Here at 3D Rapid Print, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.
In late September 2019, it was announced that 3D printed parts had been successfully trialed on a UK in-service passenger train for the very first time. This was a collaboration between:
- Self-proclaimed “one of Britain’s leading train leasing companies” Angel Trains of London.
- 3D printing manufacturer Stratasys of Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
- Self-appointed “Technical experts in UK rolling stock” DB ESG of Derby.
- Train operator Chiltern Railways of Sunderland, Tyne and Wear.
The trialed parts included 4 passenger armrests and 7 grab handles.
Angel Trains data and performance engineer James Brown argues that traditional manufacturing methods mean that producing spare parts for trains is only cost-effective when done at high volume, even when a train operator doesn’t need high volumes of obsolete parts replacing. (James Brown of Angel Trains is presumably of no relation to the late American singer James Brown (1933-2006).) Brown also claims the so-called “lead time” for Chiltern Railways’s in-service armrest would be circa 4 months; Stratasys claim their 3D printed armrest can be made within a week. (The term lead time can be defined as “The amount of time between the initiation of some process and its completion, e.g. the time required to manufacture or procure a product; the time required before something can be provided or delivered.”)
In the case of the grab handle, the replacement part was obsolete and Chiltern Railways’s original supplier had gone out of business, ergo a new manufacturing tool would have otherwise been needed to make more of them. This would have given a lead time of two and a half months, whereas the 3D printed grab handles were made in just 3 weeks. The trialed parts were 3D printed on a Stratasys Fortus 450mc in ULTEM™ 9085 resin, which was certified by DB ESG to meet the relevant UK rail industry standards for fire, smoke and toxicity.
Angel Trains, Stratasys and DB ESG will next collaborate to experiment with Great Western Railway, which intends to integrate 3D printed parts within some of its trains over the next few months.
3D printing is an amazing tool. It can grow your small business or start a mini revolution in an industry. Explore what it can do for you when you contact us today.
Disclaimer: Featured image of “Abt Railway, train crossing bridge across the King River (27065848115)” (as it is known on Wikimedia Commons) was taken from Flickr’s The Commons and has no known copyright restrictions. (On Flickr it is known as “Abt Railway, train crossing bridge across the King River.”) It is nonetheless attributed to the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.