Jan 18, 2018 | By Tess

The University of Huddersfield in the UK has received £300,000 ($415K) in funding to support the development of lighter, more efficient, and more comfortable “rolling stock” for railway vehicles. The project will investigate the use of new materials, such as carbon fiber composites, as well as new manufacturing technologies, like 3D printing, for the improvement of train bogie* construction.

Within the EU, trains provide an important transport network for both people and goods, so keeping the vehicles and rails maintained and up-to-date is vital.

The research project, part of the Europe-wide RUN2RAIL program, is headed by the University of Huddersfield’s Institute for Railway Research (IRR). RUN2RAIL, which itself falls into a larger EU-backed initiative, Shift2Rail, aimed at improving and modernizing rail vehicles, has an overall funding of over two million euros.

With its £300K portion, the Huddersfield team will work in collaboration with the Politecnico di Milano, RINA consultants, and Italian engineering firm Blue Group to explore the potentials of using new materials to advance and optimize running gear components for railway vehicles.

Currently, steel frames are the go-to material for manufacturing train bogies and running gear, which are strong and durable but are limited in terms of what forms they can take. By turning to new and versatile materials like carbon fibre composites—which are at once lightweight, manipulatable, and strong—the doors for train chassis design and  functions could open up.

As Professor Simon Iwnicki, Director of the IRR, explained: “You can have any number of curves or shapes and therefore build up the shape you actually want, whereas with a steel frame there are only a certain number of shapes you can make. Also, carbon fibre is much lighter and you can put the material just where you want it, which makes it lighter still.”

Professor Simon Iwnicki, Director of  the University of Huddersfield’s Institute for Railway Research

One key advantage of carbon fibre composites is that they can be additively manufactured into virtually any shape or structure. This facet of the material is not lost on the Huddersfield team, as it plans to build train bogie frames using a robotic additive manufacturing system.

Metal 3D printing will also be explored for the purpose of producing new rail vehicle parts, such as axle boxes and brake brackets. The research team says that as the technology continues to advance, its applications for train manufacturing will become even more viable.

That being said, Professor Iwnicki maintains that traditional steel constructions will still be used to make train wheels. “We have considered using alternative materials for wheel hubs or axles, but the failure modes and risks are not yet fully understood.  But we are looking at it,” he said.

Ultimately, the project is seeking to improve railway transport with new materials and technologies by making rolling stocks “lighter, more reliable, more comfortable, and quieter.” The RUN2RAIL project is already underway and will be funded through to its expected completion in August 2019.

*If you’re not up to speed on railway jargon, a bogie is the chassis structure on a train or railed vehicle that joins the wheel axles to the carriage.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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