Research team led by Fraunhofer Austria, together with ÖBB-Technische Services (ÖBB Train Tech), Wiener Linien, Wien Energie GmbH, VRVis Zentrum für Virtual Reality und Visualisierung Forschungs-GmbH and Fraunhofer IAPT, is evaluating the possibility of producing train spare parts using 3D printing. Thousands of technical drawings will be analyzed and evaluated as part of the FFG-funded project. The planned infrastructure will be used collaboratively in the spirit of the sharing economy.
All project partners were present at the Corona-related digital kick-off of the AM4Rail project: Fraunhofer Austria, ÖBB Train Tech, Wiener Linien, Wien Energie GmbH, VRVis Zentrum für Virtual Reality und Visualisierung Forschungs-GmbH and Fraunhofer IAPT.
The AM4Rail project is exploring ways to 3D print train spare parts to save costs, time and CO2 emissions.
The more different trains are in service over several decades, the more different spare parts there are that have to be available quickly when needed to prevent standstills in public transport as well as in freight transport. Stocking all these parts in sufficient quantities is costly, but ordering them only when they are needed can cost valuable time and lead to downtime. The ideal scenario is to have the required spare parts available within the shortest possible time without having to stock them yourself. Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, offers this opportunity. Before this can be utilized, however, there are still many challenges to overcome and open questions to be clarified: technical drawings must be evaluated for reasonableness regarding the application of AM to the associated components, requirements for the material of each component must be collected, and the capabilities of the technology must be evaluated. The goal of the three-year FFG project AM4Rail is to master these steps. Project partners are Wiener Linien GmbH & Co KG, ÖBB Technische Services-Gesellschaft mbH, Wien Energie GmbH, VRVis Zentrum für Virtual Reality und Visualisierung Forschungs-GmbH, the Fraunhofer Institute for Additive Production Technologies IAPT and Fraunhofer Austria.
"I see great potential in 3D printing in the field of spare parts supply for rail vehicles. According to initial estimates, it could be possible to reduce breakdown and downtime by up to 10 percent. It could also be possible to reduce energy and resource consumption by 5 to 10 percent through the savings in logistics costs achieved," explains Karl Ott, who heads the project at consortium leader Fraunhofer Austria.
The researchers will now analyze the technical drawings using methods of image processing and pattern recognition as well as text recognition and text mining, and link them to other data sources such as retrieval behavior. The question here is: How can the contents of the drawings be extracted in a standardized and automated way? This is followed by a life cycle assessment of the spare parts, which provides information on whether 3D printing is economically worthwhile in the respective cases. Subsequently, a technology assessment will clarify whether the state of the art of 3D printing can meet the necessary requirements for the components, for example in terms of strength, stability or fire protection. Finally, the potentials at ÖBB Technische Services and Wiener Linien are to be bundled in order to use a 3D printer together as effectively as possible.
"The concept of the sharing economy, in which it is no longer important to own resources but rather to have access to them when they are needed, is one of the most promising concepts in climate protection and in shaping a sustainable and competitively functioning economy. I am particularly pleased that this collaborative project also incorporates and implements this forward-looking approach," explains Karl Ott.
The project is funded by the Austrian Research Foundation FFG as part of the "Mobility of the Future" program and runs from September 2021 to August 2024.