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Built-in unreliability: Our special award

by Etienne Charlier

If you wanted to make sure your system failed quickly, you would do exactly like the supplier where we took these photos.

One of the most difficult electro-mechanical systems to build is a wind turbine. These rotating machines are expected to work for more than 15 years but:

  • operate outside in areas with lots of wind and rain;
  • undergo multiple shocks due to wind gusts;
  • sustain wide temperature variations;

And this without speaking of the blades whose surface must remain smooth and solid in spite of continuous exposure to atmosphere and sun aggressions as well as the effect of gravity force inversion around 100 times per minute.

This supplier gets our Special Award for how certainly it has built unreliability into its products. In particular, the hub and the blades.

 The hub is a critical part of the turbine.  It is used to fix the blades and transmit the force of the wind into the rotation of the power generator. The photo below shows how carelessly this supplier is making such a critical part. Not only will it fail almost certainly, but it will create a safety hazard when the part fails and a blade flies away to hit anything in its surrounding.

Extremely poor practice for making wind turbine hubs
(Critical part to fix blades on turbine)

Extremely poor practice for making wind turbine hubs
(Rusted metal, no guide to enforce tolerance, assembly on dirty floor instead of workbench)

The same supplier is really not more reassuring in the way it makes the blades themselves. All done by hand and no real mold. This is not conducive to strict tolerances and profile accuracy as it would be required in order to ensure good performances.

Poor setup to build wind turbine blades

Small turbine tails stored randomly, leading to damages

For reference, this is more like what we would be looking for.


Etienne Charlier is the founder of procurAsia and assists companies in sourcing industrial equipment and parts from China.  He writes about sourcing trends and practical tips on his China Industrial Sourcing Blog. He has been living in Shanghai since 1995. You can contact him here.

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