SNCF sets up consortium to fast-track 3D printing

SCNF set up a new consortium earlier this month to accelerate the development of 3D printing on an industrial scale. Along with partners Centrale Nantes, VLM Robotics and 4D Pioneer, the railway company hopes this process can optimise train maintenance and reduce costs.

According to SNCF, the maintenance of rolling stock requires thousands of individual parts. In some cases, certain parts are no longer produced or only manufactured on demand, which usually means at an elevated price. Additive manufacturing (AM), more commonly known as 3D printing, will enable SNCF to do more of that production in house and at lower costs.

SNCF’s consortium, labelled Additive4Rail, will therefore set up a production line for the repair and manufacturing of parts. This should result in better availability of parts and shorter delivery times. 3D printing also opens the door to make improvements to the existing parts, making them more reliable or lighter.

Additive4Rail comprises complementary partners, with SCNF contributing its experience with maintenance while prominent engineering school Centrale Nantes contributes its knowledge of materials, digital simulations and design and production. VLM Robotics brings to the table its experience with manufacturing the required machinery for additive manufacturing and the technology behind it. Finally, 4D Pioneers helps develop materials and finetune processes. Additive4Rail represents a combined investment of 10,7 million euros, with SNCF putting in the lion’s share.

One of the main items the consortium will focus on is the development of a bogie, also known as a wheel truck. Additive4Rail hopes to have this structure ready for manufacturing in 2026.

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Author: Nick Augusteijn

Editor RailTech.com

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