A tower as sandwich construction

Sandwich Tower

The performance and size of wind energy plants has increased in recent years more and more. Inevitably, it also increases the demands on the tower structures that were previously used as steel pipe, pre-stressed concrete or lattice tower for execution. Alternatively, a sandwich tower was developed, with which the shell stability and load capacity can be increased. This leads to greater tower heights than with the conventional steel construction can be achieved, while simultaneously increasing the energy yield for the same turbine disproportionately.

The principle of a sandwich tower

A sandwich tower section basically consists of a steel inner and outer tubes, which are stiffened entire surface by an intervening composite. As composites can pumpable elastomers, epoxy resins and grouts are used, which are filled in ascending order from the base of the tower in the annular gap. In addition to the stiffness and compressive strength of the composite filling materials whose strength is of vital importance for the structural behavior of the sandwich cross-section.

Geometry of a steel tower section
Geometry of a sandwich tower section
Steel cross-section
Sandwich cross-section

Comparison of the tower cross-sections

Comparison parameters Steel tower section Sandwich tower section
Steel grade S235 S460
Steel strength 100% 200%
Steel tonnage 100% 50%
Weld volume 100% 15%
Filler 0% 100%
Bending moment resistance 100% up to 130%
Normal force resistance 100% up to 170%
Sheet thicknesses eg, 50mm eg, 2 x 12mm
Structural damping 100% about 400%
Ring flanges 2 0 , Sandwich Joint
Bolts about 150 0 , Sandwich Joint
Shell stability about 80% (Kappa_2 Wert) >100%


For the new sandwich tower sections, the cross-section capacities for axial and bending stresses were determined. The elastic moment resistance increases by 30% compared to a steel tower section with the same steel used because the filling material in the annular gap involved in the load transfer on the pressure side bending. The shell stability could be increased to the extent that the yield strength of the inner and outer tube are fully exploited correspondingly large thickness and stiffness of the filler materials. Thus, in principle, the use of higher strength steels for towers of wind turbines feasible.

Comparison of normal force capacities

Mass balance

The development of the sandwich tower made it possible by the combination of high-strength steel and composite materials to reduce the total tonnage with a simultaneous increase in bearing capacity. For example, the steel tonnage to be reduced by 50% compared to a version with a S235 by using a S460. As compared to a steel tower section or savings in weight are possible in spite of the additional filling material.

Comparison of tonnages

Damping behavior

The damping behavior of a sandwich cross-section was investigated by means of forced harmonic oscillations of cantilever beams with constant mass density and a point mass at the free end. In the context of numerical simulations, a comparison between the damping behavior of a sandwich plate and a steel plate was held. On the basis of magnetic resonance spectrum (see Diag.) It can be seen that the structure of the damping sandwich cross-section is approximately four times as great as the steel cross-section. Although the results are not directly proportional to a pipe cross-section, but it is already clear from the example that the oscillations of a wind energy plant can be damped with a sandwich tower section is much better.

Frequency spectrum with comparison of the structural damping

Manufacturing technology

Is favored as a combination of steel sandwich tower. The sandwich cross-section is provided only in the lower part of the tower, in the high stabilities and large shell thicknesses are required. With the use of two thinner and higher firmer steel pipes reduces the net welding time to 15%, making the extra effort with the other manufacturing steps is partially compensated. For the tower sections with D> 4.3m, a new production concept with longitudinally oriented partial shells was developed, covering not only the transportation problem solved over land, but also the number of fatigue-critical welds is minimized.

For more details about the new production concept, feel free to contact us.



Connection technology

Sandwich joint between the sections
Connection to the foundation section

Connection between the individual sections

From SKI a new connection technology between the tower sections is favored that does not fatigue critical annular flanges and high-maintenance bolts. The so-called sandwich joint is one of the two-shear tube-in-tube connections, in which the forces are transmitted over a certain overlap length. The upper steel tube section is produced in a conventional steel construction and levied on the construction site with a crane in the not yet backfilled annular gap between the inner and outer tubes of the lower sandwich section.

The support and fatigue strength of sandwich joints can be significantly increased by the arrangement of shear ribs along the pipe shell surfaces (see Fachaufsatz in der Bautechnik 11/2009).

Connection to the foundation sections

In analogy to the sandwich joint is planned for the connection to the foundation section also has a double-shear tube-in-tube connection. This additional ring flange and numerous bolts can be saved. Finally high stress concentrations can be prevented, because the so-called sandwich joints having no eccentricities.


With regard to transport, the new production concept has the decisive advantage that the height of the subshells is less than 4.3m, which the vertical clearance of bridges is observed (see the following figure on the right). In addition, all subshells for the inner and outer pipe fit side by side on a truck. And, only two truck needed to transport a sandwich tower section, which also do not have to be labeled as heavy-duty trucks with excess width. The favored by SKI longitudinally oriented manufacturing solve the transport problem for steel and sandwich towers with diameters greater than 4.3m, as can be seen in Fig. In contrast, the extensive-oriented manufacturing has not allowed the transport over land for steel tower sections with D> 4.3m.

Land transport

Assembly technology

An essential aspect of the installation is the injection process, which can be < 4.3m at the factory for tower sections with D. The vertical position of the tower shells is preferred, because no deformations, in particular deflections then remain as a result of its own weight in the later composite cross-section.

For sandwich tower sections with diameters greater than D = 4.3m is favored injection at the site, where you can also find inner and outer tube in a vertical position. For the injection process exist mobile injection techniques for both the grout and for the elastomers. The extent of the injection process can be performed in a similar manner as in the work-site.

In the following figure, the injection process is shown, in which the first sandwich tower section is placed on a foundation section. However, before the injection process can be performed indoor and outdoor pipe must be aligned and fixed to each other. Spacers used in the factory provide a uniform annular gap between two pipes safely. At the base of the tower more intake valves are provided circumferentially distributed. The injection tubes can also be routed through the door opening, so that the section area of the inside and outside can be filled. Characterized the pump power is increased, allowing a smooth increase of the filling material.

Injection process at the construction site