A team of researchers in Germany has come up with a new manufacturing technique for high-speed train components that could lead to significant weight and cost savings.
The concept, which replaces conventional materials for aluminium foam in the manufacture of the train’s traction unit, is 20 per cent lighter than traditional glass fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP) or aluminium.
The light-weight model has been developed by Voith and the Fraunhofer Institut für Werkzeugmaschinen und Umformtechnik (IWU). The model is being presented at the Chemnitz Trade Fair between May 14 – 16.
While GFRP was used for the model’s nose, aluminium foam in a “sandwich construction”, with the same stiffness and temperature resistance, was substituted for the traction unit.
Jens Pohl, chief executive of Voith Engineering Services, said: “We have worked for years with our customers in the automotive and rail vehicle industry on solutions for designing components and vehicles that are lighter and thus more efficient.
“With this project, we had the rare opportunity to be proactive and work together with our project partners on alternative designs for a light high-speed train.”
Voith said the project was a reaction to feedback from customers in China and Taiwan.
By using embossing tools instead of deep drawing, the team believe they have come up with a viable mass production process.
Dr Thomas Hipke, from Fraunhofer IWU who were responsible for the technology and tool development, said: “As a result, we have not only developed an economical process for forming the aluminum foam.
“We also save approximately 60 per cent on tool costs.”
The research was funded by the European Regional Development fund (ERDF) and the Free State of Saxony.