Train infrastructure and rolling stock tend to have a long product lifecycle with trains running for decades until they are retired. Getting legacy parts for these vehicles can be a pain in the neck. The individual trains often outlast the companies that built the parts.
And so to deal with this problem of obtaining high quality legacy parts, German railway company Deutsche Bahn (DB) has turned to BigRep to assist with 3D printing these production level parts.
DB started their activities in additive manufacturing in October 2015. At that time, they focussed on the reproduction of spare parts. In the meantime they have printed more than 15,000 spare parts and other additively manufactured products.
BigRep are known for their large filament extrusion machines, which are built for larger scale production runs.
One product of note is the headrest frame that BigRep has manufactured for DB. You can see it being printed in the image below.
The polymers used in these headrests are flame retardant as Deutsche Bahn has stringent requirements for fire safety in their rolling stock. In the unfortunate event of a fire, you don’t want a bunch of plastics adding to the fuel, propagating flames and going off a bunch of noxious fumes as it burns. And so to meet those requirements, BigRep decided to make their own material.
The task of developing the material was turned over to NowLab at BigRep. NowLab are BigRep’s innovation department, and they deal with finding innovative solutions to bespoke customer needs.
For now, the parts are being trialed and the DB / BigRep collaborations continue, as they have also been working on a 3D printed prototype for a new rail signal part.
You can read more about their huge (1005 mm x Y 1005 mm x Z 1005 mm and up) build volume printers at their company page.