Machines for sustainable energy generation

Demand for fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – is expected to peak at 73% by 2030, according to the World Energy Outlook 2023, while investment in renewable energy grew by 40% between 2020 and 2023. Still, demand for fossil fuels continues to grow and so do carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions generated by the sector. 

This effort comes with significant challenges. A typical gas turbine for gas power generation weighs around 500 tonnes and can be dozens of meters in length and height. Yet, it turns on components with tolerances smaller than a few micrometers – or millionths of a meter. Whether huge or tiny, all the parts used in gas turbine for power generation need to function in very corrosive or hot environments over long periods of time. Blades and vanes – key components of high-performance turbines – which are machined by GF Machining Solutions, are commonly used in the aerospace and power generation industries for energy generation and conversion equipment.

Milling is a highly efficient and precise process used in manufacturing and material processing to create such components with exceptional accuracy and surface finish, enabling efficiency gains. 

According to GF Machining Solutions’ own data, its milling solutions can speed up the production process by more than 30% – significantly reducing milling cycle times. The division’s technologies are also capable of machining materials as tough as titanium or nimonic, which are particularly hard to machine to the exacting standards required by the aerospace and power generation industries. 

GF Machining Solutions is the worldwide market leader for five-axis airfoil machining solutions, which have a specific application in the turbine industry. 

GF Machining Solutions has been providing customers with blades and vanes manufacturing machines for many years. One customer, a leading global company, has bought more than 50 machines over the last 20 years. This large fleet is used at one of its manufacturing sites to produce turbine blades for gas and steam powered power plants worldwide. In order to meet energy technology industry's challenges, the customer was looking for machines that were suitable for the production of turbine blades requiring new types of raw material and high precision. That’s where the advantages offered by GF became evident. 


Moving the energy industry forward

GF machines produce parts efficiently, both in terms of energy use and amount of waste material, a significant advantage when it comes to highly specialized metal alloys that are often quite expensive. Their precision increases the efficiency of the turbines, which, in turn, means that fewer resources are needed to generate the same amount of electricity. Our technologies can also support the remanufacturing of turbine blades. Repairing and reusing previously installed parts extends their lifespan beyond what was previously possible. 

“As the industry evolves, we are helping our customers find ways to generate energy more efficiently,” said Fritz Wittwer, Head Sales, Liechti Engineering, GF Machining Solutions. “We can rely on years of experience with blades and vanes milling machines, high-end special alloys and software to make the machines that enable this industry to develop in their way to a more sustainable power generation.” 

GF’s team of dedicated and experienced engineers has developed a class-leading platform for precision machining that can maximize the performance of current energy sources, while the renewable energy industry keeps working on the emerging technologies of the future. 

Q&A with Fritz Wittwer 

Head Sales, Liechti Engineering, GF Machining Solutions 

How does GF Machining Solutions help its customers contribute to greater sustainability? 

We help our customers by offering solutions that focus on efficiency. That, in turn, makes it easier for them to operate more sustainably. For instance, our blades and vanes machining solutions are highly efficient, which enables our customers to boost production using fewer machines. It’s about doing more with less. 

How has GF contributed to a successful relationship with the customer? 

Our expertise in process engineering has allowed our customer to not only meet short production ramp-up cycles – which is critical – but also to achieve remarkable OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) figures through GF’s robust blades and vanes machining centers. It is a relationship built on trust and our ability to provide the service they require. 

What makes you personally proud to work at GF and in this project in particular? 

I take pride in working at GF, especially on this project, because we are not just providing a solution to a company – we are actively contributing to their competitiveness for a more sustainable future in electric power generation. It’s rewarding to be part of a project that aligns with our commitment to environmental responsibility. Together, we must propel our industry towards cleaner energy solutions, and this is reflected in our long-term collaboration. 

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