3D printing as a phenomenon can be traced back to the early 1980s. However, it didn’t get to be under the limelight till the mid-1990s. That’s when people discovered this magical technology that could build actual workable things.
It became a tool for hobbyists, industrials and even entrepreneurs to try their hands on this magnificent technology and give life to the 3D models that they had digitally. Many people use 3D printing to develop prototypes and see how something would be before they invest sizable money in producing it.
3D printing has a lot to offer. That’s the reason why it has started to seep into the railway industry. This article is all about the use of 3D metal printing in the railway sector.
The plight of the railway industry
Trains and tracks are some things that are not built to last a couple of years. Trains can easily perform for half a century and still be in perfectly workable condition. Unfortunately, the spare part companies aren’t around to cater to the maintenance needs of the rail companies for that long. As a common industry practice, spare part suppliers commit up to a 15 months period where they’d ensure the provision of spare parts.
What happens next? The rail companies wander around to find the right suppliers that’ll manufacture the spare parts for them. That’s not the worst thing. The suppliers can take months on end to provide the parts. That means that the train stands still on the tracks. And still trains mean losses every day.
Is there a solution to this?
There’s no consistency with the requirements of parts for the trains and railway sector in general. That’s because it’s mostly used by the public, and you never know what parts you could require to ensure the smooth running of the vehicle.
Oftentimes, trains become victims of acts of vandalism as well. Or they may get their parts worn out and used up. 3D printing offers quick and cheaper solutions to problems. With 3D printing, it is possible to supply train parts fast so that the trains are up and running on the tracks in the least possible time.
To the railway industry, that’s almost magic. The tech behind this magic? Additive manufacturing.
How can the train industry leverage additive manufacturing?
Usually, the problem with the traditional methods of spare parts manufacturing is that the costs and the lead time are too high. 3D printing in metal significantly lessens the time and remarkably reduces the costs as well.
Oftentimes, trains require parts that are more than 3 to 4 decades old. It is difficult to find manufacturers of such vintage parts. Luckily, with additive manufacturing, you can get complex parts metal printed, which means that there’s no need to go on finding suppliers throughout the globe.
This significantly solved a lot of spare parts procurement for the railway industry. The main thing, with 3D printing, the trains are back on track in just a few days compared to months on end when the spare parts are procured through traditional channels.
Renowned train companies like Deutsche Bahn, Bombardier and Angel Trains have already deployed 3D printing services or are working up a way to have these services to solve the spare part problems. It’s just a matter of time before 3D printing in metal becomes the norm for producing train parts.
While all this is practical, it’s just a question of when this phenomenon becomes mainstream in the railway sector.
The railway sector can reap tremendous benefits from additive manufacturing. It significantly cuts down the lead time and costs while providing parts that are usually better than the parts supplied by traditional methods.
One way to make this procedure common is that train companies can outsource 3D printing in metal to reliable Metal 3D Printing Services. That way, they don’t need to invest in a 3D printing facility and can get the job done when the need arises.
The train industry shall significantly benefit from 3D printing. There are practically endless ways this technology can be used in the railway sector.