Huddersfield University researchers are spearheading a next-gen railway vehicles project using carbon fiber frames and 3D printing technology.
The research is being carried out by the University’s Institute for Railway Research, which has been awarded funding of almost $414,000 as part of an EU-backed project to develop lighter, more reliable, more comfortable and quieter rolling stock.
“We hope that the result will be a step change in the running gear of rail vehicles,” said the IRR’s Director, Professor Simon Iwnicki.
An integral part of the project will involve researchers exploring the potential – and any shortcomings – of new materials. Benefits include reduction in the weight of bogies, simpler designs and reduced life cycle costs.
RUN2RAIL is the overall title of the new project. It is an element of the EU’s multi-faceted Shift2Rail program, which fosters research and innovation in European railways.
The total funding allotted to RUN2RAIL is $3.3 million, and it has four work packages, shared by leading engineering companies and universities throughout Europe.
The Huddersfield Institute is participating in three of the packages, and is the lead institution for the project to investigate optimized materials for running gear. It will work with the Politecnico di Milano, consultants RINA and the Italian engineering and design company Blue Group.
Professor Iwnicki explained that it was the Institute’s expert knowledge of the design of railway bogies and their dynamic behavior that was being harnessed for the work package.
At a kick-off meeting in Milan with the partners, it was decided to investigate the use of carbon fiber composites, which would enable bogie frames to be constructed layer-by-layer by robots.
“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,” said Professor Iwnicki. “Also, carbon fibre is much lighter and you can put the material just where you want it, which makes it lighter still.”
Another strand of investigation will be the use of 3D printing done with lasers and steel powders. Axle boxes and brackets for brakes will be the first to benefit from this process.
Image credits and content: University of Huddersfield