Characterization and Repair of Core Gap Manufacturing Defects for Wind Turbine Blades

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5 Scopus Citations


Various wind turbine blade components, such as shear webs and skins, commonly use fiber-reinforced composite sandwich structures with a core material like balsa or foam. During manufacturing, core gap defects may result from the misalignment of adjacent foam or balsa core sheets in the blade mold. It is important to understand the influence that core gaps have on the structural integrity of wind turbine blades and how to mitigate their influence. This research characterized the effects of core gap defects at the manufacturing and mechanical levels for both epoxy and next-generation thermoplastic composites. Common repair methods were assessed and compared. Multiple defect sizes were compared using temperature data gathered with thermocouples embedded during manufacturing to core gap defect characteristics obtained using image-mapping techniques, optical microscopy, and mechanical characterization by long beam flexure. Results showed that peak exothermic temperatures during curing were closely related to core gap size. The long beam flexure tests determined that transverse core gaps under pure bending loads can have a substantial effect on the ultimate facesheet strength of both epoxy and thermoplastic composite sandwich structures (up to 25% strength reduction), although the size of the defect itself had less of an influence on the magnitude of the strength reduction. The supporting image-mapping techniques indicated that the distortion of the composite facesheets by the core gaps contributed to the premature failures. The repair methods used in this study did very little to improve the ultimate strength of the sandwich panels that previously had core gap defects. The repair of the thermoplastic panel resulted in a further loss in ultimate facesheet strength. This research demonstrated that there is a vital need for the development of a compatible thermoplastic polymer repair resin system and appropriate resin specific repair procedures for the next generation of recyclable thermoplastic wind blades.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2083-2100
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Sandwich Structures and Materials
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-81152


  • composite materials
  • manufacturing defects
  • mechanical characterization
  • repair
  • Wind turbine blades


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