Monday 20th May, 2019

Smart plastics simplifying railway equipment maintenance

Photo: Treotham Automation

Advancements in railway technology are increasing reliability and enabling more punctual operation of trains with less room for failure. At Innotrans 2018, igus showcased its smart plastics to demonstrate how predictive maintenance enabled by intelligent cables and energy chains can help trains, trams and high-speed suburban rail vehicles operate more punctually.

Thousands of commuters depend on a punctual rail service. Defective trains, therefore, are often a hindrance leading to unhappy customers and economical losses.

“Digitisation can change this,” says Thorsten Mersch, Industry Manager Railway Technology at igus. Playing a major role in the digital transformation occurring in rail transportation, igus has developed intelligent cables and energy chains under the name of ‘smart plastics’, which are monitored in real time and come with a predictable service life.

Trains can be monitored in real time

Trains, trams and high-speed suburban vehicles are subjected to continuous wear and tear. For instance, the door in each of these vehicles is opened and closed hundreds of times every day. In the event a safe edge, which offers protection against people getting injured by closing doors, becomes defective, the door in question is usually immediately disabled. However, this causes longer boarding and alighting times throwing the timetable into disarray.

Transportation companies can resolve this issue by equipping the safe edges with CF.Q modules from the igus isense range available from Treotham. The modules monitor the condition of the cables and send the status data to the control centre of the operating company by means of the igus mobile Communication Module (icom). In the control centre, employees use dashboards to monitor the condition of the safe edges in all trains. The system manages all limits and provides an alert about the imminent failure of a safe edge. Thanks to this advance information, operators can plan preventive replacement centrally and carry it out during scheduled stops.

The principle of predictive maintenance also applies to other components such as energy chains and linear units that are used as part of a train’s interior equipment. Railway technology companies using smart plastics have a precise basis to plan their maintenance and servicing. Parts are only repaired or replaced when really necessary – and this happens well ahead of the occurrence of any failure or delay.

A reliable planning basis for maintenance

“The expectations of train manufacturers and operators when it comes to digitisation are just as high as those of industry,” says Thorsten Mersch.

At Innotrans 2018, Siemens Mobility presented, among other things, the new possibilities of high-performance plastics from igus, which enable intelligent monitoring, analysis and prediction of failures. The planned collaboration is based on the Siemens ‘Railigent’ application suite, which offers a wide range of digital services in the area of predictive maintenance, for example.

For more information, please visit the Treotham Automation website or call 1300 65 75 64.

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