UK passenger trains trial first 3D printed parts

Stratasys is working with Angel trains, DB ESG and train operator Chiltern Railways  to test out the first 3D printed parts installed in an in-service passenger train in the UK. The parts include four armrests and seven grab handles and are being trialed Chiltern Railways trains to demonstrate how 3D printing can speed up the process of sourcing replacement parts.

“This is an exciting time for the UK rail industry,” comments James Brown, Data and Performance Engineer, Angel Trains. “With this technology, train operators can be much more responsive to replacing passenger-facing parts that get damaged or vandalized.”  Continuing, “A 3D replacement part can be produced on-demand and installed immediately.”

The aim for the three way partnership is to use 3D printing to overcome many obstacles in replacing obsolete train parts in the UK rail industry. One issue is age, some trains are over 30 years old, train operators are therefore presented with several challenges when it comes to vehicle maintenance and part replacement.

“In recent times, we’ve seen growing concern amongst operators that sourcing replacement parts for older train fleets at a reasonable cost and in a short time frame is proving increasingly difficult,” explains Brown. “The problem is that traditional manufacturing methods only make it cost-effective to produce high volumes of spare parts, even though an operator may only need a few obsolete train parts replaced. In addition, lead times can take months.”

With 3D printing operators can get parts quicker allowing them to decrease the time it takes to get trains back into service and at a cheaper price per part. “This is why we have teamed up with DB ESG and Stratasys, showing how operators can overcome these hurdles by using 3D printing to produce the exact amount of parts they need at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional methods,” Brown adds.

DB ESG was responsible for testing a range of industrial-grade 3D printing materials, ensuring that they were compliant to the UK rail industry standard EN45545-2. The final iteration of the parts were 3D printed using the Stratasys Fortus 450mc 3D printer in ULTEM 9085 resin. The material was certified to the rail industry’s fire, smoke and toxicity standards. Martin Stevens, Mechanical Engineering Manager DB ESG comments: “Achieving certification removes a major barrier that has prevented more widespread implementation of 3D printing across UK trains.”

“Our role in this project has been to investigate the design, production and finishing of FDM parts, verifying whether the parts comply with rail standards and checking whether they work in the operating environments.”

The trial’s success means that the group have created a repeatable production process for 3D printed parts that are compliant with rail industry standards and suitable for use in passenger vehicles.

 

Essop, Anas, et al. “Stratasys Trials First 3D Printed Parts Installed on UK Passenger Trains with Angel Trains and DB ESG.” 3D Printing Industry, 25 Sept. 2019, 3dprintingindustry.com/news/stratasys-trials-first-3d-printed-parts-installed-on-uk-passenger-trains-with-angel-trains-and-db-esg-162229/.