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Sensors help keep wheels rolling


According to reports provided by Australasian Railway Association (ARA), the value of the rail industry to the Australian economy has grown by $3.7 billion since 2016. Particularly, in 2019, the industry contributed more than $30 billion to the economy.  

As rail services provide a safe alternative transportation route that helps keep roads free of congestion and pollution, the demand for rail transport is set to grow over time. For instance, passenger trips are expected to witness a surge of 19% by 2026.  

To keep up with the surge in demand, rail operators need to ensure year-round availability of the rail tracks and the rail vehicle. Therefore, it is increasingly important to implement proper maintenance of the railway network to ensure a well-functioning transport system.  

To operate trains at a high level of reliability, quality inspection on key subsystems such as wheels must be performed regularly.  

As wheels run along the tracks, contact between the wheel flange and railhead can cause accelerated flange wear. When the flange wears excessively, wheels become less stable and more likely to derail from the tracks.  

A scheduled timely maintenance of the wheels can be performed to ensure that they are secured to the tracks and to identify the wear and tear on the wheel flange. However, the operators should be able to identify whether the wheels or flanges are worn before the maintenance can be performed.  

Conventionally, wheels are inspected by visual methods to identify wear such as spreading of the rim, thermal cracks, broken flange, and other defects. The visual method is no longer feasible economically as it can be tedious, inefficient, and poses too many factors of human’s error.  

More and more industries have implemented automation in their system to reduce the impact of human reliance and gradually easing their way of transforming to the industry 4.0.  

Through the rise of industry 4.0, rail industry can now be more prepared to avoid surprise downtime. This transition has been possible due to the increasing availability of sensors to provide real-time data. 

For wheel wear monitoring, displacement and distance measurement can be translated to the diameter and abnormalities on the wheel.  

A combination of single point laser triangulation and laser line scanner system can provide this information to the user.  

These non-contact sensors eliminate the disturbance to the object and can be easily set up and automated depending on the requirements.  

Bestech Australia specialises in supplying high precision sensors and data acquisition systems to cater for these challenging industrial measuring requirements.  

The company works with global sensors supplier Micro-Epsilon to supply its high precision laser sensors and laser scanner to support  the measuring requirements of the rail industry. 

A test bench setup featuring the optoNCDT laser triangulation sensors and scanCONTROL laser profile scanner has been previously developed to determine the wear and tear of the rail wheels. 

This test bench can be set to measure the wheel profile of an entire train. This modern test-bed setup collects and documents treads data that saves time as compared to manual wear measurement.  

The profile data acquired through measurement forms the basis for determining the maintenance dates for reprofiling. 

The setup comprises three troughs that are embedded in the track bed one behind the other at right angles to the direction of travel.  

A long range scanControl laser profile scanner with 200mm range.

For measuring the wheel diameter and the position of the wheel-tire simultaneously, two optoNCDT laser sensors are installed in each of the troughs 1 and 3. These sensors are compact and have an integrated controller that enables easy mounting and wiring.  

Two scanCONTROL laser profile sensors are housed in trough 3 to measure the wheel profile.  

The scanCONTROL profile scanners are amongst the highest performing laser profile sensors which make them suitable to detect, measure and evaluate profiles of train wheels. The laser scanners also have an integrated controller for automated profile evaluation and the users can also write their own program through the integrated SDK 

With the help of evaluation software, the gathered data can be used to detect the deviation in the target profile, and the maintenance operator can schedule repair activities if the tolerance limit is reached. 

Aside from wheel wear inspection, these high resolution laser sensors have been used in other rail applications such as co-planarity and flatness measurement in R&D, rail inspection, condition monitoring and quality control in rail manufacturing.  

Bestech Australia has previously collaborated with the local rail industry to implement turnkey measurement systems that improve the efficiency of their regular maintenance activities.  

For example, as rails are subject to constant wear either due to corrosion or due to friction during use, effective rail track maintenance is vital to avoid disruptions.  

Maintenance engineers seek automated inspection solutions to overcome difficulties that are faced in the manual inspection of rail wear. Such a system can be designed by integrating advanced measurement sensors.  

Bestech not only supplies sensors and the required measurement system to the industry, but we also provide full local technical support to ensure smooth integration and commissioning. 

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