“We can make design tweaks and have a new version ready within hours, plus the prototype never leaves UP. Additionally, it ensures a complete design before we move into expensive tooling or long lead times for molded parts.” – Royce Connerley, Union Pacific Senior System Engineer
It’s no exaggeration to say the 3D printing is a technology with boundless potential. With medical industries, housing, manufacturing, and hobbyists using the tech for printing in ways never before possible, it is no surprise that the railway industry too is turning to 3D printing for solutions.
For a bit of a background, 3D printing is the use of machinery to print components/materials. These materials can be plastic, metal through powder printing, and much more.
Union Pacific, for example, is using 3D printing for railroad machine vision technology. Machine vision loosely refers to the using of imagery for automatic inspection or analysis. Furthermore, Union Pacific is 3D printing remote controlled devices to track rail equipment.
In Europe, Deutsche Bahn has begun to use 3D printing in their actual train assembly. As Uwe Fresenborg, CEO of DB Fahrzeuginstandhaltung states: “For the maintenance of our vehicles we need immediately available spare parts. Our trains are expected to roll, 3D printing helps us in doing so. Printing is faster, more flexible and cheaper than conventional manufacturing processes, and the vehicles are available again in a very short time and are used for our customers.”
Beyond creating parts for trains, Deutsche Bahn has employed 3D printing to increase the overall experience of customers, such as by 3D printing metal pieces with braille for disabled customers and individualized handicap signs for handrails. As the program develops we can anticipate seeing more 3D printing components throughout Europe and beyond.
It’s safe to say that 3D printing will revolutionize not only rail but all manner of transport industries with its benefits to customer quality of life, safety testing, part replacement, and machine vision. As more industries adopt the technology we can expect to see even greater breakthroughs still.