One broken part worth a couple hundred dollars can be enough to keep a train from running. And for one American commuter rail service, that out-of-service train costs about US$26,000 each day.
Since the service life of trains is about 35 to 45 years, spare parts can be hard to find.
However, an innovative service now makes it possible to create spares on site using additive manufacturing. Within a day or two, new spares can be made regardless of the uniqueness of the part or the age of the train car, bypassing a lengthy supply chain and dramatically cutting costly downtime.
3D printer maker Stratasys offers this Rail Industry Solution, which uses proprietary resins with its Fortus 3D printers for production. The spare parts produced on demand meet government certification requirements for smoke, fire, and toxicity.
Angel Trains, Bombardier Transportation, Chiltern Railways, DB ESG, and Siemens Mobility are all currently using the system.
Part of Deutsche Bahn, DB ESG, based in Derby, U.K., helps train operators and rolling stock owners keep trains in service by reverse engineering obsolete components.
“Additive manufacturing allows us to efficiently produce parts for the passenger environment that are indistinguishable from the existing parts,” said Martin Stevens, mechanical engineering manager at DB ESG. “The Stratasys range of EN45545-2-compliant materials enables us to reverse-engineer parts, such as interior grab handles, with freeform curves that traditionally could only be made with casting or injection molding, without the need for expensive tooling, and with a corresponding reduction in delivery times. The software allows us to precisely define the printing parameters, then lock down the print file to ensure consistent parts production across multiple printing bureaus.”
Siemens Mobility uses the system to produce parts for the German and UK rail industries, and recently invested in new technology to support the expansion of its rail maintenance operations in Russia. A contract to build 13 additional high-speed Velaro trains for Russian train company, RZD, includes an agreement to maintain and service the trains for the next 30 years.
Dedicated to servicing the existing 16 and additional 13 planned trains, Siemens Mobility Russia is working to a more than 99 percent fleet availability record.
“These availability figures would be physically impossible to achieve through external part sourcing and traditional manufacturing techniques alone, but Stratasys gives us the capability to cost-effectively produce the parts in-house, partially eliminating the need for warehousing or tools for a selected range of items,” said Alexey Fedoseev, head of customer services, Siemens Mobility Russia. “We have already seen the success of the Siemens Mobility ‘Easy Sparovation Part’ business in Germany, where this technology has provided us time-per-part savings of up to 95 percent compared to traditional manufacturing methods.”
By storing all part data online, Siemens Mobility can access and replace older or newer train parts ad-hoc to meet stringent time limits.