US power management firm Eaton is applying additive manufacturing to generating low-cost hydropower for the Department of Energy (DOE). As part of its government contract, Eaton is set to manufacture and test low-cost integrated hydropower turbines and generator sets, before trialling a scaled-down test generator in 2018.
While Eaton is not the first to use 3D printing in hydroelectricity generation, its use of 3D printing for conceptualization is on a larger scale. As part of their design process for a modular helical rotor turbine-generator system, Eaton engineers plan on cutting costs by 3D printing the initial concept models. They will then 3D print test components to make the hydroelectric generators more cost-effective, thereby cutting the cost of the electricity. One of the main concepts to be tested is the efficiency of a solid polymer rotor against that of a hollow metal rotor.