The Dutch railway system, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (commonly known as NS), has revealed that it has implemented 3D printing technologies to produce certain components for its trains. According to a recent announcement by the national rail service, 20 train parts are currently being 3D printed and the first trains featuring these parts are already on the rails.
Like the automotive and shipbuilding industries, the train and transport sector has been investigating 3D printing technologies for the production of small components and replacement parts. In Germany, for instance, one of the world’s largest transport companies, Deutsche Bahn AG, has been using AM in both its manufacturing and maintenance projects.
NS is the latest transport company to recognize the benefits of 3D printing in its work, utilizing the technology to speed up its turnaround times on necessary parts. So far, only a handful of components are being 3D printed, including a plug for the public address system and a part for the conductor’s control table, but more will surely follow.
As NS emphasizes in a recent blog post: though commuters may not notice the 3D printed parts in the train, they have made a big difference behind the scenes. Perhaps most significantly, additive manufacturing has enabled NS mechanics and engineers to produce and install train components in just a few days. Traditionally, it could take months to order and receive a part, making the maintenance process a slow and lengthy one.
3D printing has also made it easier for NS to reproduce parts that, for whatever reason, are either obsolete or not easy to find. Using reverse engineering, these rarer parts can be manufactured on the fly and installed into trains, getting them back in use more efficiently than before.
Looking ahead, NS says it plans to 3D print up to 50 train parts by the end of this year. To achieve this, the transport company has invited members and colleagues to submit proposals for parts which could benefit from being 3D printed. NS is also looking to connect with suppliers and other organizations that specialize in additive manufacturing and transport applications.