Apr 26, 2016 | By Alec

The ability to 3D print spare parts in a moment’s notice is exactly why NASA is experimenting with zero-gravity 3D printing, but this application can also be a huge advantage down here on earth. German national railway company Deutsche Bahn has also recognized the advantages of low storage costs and custom-fitting production, and is hoping to apply that to their own rail network in the near future. To realize this, they have just set up a collaboration of companies, startups and research institutes called Mobility goes Additive, which will explore possibilities and promote end-product 3D printing.

The existence of Mobility goes Additive has recently been confirmed by Deutsche Bahn’s innovation manager Stefanie Bricwede, who talked about their plans and ambitions during the 3D Druck für Automotive conference in Ettlingen, Germany. As she explained at the event, they decided to set up a separate cluster of partners to increase the focus on ground-based mobility. 3D printing innovations, she says, are currently mostly being driven by the aviation industry and therefore dictated by an obsession with weight. But companies like Deutsche Bahn focus on completely different advantages, and therefore require a different approach.

So what is this Mobility goes Additive cluster focusing on? Initially, they are setting their sights on 3D printing spare parts for trains. “Initially especially on metal parts, but we will also be looking at carbon fiber in the future,” she explained. The cluster has already completed various tests with the 3D printing of molds, which can be used for parts that do not exist in CAD form. That is one of the challenges, Bricwede explains, faced by the railway industry. As trains are made to last, some German trains are still in perfect working order despite being in operation for more than four decades. 3D printing non-existent replacement parts for these trains can be a huge achievement for Deutsche Bahn.

As Bricwede explains, the cluster is therefore currently focusing on proving the viability of those spare parts and showing exactly what 3D printing can add to their maintenance procedures. “It’s all about how we can set up the supply chain for these spare parts,” Bricwede says. This process logically also includes the development of quality standards and part standardization.

And so far they have assembled a diverse team of partners. Included in the collaboration are, among others, Materialise, engineering giants Siemens, and 3D printer manufacturers EOS. VDMA, the German branch organization for machine and installation manufacturers is also looking to join. Right now, the cluster is also open for other interested (international) partners. Bricwede is especially hoping to attract the attention of startups, and added that the all foreign parties interested in ground-based mobility manufacturing are also welcome.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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