The fleet of third-generation ICE trains operated by Deutsche Bahn features just under 160 units from various production series. Every single one of them still looks and feels modern, thanks to their stylish design and regularly refurbished interiors. Despite this, the transportation industry views anything built before 1996 as a youngtimer. As with automobiles from this period, finding spare parts for these trains can be tricky. Yet Deutsche Bahn remains unfazed, armed with industrial 3D printing technology by EOS.
The enormous advantage of additive manufacturing is that we can always manufacture replacement parts that are as good as new, allowing us to keep our trains properly maintained for decades. We do not have to compromise on quality or performance. The cost is also lower than custom molds.
Additive manufacturing technology is the perfect solution, given the small batch sizes involved. It does not require extensive preparatory work, e.g. to set up the manufacturing tools. “Based on our experience, we would expect a solution based on an equivalent aluminum mold and manual unloading to cost several thousands of euros, even before handling and set-up costs for each order, and yearly storage and maintenance costs for the molds. Furthermore, the molds would take around three months to make, and the first samples would require yet another month after that," explains Florens Lichte, Head of 3D Printing at DB Fahrzeuginstandhaltung GmbH.
If a company wishes to additively manufacture a component, they do not need to acquire their own industrial 3D printers or develop their own expertise—the business model of contract manufacturers benefits everyone. This was the path chosen by Deutsche Bahn. Their logistics company has now collaborated with Hasenauer & Hesser GmbH successfully on multiple occasions. But the devil was in the detail, reveals Hans-Jörg Hesser, Managing Director at Hasenauer & Hesser GmbH: “Our primary objective was to preserve the component's functionality. To do this, the specifications of the component had to be re-engineered and adapted to the layered manufacturing process. 3D printing is usually easy, but this project demanded massive experience. The component used in the ICE trains is long, narrow, and thin walled. Because of this, it warps incredibly easily. Positioning the parts within the building chamber was essential, especially since we wanted to make over 200 fixtures at the same time for this order."
We have over 10 years of additive manufacturing experience and we've been using EOS systems for as long as we can remember. We are delighted with the component quality and system reliability. They allow us to deliver first-class spare parts to our customers in good time.