3D printing manufacturing solution tackles obsolescence in the rail industry

Posted: 13 December 2018 | | No comments yet

Angel Trains, ESG Rail and Stratasys have collaborated to work on the UK’s first 3D printing manufacturing solution.


3D-printed grab handle

Angel Trains has collaborated with engineering consultancy ESG Rail, and 3D printing technology provider Stratasys, to produce four fully-approved interior components using 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing.

The components approved for service include an arm rest, grab handle and seat back table – all of which will now be trialled on in-service passenger trains in 2019.

The aim of the collaboration is to leverage additive manufacturing to help address the issue of obsolete parts, reduce whole life rolling stock costs and enable vehicles to remain in passenger service for longer. This also has the potential to lower costs for train operators as they can produce low run parts as needed, rather than mass manufacturing vast quantities.

Mark Hicks, Angel Trains’ Technical Director, said: “This exciting industry-first collaboration has the potential to transform manufacturing within the rail industry. We are proud to be driving this innovation with ESG Rail and Stratasys and hope that this solution will help to free the industry from technological constraints and allow our trains to continue to meet passengers’ needs now and in the future.”

All parts have been designed for additive manufacturing, and 3D printed. In addition, the components have been structurally assessed for manufacturing and they will soon commence in-service passenger trials, which are expected to last until the summer of 2019.

Martin Stevens, Head of Mechanical Engineering, ESG Rail, commented: “We have learned so much during this project and have addressed many engineering challenges. We believe that this emerging method of manufacturing will reduce costs, production times and issues faced by component obsolescence.”

Traditionally, standard thermoplastics have been used, but these have poor mechanical properties and fire performance, and are therefore unsuitable for rolling stock applications. New, high-performance materials have now been tested to demonstrate they are compliant to the Rail Standard EN45545-2.

Yann Rageul, Manager, Strategic Account Team EMEA, Stratasys, said: “With the highest level of repeatability in the industry and advanced, rail-certified materials, we believe our FDM additive manufacturing solutions offer huge potential to replace traditional manufacturing for a diverse range of applications within the rail industry. This collaboration will help us to explore how we can support rail companies, such as Angel Trains, to produce parts on demand – both cost-effectively and efficiently – eradicating the need for obsolete inventory and improving their ability to service customers.”

Kevin Dilks, Business Development Manager, ESG Rail, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be working alongside Angel Trains and Stratasys in the development of additive manufacturing components for the rail industry. We are proud to be at the forefront of this emerging technology and we look forward to a long and fruitful collaboration.”