As companies and municipalities turn to additive manufacturing (AM) to produce replacement parts for their trains, buses and trollies, fused deposition modeling (FDM) has often become the tool of choice for durable components made quickly.
The latest adopter is Alstom, a French multinational railway manufacturer who is 3D printing spares for Algeria’s Sétif Tramways. When Sétif learned that the headlights of its trams were being damaged by the build-up of water and small stones entering small crevices, it turned to Alstom to provide spares to close the holes. The company 3D printed rubber drainage plugs using the FDM process.
“The agility that 3D printing gives us is critical for Alstom strategically as a business,” explains Aurélien Fussel, Additive Manufacturing Programme Manager at Alstom. “Where our customers depend on spare parts to maintain operations, having this in-house production capability means we can bypass our traditional supply chain and respond quickly and cost-effectively with a solution to their needs.”
Alstom was able to 3D print the items in just 48 hours, truncating what would have been an otherwise 45-day lead time. The partners also estimated that 3D printing the parts “led to additional savings in the form of an 80% reduction in fixed cost. Together, the project saved Sétif appro 6,000 Euros’ fixed cost.”
“We avoided the minimum three-week production lead-time typically required of traditional manufacturing methods and ensured the tram network’s operations were minimized,” Fussel said.
“For our transportation customers like Sétif, every minute of lead time within a network means lost revenue, so every minute we can win back when solving maintenance issues reduces that loss.”
So, whilst aerospace and automotive is more well known for utilising additive manufacturing, the adoption of 3D printing in public transportation and rail is rapidly growing. Many of the current projects involve the use of additive manufacturing for replacement components, but it will increasingly be used in the production of end parts.