3D printed replacement parts service in operation

Once upon a time, an asset management company in charge of a third of the UK’s rolling stock entered York’s National Railway Museum, identified ten air conditioning vents in the driver cabins of its exhibits, and took off with them to install on trains currently in service.

It was a desperate measure, made after an automotive company gave a minimum order size of 10,000 to manufacture replacements. Angel Trains is faced with a predicament like this all too often. The trains they lease are in operation, on average, for 20 years, with some having lasted half a century before being put into retirement. And while, that’s the goal for a company that generates profit by maintaining rail vehicles through regular refurbishment, those trains are also often fitted with parts that are obsolete, originally supplied by companies no longer in business, with design drawings nowhere to be found. In the case of the air vents, drivers have been known to refuse to operate trains without working air conditioning, while interior carriage parts like armrests and grab handles need to be replaced to avoid hefty Department for Transport fines.

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At TCT Show, Angel Trains was proud to announce that Chiltern Railways, one of its customers, had avoided those fines recently thanks to a collaboration with Stratasys. In the run up to the show, where James Brown, Data and Performance Engineer at Angel Trains, delivered the opening keynote, seven grab handles and four armrests produced with Stratasys’ Fortus 450mc Production 3D Printer in ULTEM 9085 had been installed on an in-service passenger train running out of London Marylebone station.

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