Siemens Mobility GmbH, the mobility solutions division of Siemens AG, has announced the opening of its first digital rail maintenance center. The new facility, formally called the Siemens Mobility RRX Rail Service Center, is located in Dortmund-Eving in Germany and offers a range of state-of-the-art 3D printing and digital technologies for the benefit of train and rail maintenance.
The transport industry has increasingly been exploring additive manufacturing technologies for a range of applications. Looking at the railway specifically, established transport companies such as Deutsche Bahn and the Netherlands’ national railway company NS have integrated 3D printing into their maintenance and production for manufacturing replacement parts or small series components for trains.
In both cases—and in Siemens Mobility’s case as well—additive manufacturing reduces (or even eliminates) the need for inventory for spare parts, as they can be produced on a need-to-have basis, and cuts back on manufacturing times significantly. According to Siemens Mobility, its new rail service center has the capacity to reduce the manufacturing time for spare parts by an incredible 95%.
With the launch of the new Siemens Mobility RRX Rail Service Center, Siemens expects roughly 100 trains to come through the center every month for maintenance work. To meet this high demand and to ready the trains as rapidly as possible, the center is equipped with a Stratasys Fortus 450mc Production 3D printer—a robust machine capable of turning out replacement parts and tooling on-demand.
“We believe our RRX Rail Service Center is the most advanced train maintenance center in the world,” said Michael Kuczmik, Head of Additive Manufacturing, Siemens Mobility GmbH, Customer Service. “Bringing together a range of innovative digital technologies, we can significantly increase the efficiency of our customer’s rail operations. Stratasys FDM additive manufacturing plays an integral role, enabling us to optimize spare parts for longer life cycles, at reduced cost and in shorter timeframes than ever before.”
Prior to the implementation of additive manufacturing and other digital technologies, Siemens Mobility relied on traditional manufacturing processes like casting to produce parts. Needless to say, using casting resulted in much longer production times (going up to six weeks to produce a custom part). Further, the company adds that the process was unviable for one-off parts, so it often had to cast large volumes which resulted in many obsolete parts and required inventory space.
“Using the Fortus 450mc we can 3D print spare parts in a matter of hours,” commented Tina Eufinger, Business Development Additive Manufacturing at Siemens Mobility. “Parts that took 6 weeks, can now be produced in 13 hours. Within a week, we can iterate and optimize the design and then 3D print a final, customized production-grade part. This has enabled us to reduce the manufacturing time of each part by up to 95%, which has significantly sped up our ability to respond to customers.”
Siemens Mobility is also leveraging its Stratasys 3D printer to manufacture tools to increase its capabilities. The complexity afforded by 3D printing makes it easier to produce such necessary parts as connector tools, which are used in the industry to maintain train bogies. These parts have always been tricky to manufacture as they are often highly complex and customized. With the Fortus 450mc and heavy duty ULTEM 9085 material, however, Siemens is now able to produce custom connector tools for bogie maintenance within hours.
“The ability to 3D print customized tools and spare parts whenever we need them, with no minimum quantity, has transformed our supply chain,” concluded Kuczmik. “We have reduced our dependency on outsourcing tools via suppliers and reduced cost per part, while also opening up more revenue streams by being able to service more low-volume jobs cost-effectively and efficiently.”