The railway industry has every interest in exploiting 3D printing, thanks to its numerous benefits. It is now possible to reduce the production time of trains and optimize maintenance. Additive manufacturing also shortens design lead times while extending useful life and enhancing performance. It also improves stock management. On-demand production in small runs is made easier, enhancing the rapid replacement of damaged parts. Lastly, reducing the weight of certain parts designed using 3D materials makes the trains more energy efficient.

Operators in the railway sector are tracking down the 3D revolution!

SNCF is seeking via 3D printing to reduce the downtime of its trains during repair thanks to shorter delivery lead times. For example, a foundry part can now be replaced in 5 days instead of the usual 5 weeks. The German railway operator Deutsche Bahn has also already 3D printed thousands of parts in order to improve the manufacturing process of its trains. Other companies such as Angel Trains, the largest train lease operator in the UK, and the Dutch company Nederlandse SpoorWegen are already producing 3D spare parts, notably interior components. Lastly, Bombardier Transportation has 3D designed a bespoke ventilation system. The multinational company estimates to have saved between 30% and 40% in design time versus traditional processes.

The most common 3D applications in the railway sector

  • Cabin parts (armrests, grab handles, fold-up tables)
  • Production tools
  • Ventilation ducts/systems, small steel components, axle boxes, brake supports
  • Replacement of obsolete worn or defective parts