Stratasys to 3D print spare parts on demand for Angel Trains

Angel Trains, a British rolling stock operator company (ROSCO), has partnered with Stratasys and ESG Rail, a Derby-based engineering consultant, to 3D print replacement parts for trains.

Technical Director of Angel Trains, Mark Hicks, said, “We are proud to be driving this innovation with ESG Rail and Stratasys and hope that this solution will help to free the industry from technological constraints, and allow our trains to continue to meet passengers’ needs now and in the future.”

3D printed train components for Angel Trains. Image via Stratasys
3D printed train components for Angel Trains. Image via Stratasys

Rolling stock operators

ROSCO companies, like Angel Trains, own and maintain railway carriages and engines, and lease them to train operating companies, such as the Great Western Railway (GWR)  East Midland Trains, and Arriva Rail London.

Established in 1994, Angel Trains is among the three original ROSCO companies created as a result of privatization of British Rail, the other two being Eversholt Rail Group and Porterbrook

Angel Train’s latest collaborator, ESG Rail, is a consultancy business. It was founded in 1995 as part of EWS (English, Welsh, and Scottish) railways and is now owned by the German railway company Deutsche Bahn, driver of the mobility goes additive network which involved 3D printed parts for its trains.

A GWR train. Image via Rail Technology Magazine
A GWR train. Image via Rail Technology Magazine

Part obsolescence 

According to a report by policy research institute RAND Europe, in the aerospace and defense industry, “It is not unusual that 70–80 % of the electronic components become obsolescent before the system has been deployed for the first time.”

Using 3D printing, not only defense but other industries such as the maritime and farming industries, have made an effort to counter such issues. 

The latest partnership between Angel Trains, ESG and Stratasys address similar problems in the railway sector. 

Martin Stevens, ESG Rail’s Mechanical Engineering Manager, commented, “We believe that this emerging method of manufacturing will reduce costs, production times and issues faced by component obsolescence.”

3D printed train parts

The replacement parts for Angel Trains are made using Stratasys’ FDM technology. Among the materials used for the project are the engineering-grade Antero 800NA, a PEKK-based wear-resistant plastic, compatible with the Fortus 450mc. After testing the Antero 800NA, it was found that the material is compliant with Railway Standard EN 45545-2, a fire behavior classification of materials used on trains.

At present, the 3D printed parts include an armrest, grab handle, and seat back table. All these components have been tested by ESG Rail for compliance with railway standards. Further testing will take place in 2019 on in-service passenger trains. These trials will run until the end of the next summer. 

Stratasys’ Yann Rageul, Manager, Strategic Account Team EMEA, said,  “With the highest level of repeatability in the industry and advanced, rail-certified, materials, we believe our FDM additive manufacturing solutions offer huge potential to replace traditional manufacturing for a diverse range of applications within the rail industry.”

A 3D printed seat back table. Image via Stratasys

Furthermore, on-demand manufacturing is expected to save warehousing costs associated with mass manufacturing, in turn delivering lower costs to customers. Mark Hicks added:

“This exciting industry-first collaboration has the potential to transform manufacturing within the rail industry.”

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Featured image shows a 3D printed grab handle. Image via Stratasys.