Widespread deployment of 3D printing requires process certification
The results of the upfront simulation and the component and function tests clearly demonstrate that the process is suitable in principle for producing the control panels. Several further test series would of course be necessary before fully commencing volume production, for example to optimize the printing process.
As well as greater component design flexibility, 3D-printed control panels offer a number of other benefits. They are up to 90% lighter than the conventional aluminum panels, and the frame allows the components to be arranged in a far more compact layout. The panels thus present an attractive solution for application scenarios where installation space is tight, such as in low-floor vehicles and future high-speed applications.
However, the fact that the 3D printing process has yet to be certified in the rail industry constitutes a barrier to the technology’s widespread deployment in (volume) production. Regulations must be developed to establish a standardized procedure for certifying additively manufactured components. Moreover, some aspects of the printing process are not yet mature enough for industrial (volume) production. This means that, for the time being, the component properties have to be extensively validated for each specific use case. However, several initiatives have already been launched to develop a certification system for the rail industry and to refine the relevant additive manufacturing technologies.
Authors: Dr. Thomas Anton, Bernhard Winkler, Attila Kovács, Attila Metál