementing a non-contact magnetic transmission for increased efficiency and reliability.

Phil, Ai Build

Senior Design Engineer



How to Cite

M. González-Montijo, P. Murdy, C. Candon, R. Beach, C. Nichols, and P. Barden, “Additive Manufacturing for Powering the Blue Economy Applications: A Tidal Turbine Blade Case Study”, Proc. EWTEC, vol. 15, Sep. 2023.