Four engineering students from the Technikerschule Maschinentechnik in Wildeshausen decided that their final thesis would make a real difference. They worked with the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials (IFAM) to create a telescopic rod for inspecting offshore wind turbines for damage. They called it the “Long Arm”.
Michel Ebinger, Jonas Rieger, Gregor Mosner and Lucas Busch-Schweers used CAD modelling to design the four-metre, extendable device and then made it out of lightweight carbon. A remote-controlled camera fitted into the top enables service technicians to carry out inspections on the offshore wind giants in places that are difficult to access.
During prototyping, the team consulted with Bremen-based Rope Access Solutions GmbH, drawing on its years of experience in offshore maintenance work. “Offshore wind turbines have to be regularly inspected for their functionality and safety, both above and below water and in all weathers. The industrial climbers who frequently carry out this work and who are roped up to search the surface of the plant for damage such as rust spots, for example, have a limited radius of action”, explains the company’s managing director Alexander Voigt in a issued by the IFAM.
In strong winds, the Long Arm can be attached to the trunk with electromagnets to steady it. The images are transmitted to the control team back on land who can then plan maintenance work.
The project supervisor at the Fraunhofer IFAM, Dr Peter Plagemann, praised the students’ ingenuity and pointed out that their invention is universal: the prototype could be used to hold a grinder unit for treating rust spots, for example. The Long Arm will soon be put to the test in real conditions out at sea.