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3D Printing

Replacement on time increases train availability

At the end of 2015, the first printed part from a 3D printer for Deutsche Bahn (DB) was a coat hook, as every traveler from the train compartment knows it. Since then, DB has printed 1,800 spare parts. By the end of 2017, 2,000 spare parts are to be produced, and by the end of 2018, 15,000 will be produced. It prints spare parts for older vehicles or systems in the infrastructure sector, which are no longer or only with difficulty deliverable. These include, for example, ventilation grilles, headrests, coat hooks or cable boxes.

The 3D printing process is fast, flexible and cheap. The pressure of a headrest for seating in an older type IC cart (see Time Lapse Video below) takes e.g. 20 hours. Despite the time required, this is an inexpensive alternative if suppliers no longer manufacture parts or the waiting times for replacement are far too long. If you wanted to recreate the part in a classical way, the production of the injection mold alone can cost thousands of euros. This is simply ineffective for small quantities.

All components from the 3D printer undergo extensive testing before use, for example the testing of fatigue strength. The layered structure of the spare parts - also makes it possible to optimize spare parts at points prone to failure. While the first printed parts were exclusively made of plastic, mostly polyamide, metal components are now also produced using the powder printing process.

Handrail sign in Braille - from the 3D printer

The applications are not limited to spare parts production. 3D printing offers the possibility of producing individualized parts, such as handrails in braille (picture left) for the station equipment. People with reduced mobility can orientate themselves more easily in the station. DB Schenker is investigating how 3D printers can be used in large material warehouses to print spare parts on site and thereby reduce stock levels.

The DB does not own its own 3D printer, but works together with service providers from the industry. DB participates in the network "Mobility goes Additive".

More than 40 companies - from users, printing press manufacturers and print service providers to universities and start-ups - work together on DB's initiative in the "Mobility goes Additive" network to jointly promote innovation. Involved are e.g. the Swiss Federal Railways SBB, Siemens and the Fraunhofer Institute.