German rail network operator Deutsche Bahn has reached the production milestone of 100,000 AM spare parts produced in full or in part by Additive Manufacturing and used across more than 500 applications. Deutsche Bahn began additively manufacturing parts in 2015, starting with simple spare parts like plastic coat hooks. Now, the company’s spectrum of AM use cases ranges from these coat to a 17 kg metal ‘box backdrop’ for a high-speed train. Deutsche Bahn has also begun introducing Additive Manufacturing as part of its training within plants.
Deutsche Bahn’s milestone part was a gear housing for shunting locomotives. This piece of machinery was cast in an additively manufactured mould and, at a volume of almost 1 m3 and weight 570 kg, the housing is thus far the company’s largest and heaviest part.
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According to Deutsche Bahn, traditional wait times for obtaining a part like the gear housing through conventional procurement methods would be an average of ten months. Therefore, the company opted for a more efficient approach by employing Additive Manufacturing technology, significantly reducing the delivery time to just two months. The rail network operator used Binder Jetting (BJT) to manufacture the gearbox mould, which was then produced by casting.
The gearbox housing is part of Deutsche Bahn’s growing digital warehouse. The database contains virtual technical drawings of spare parts. If required, these parts can then be produced quickly and easily using Additive Manufacturing. Currently, around 1,000 virtual models are stored in the digital warehouse; by 2030, Deutsche Bahn plans to have increased this to 10,000 different components.
Deutsche Bahn has shared that, as well as being a more sustainable method, this method of production saves logistics space and reduces storage costs whilst shortening delivery times and logistics chains.
Deutsche Bahn uses its own AM machines as well as a partner network for production. At the end of 2016, the railway company launched its Mobility Goes Additive network, which now consists of over 140 companies, including users, machine manufacturers, AM service providers, universities and start-ups. Various Additive Manufacturing processes are used, including Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB), Directed Energy Deposition (DED) and BJT.