A cross-industry group has come together recently in an effort to upgrade trains with 3D printed parts. Currently, components being fabricated via additive manufacturing technology–rather than more conventional methods–include four-passenger armrests and seven grab handles. These have already been installed in Chiltern Railways trains in the UK for a trial run, with research, development, and further coordination by Angel Trains, a leading train leasing company in the UK, 3D printing leader Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS), engineering consultancy DB ESG, and the train operators at Chiltern Railways too.
The train parts being created via 3D printing right now are of particular interest because they not only demonstrate the ‘accelerated’ rate at which parts can be manufactured—but these are parts that had become obsolete. With 3D scanning and 3D printing, however, they can be re-created and put back into production. This is critical for industries like trains where machinery may be running for decades but it is not cost-effective to try to track down one part that most distributors no longer sell—unlike car parts which are common and produced in enormous volumes.
As very old parts break down, train companies must be able to replace them quickly no matter what though, maintaining hardware as well as offering the best comfort and customer service possible to those riding trains.