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TRAIN COUPLING SYSTEMS: SOPHISTICATED ALL-ROUNDERS.
Train couplers are complex multipurpose systems that take care of the mechanical, pneumatic, electrical and digital connections within and between trainsets. At the same time, they manage huge tensile and compressive forces while compensating for the relative movements of railcars in operation. In short, railway couplers ensure that trains run safely, smoothly, but also economically. And now the Digital Automatic Coupler is about to propel rail freight into the 21st century and help to achieve the climate targets by enabling the Digital Freight Train.
Since entering the passenger and freight train coupling business in 2019, Knorr-Bremse has also started to cover other safety-related aspects of the holistic system of a train. Knorr-Bremse is now using its longstanding expertise as a market-leading innovator of rail vehicle systems and the tradition in coupler manufacturing. Through its unique service network in more than 40 countries, with countless field service locations around the world, Knorr-Bremse now provides top-quality, on-site customer support for its train couplers as well.
Passenger train couplers were transformed into digital interfaces a long time ago – and now Knorr-Bremse is driving efforts to change Europe’s freight trains in the same way by introducing a digital automatic center buffer coupler. To achieve this, the company has embedded its own Digital Automatic Coupler (DAC) in the end-to-end system that is the Knorr-Bremse Digital Freight Train (DFT).
A reliable, safe, long-lasting passenger train coupler significantly enhances the availability of both trains and fleets – and so to a safe, smooth traffic flow for an ever-increasing number of passengers. Train couplers are part of a family of safety-relevant rail vehicle systems, and a key component of the energy absorption system that takes care of passive safety aboard trains.
The automatic AutoLink center buffer coupler is used to connect trainsets together. The semi-permanent ShortLink coupler is used to connect cars within trainsets. The RescueLink adapter coupler is used for towing trains. AutoLink and ShortLink can be fitted with top-, side- or bottom-mounted electric couplers (e-couplers) in scalable standard sizes. In addition to providing the electrical connections between railcars, they also support data transfer rates of up to 1 Gbps.
Various designs are available for the reversible energy absorption systems that enable a smooth coupling process and make rail journeys more comfortable. These are backed up by various non-reversible energy absorption systems (with or without shear-off function) that help provide maximum safety in critical situations.
To ensure that more freight is transported by rail, the rail freight industry needs to become more efficient and competitive. The Digital Freight Train (DFT), with the Digital Automatic Coupler (DAC) as its core component, is initiating a groundbreaking transformation that will make a key contribution to achieving the European Union’s climate targets.
Knorr-Bremse’s FreightLink DAC for freight cars and HybridLink for locomotives are paving the way for the upgrade of rail freight transportation into the digital age. First, because they are automating the train coupling process, which is currently still manual. And second, because their electrical interfaces will enable the automation and digitalization of the entire rail freight transportation sector. This is why Knorr-Bremse regards these new center buffer couplers as an integral part of the Digital Freight Train (DFT) . This in turn is part of a much broader concept for making rail freight operations faster, more flexible, and easier to organize by using digital solutions.
Knorr-Bremse is a member of the “European DAC Delivery Programme” (EDDP) and a founding member of the Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking (ERJU) – a public-private partnership between the European Union and the rail industry. As such, the company is playing a key role in the development of and impending migration to the DAC. The retrofitting program, involving up to 500,000 freight cars and 21,000 locomotives throughout the European Union, is due to start mid-decade. Thanks to its extensive product and industrialization expertise, backed up by a highly responsive local service network, Knorr-Bremse is positioning itself as a leading supplier of DAC and DFT applications.
The electric contact coupler
One key part of the Knorr-Bremse DAC is the innovative concept of the electric contact coupler (e-coupler). By connecting power and data lines from the locomotive all the way to the last freight car, e-couplers act as a crucial interface in the digital freight train. As such, they are essential for the digitized, intelligent, competitive transportation of freight by rail.
The Knorr-Bremse e-coupler satisfies all requirements of the European DAC Delivery Programme (EDDP) specification used as the framework for coordinating the Europe-wide launch of the DAC. They include, among other things, very restricted dimensions, high weathering resistance, and the ability to establish a connection between the delicate electrical contacts on two freight cars safely and gently during the coupling process. In addition, an unauthorized access by hand is not possible, so there is no risk being harmed by the current of the e-coupler.