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3D Printing Revolution: Deutsche Bahn Hits the 100,000 Spare Part Mark

3D Printing Revolution: Deutsche Bahn Hits the 100,000 Spare Part Mark
foto: Dominic Dupont / Deutsche Bahn AG/3D Printing Revolution: Deutsche Bahn Hits the 100,000 Spare Part Mark
22 / 05 / 2023

Deutsche Bahn reaches the mark of 100,000 spare parts produced with 3D printing technology. The 100,000th part is a gearbox housing for shunting locomotives. With a volume of just under one cubic metre and a weight of 570 kilograms, it is the largest and heaviest 3D-printed part used by the company.

The spare part is indispensable for the operation of the shunting locomotive – without the gearbox housing, the vehicle is at a standstill. In the future, around 370 locomotives will benefit from the speed of the new process. They can be repaired more quickly and used in shunting operations again.

On the conventional procurement route, the part would only have been available from the locomotive manufacturer with long delivery times of ten months on average. By opting for a replica using 3D printing technology, DB has reduced the delivery time to two months. The new gearbox housing is manufactured in an indirect 3D printing process using binder jetting. In this process, a powdery starting material is combined with a liquid binder to form the mould into which the gearbox housing is later cast.

The gearbox housing is part of the digital warehouse that DB is continuously expanding. Virtual technical drawings of spare parts are stored in the database. These parts can then be produced quickly and easily at the click of a mouse using 3D printers. This saves logistics space, and storage costs, shortens delivery times and logistics chains and thus creates independence. Because in recent years, global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic or the war in Ukraine have revealed the vulnerability of complex supply chains.

DB thus also ensures greater sustainability. Shorter distances and smaller physical warehouses avoid CO2 emissions and waste of resources due to superfluous stocks. In addition, 3D printing in itself saves resources. It is because only the raw material that is actually needed is used in production. It is more economical than so-called machining processes, in which parts are milled out of a block. In addition, 3D printing extends the vehicles' life cycles because Deutsche Bahn can use it to produce components that are no longer available from the manufacturer.

Daniela Gerd tom Markotten, DB Board Member for Digitalisation and Technology: "3D printing is transforming maintenance. It saves time, costs and resources because we can produce spare parts virtually at the touch of a button through a 'digital warehouse' and do not need large inventories. In times of global supply bottlenecks and raw material shortages, 3D printing is more important than ever."

DB is a global leader in 3D printing for the rail industry. What started in 2015 with simpler spare parts, such as a plastic coat and the hook, has now developed into 100,000 parts for over 500 various applications. More and more of these are relevant to operations. Among them are steel parts such as wheelset bearing covers for shunting locomotives, a box gate for ICE trains or the gearbox housing of shunting locomotives. Currently, about 1,000 virtual models are stored in the digital warehouse. By 2030, around 10,000 different components are to be stored in this way.

DB uses its own printers and its partner network for production. At the end of 2016, the Group launched the "Mobility goes Additive" network. More than 140 companies - from users, printing press manufacturers and printing service providers to universities and start-ups - are now working together here to jointly drive forward innovations. Various printing processes are used, including material extrusion, the powder bed process and binder jetting.

Source: Deutsche Bahn