Fewer failures, more customer satisfaction: smart plastics make railway equipment maintenance easy19/11/2018
Thousands of commuters depend on a punctual rail service. But defective trains are often a hindrance to this. Unhappy customers and economic losses are the consequence. "Digitisation can change this", says Thorsten Mersch, Industry Manager Railway Technology at igus. In order to be part of this digital transformation in rail transportation, the Cologne company develops, intelligent cables and energy chains under the name of "smart plastics", which are monitored in real time and whose service life can therefore be predicted.
Trains can be monitored in real time
Trains, trams and high-speed suburban vehicles are subjected to continuous wear and tear. One example is doors, which open and close hundreds of times every day. A common problem is that If a safe edge, which offers protection against people getting injured by closing doors, becomes defective the door in question is usually immediately disabled. Boarding and alighting times are therefore longer and the timetable is thrown into disarray with delays being a consequence. A solution for transportation companies is to equip the safe edges with CF.Q modules from the isense range from igus. 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 gives advance notice of 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 before any failures or delays occur.
A reliable planning basis for maintenance
There is a great deal of interest in these solutions. "The expectations of train manufacturers and operators when it comes to digitisation are just as high as those of industry", says Thorsten Mersch with conviction. 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.