covered Denver-based Keystone Tower Systems
in their quest to make 400-foot wind turbines taller.
Keystone's system is a modification of spiral welding, a process that’s been used for decades to make large pipes. In that process, steel sheets are fed into one side of a machine, where they’re continuously rolled into a spiral, while their edges are welded together to create a pipe -- sort of like a massive paper-towel tube.
Developed by Smith, Takata, and Slocum -- along with a team of engineers, including Daniel Bridgers SM '12 and Dan Ainge '12 -- Keystone’s system allows the steel rolls to be tapered and made of varying thickness, to create a conical tower
. The system is highly automated -- using about one-tenth the labor of traditional construction -- and uses steel to make the whole tower, instead of concrete. "This makes it much more cost-effective to build much taller towers," says Smith, Keystone’s CEO.
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