The rail industry spans over 1.3 million route-kilometers worldwide. Some of the challenges the rail industry is facing in terms of spare parts supply are identical to other heavy industries and can be compared in many ways to the maritime industry’s challenges.
Trains are often in service for more than 30 years, just like vessels, and the industry needs to manage the problem of obsolete parts that are no longer available (unobtainables). Some of these obsolete parts can take up to 24 months to be sourced, creating downtime for these trains in need of maintenance.
If some of these parts are critical and require certification, there have been over 100 use cases of less critical parts for which additive manufacturing could help. Some of these parts, identified by railroad leaders such as Deutsche Bahn, Bombardier and Angel Trains, are coffee machine parts, coat hooks, steering wheel covers, headrest frames and even Braille signposts for blind travellers. 3D printed tools such as jigs and fixtures are also very interesting use cases in this industry.
Another identified value of additive manufacturing in the rail industry is savings on warehousing and shipping costs. As for any transportation network, trains can break anywhere, including in remote places. The costs of keeping local inventory is too high for most manufacturers who are keeping centralized warehouses. But the savings in keeping centralized warehouses is lost in expedited shipping in remote places. Localized and on-demand manufacturing, via solutions such as Ivaldi Group’s Part Replacement as a Service (PRaaS) is the answer to such challenges.