Brigitte Hafner
is a communicator in the Rail Cargo Group
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Innovation

Produce your own spare parts: 3D printers make it possible

Our goal is to produce the necessary spare parts for rail vehicles quickly and efficiently ourselves so that they are available whenever they are needed. 3D printers should soon make this possible. Technicians from ÖBB-Technische Services are working intensively on this. For us, this means faster vehicle availability in the future.

Rail vehicles also have to visit the workshop on a regular basis. When it comes to the maintenance of rail vehicles and their components, ÖBB-Technische Services is a competent partner in the ÖBB Group as a professional vehicle maintenance company for locomotives, multiple units, passenger cars and freight wagons. Whether for small or large repairs or service activities, it is necessary to exchange certain spare parts on freight wagons or locomotives at certain intervals. We know what happens when we take our own car to the garage for a service. Material management perfectly matched to planned maintenance activities ensures that spare parts are available exactly when they’re needed. In the case of unscheduled repair work, it is possible that the required replacement parts are not in stock. They then have to be ordered. But what if they’re no longer available? In this case, the motto is: do it yourself.

The trend is heading towards doing it yourself

Having already established itself as a permanent feature in the aerospace and automotive industries, additive manufacturing, i.e. the fast and cost-effective production of models, tools and end products, is now also finding its way into the rail transport sector. Clever minds from the engineering, production and controlling departments are now working on the implementation of 3D printing. The first important steps have already been taken to identify the necessary spare parts that can be produced using 3D printing processes. Parts based on plastics are already being printed in the ÖBB workshop in Linz. Now a laboratory for the development of prototypes and the optimisation of existing components is also to be built at the Simmering workshop in Vienna. Different production techniques such as metal and plastic printing are to be used. The aim is to install the next generation of 3D printers in addition to a 3D scanner, thus expanding the existing service portfolio.

Swapping expertise with partners

ÖBB-Technische Services can now rely on the support of professional partners thanks to a recently sealed co-operation with FOTEC Forschungs- und Technologietransfer GmbH, a research company of the University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt. The co-operation includes technological and technical support for the development of additive manufacturing. The creation of 3D models and support in the selection of machines are part of the co-operation. A further partnership with the Upper Austrian company Reprap Austria is intended to support colleagues in expanding plastic printing as a production technology, but also as a producer of various plastic parts. From 2019, it should be possible to produce certain spare parts in-house using the 3D printing process. The decisive advantage: a shortened delivery time of certain spare parts from several weeks to several hours and thus faster availability or operational readiness of the rail vehicles.

The future joint partnership with FOTEC Forschungs- und Technologietransfer GmbH relies on professional and competent co-operation and knowledge transfer. From left: Helmut Loibl, Managing Director FOTEC; Reinhard Hubmann, Head of Engineering Technologies, FOTEC; Alexander Pröll, Head of Electrical Components Production, ÖBB-Technische Services and Andrew Callahan, Head of Supply Chain Management, ÖBB-Technische Services © ÖB_Roland Steinberger

Nowadays, 3D printers can produce even extremely complex parts. Such as this model of a motor bogie for the Cityjet trains, manufactured by the company FOTEC. ©ÖBB_Roland Steinberger

Nowadays, 3D printers can produce even extremely complex parts. Such as this model of a motor bogie for the Cityjet trains, manufactured by the company FOTEC. ©ÖBB_Roland Steinberger