Here at 3D Rapid Print, one of the fastest growing 3D Printing companies in the Thames Valley, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.

On June 23rd 2021, multinational rolling stock manufacturer Alstom of Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine, France spoke of how it had availed itself of 3D printing to help a customer with an urgent request. When Sétif Tramways (Sétif) of Algeria discovered that its tram headlights were being damaged by water ingress and stones entering through small holes as the trams ran, it approached Alstom for spare parts to plug the holes and prevent further damage.

In response, Alstom designed, produced and delivered 12 rubber drainage plugs to seal the holes in the trams’ headlights. It boasted that the 3D printed plugs were delivered in just 48 hours, avoiding circa 45 days of lead time if they had been made via conventional means. Alstom also proclaimed that 3D printing the plugs had saved Sétif €6,000 in costs, representing a reduction of 80%. (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.”)

Other examples of 3D printing’s involvement in rolling stock part replacement includes self-proclaimed “leader in transport solutionsSiemens Mobility Services (Siemens Mobility) of Munich, Germany and train operator Chiltern Railways (Chiltern) of Sunderland, Tyne and Wear. In late February 2020, Siemens Mobility announced that it would be investing in 3D printing to support its rail maintenance operations in Russia.

At the time, Siemens Mobility had been recently selected to build 13 more high-speed trains for Russian train company RZD of Moscow, including an agreement to maintain and service them for the next 30 years. In addition, the investment marked the first time that Siemens Mobility’s Easy Sparovation Part network would be used in Russia, which aims to make maintaining and servicing trains more efficient via 3D printing and a digital inventory of original train parts.

In late September 2019, it was announced that 3D printed parts had been successfully trialled on a UK in-service passenger train for the very first time, involving 4 passenger armrests and 7 grab handles. In addition to Chiltern, this was a collaboration between train leasing company Angel Trains of London and engineering consultancy DB ESG of Derby. Angel Trains claimed that the lead time for Chiltern’s in-service armrest using conventional manufacturing means would be circa 4 months, whereas DB ESG contended that the 3D printed armrest could be made within a week.

In the case of the grab handle, the replacement part was obsolete and Chiltern’s original supplier had gone out of business, ergo a new manufacturing tool would have otherwise been needed to make more of them. Via conventional means, this consequently would have given a lead time of two and a half months, whereas the 3D printed grab handles were made in just 3 weeks. (DB ESG’s involvement entailed testing various materials to ensure that the 3D printed parts would meet the relevant industry standards.)

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 “Simulation of tram accident – lady next to the tram(GN13810)” has been dedicated to the public domain by its author under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.