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Stay on track with Additive Manufacturing

Now that most of the new build rolling stock in Britain is acquired on basis of design-build-maintain, with the manufacturer under obligation to deliver a set level of reliability and availability of the fleet, it’s unsurprising that rolling stock manufacturers are exploring ways to cut maintenance costs and increase efficiencies in the supply chain. 

Traditional part manufacturing methods are expensive, regardless of whether we’re talking of building an arm rest or a table clip. They require bulk orders, take time to deliver, and result in a deal of scrappage. Additive manufacturing (traditionally referred to as 3D printing) is proving to be one solution to the inventory on demand needs of manufacturers. Single parts can be made to order, making significant savings in both time (up to 95% of fabrication time) and money.

Manufacturers may have been slow to jump on the 3D wagon, but uptake is accelerating rapidly as major players start to invest in 3D printing technologies. Siemens, GE Transportation and Angel Trains have been ‘early’ adopters for both existing rolling stock maintenance and new stock development, citing reduction in supply chain costs, tackling part obsolescence, reducing whole life maintenance costs, and enabling trains to remain in service for longer as key drivers.

Getting on track. Staying on track.

Siemens Mobility has been printing replacement parts, including arm rests and replacement couplers, for existing rolling stock since 2015 (source). Angel Trains partnered with EGS Engineering and a leading supplier of 3D technologies to develop on-demand armrests, grab handles and seat back tables (source). GE Transportation has been exploring opportunities provided by 3D for locomotive production, believing that the process will reduce the amount of time needed to produce components, as well as allowing for more precise designs in prototyping, reducing lead times and enhancing innovation process (source).

With the UK Government under pressure to ensure that manufacture of the new HSR2 rolling stock stays firmly in Britain, as well as the media furore over escalating costs, it really should be incumbent upon UK TOCs and manufacturers to explore the Additive Manufacturing opportunity in greater depth - particularly as emerging technologies threaten to disrupt traditional manufacturing processes on an almost monthly basis.

Additive manufacturing solutions

One such technology is Digital Light Synthesis™ from US tech giant, Carbon. It promises to print 100 times faster than traditional 3D printing methods, and to deliver stronger, layer-free parts with consistent, isotropic and predictable mechanical properties. Its continual production process enables multiple iterations in one print; and prototyping can move to production without having to create tools. Because it has been developed with production in mind, the greater the number of parts printed, the more economical the process becomes.

It’s an additive manufacturing process that’s already been badged the smart solution in the automotive sector, with Ford, Lamborghini and Agrifac now mass printing end-use parts including petrol caps, parking brake brackets and heating, ventilation and cooling system components and spray nozzles.

Carbon pours as much effort into developing resins for its technology as does in developing the technology itself. Conscious that industry sectors are required to conform to sets of materials standards unique to them, Carbon’s ethos is to collaborate with users to develop custom material solutions for some of the world’s most exciting design challenges. 

Collaboration and disruption

It is precisely this ethos that encouraged North Eastern product development solutions and low volume manufacturing provider Paragon Rapid Technologies to invest in Carbon’s technology and bring its extraordinary capabilities to the UK.

“This is a disruptive technology,” says Phill Adamson, Paragon’s Managing Director. “It challenges traditional methods of manufacture. By bringing a new form of additive manufacturing to the UK customer we believe our partnership with Carbon will drive change in the market.

“In performance and cost, products produced from Carbon machines compete favourably with low volume injection moulding polymers. There is a clear advantage in that development costs are greatly reduced. In an industry where efficiency is at a premium, additive manufacturing is an attractive option and is becoming more mainstream.

“Our own ethos has always been to pursue a long-term collaborative approach with our customers across all elements of the supply chain we contribute to. That includes research and development of relevant materials, including structural assessment and ensuring compliance with demanding safety standards. If our customers believe our Digital Light Synthesis™ is a technology that provides solutions for on-demand, end use parts, we’ll work with them and Carbon to ensure all standards are satisfied.”

Paragon’s Additive Manufacturing capability is extensive. With three state-of-the-art, open materials platform NEO800 stereolithography (SLA) 3D printers, they have one of the largest capacities in the UK to print and finish large, finely detailed end-use quality components within days. The open materials platform means these super-spec SLA printers are not locked to specific materials, enabling The company also possesses three further SLA machines; can cater to demands for more robust, functional prototypes through Selective Laser Sintering; and can emulate the FDM printing processes Angel Trains and Siemens are currently deploying.

Get on board

Paragon’s Additive Manufacturing capability is extensive. With three state-of-the-art, open materials platform NEO800 stereolithography (SLA) 3D printers, they have one of the largest capacities in the UK to print and finish large, finely detailed end-use quality components within days. The open materials platform means these super-spec SLA printers are not locked to specific materials, providing materials development specialists opportunities for materials R&D. 

The company also possesses three further SLA machines; can cater to demands for more robust, functional prototypes through Selective Laser Sintering; and can emulate the FDM printing processes Angel Trains and Siemens are currently deploying.

It's clear that additive manufacturing has the potential to transform manufacturing in the rail industry, and Paragon is eager to offer collaboration opportunities for TOCs and manufacturers, bringing UK-based, cost effective solutions to the industry. 

Phill Adamson concludes, "We'd be delighted to talk to TOCs and manufacturers about our 3D printing capabilities. We understand that the sector uses materials with extremely stringent safety standards and certification requirements, and we're keen to work with rail manufacturers to ensure compliance. Research and development collaboration is a core component of our business and we're always on the lookout for opportunities with UK companies seeking to find cutting-edge solutions for increasing supply chain efficiencies."

For more information, contact:

Phillip Adamson, Managing Director

Paragon Rapid Technologies

Tel: 01325 333 141 Extn. 007


Categories: News