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Deutsche Bahn (DB) 3D prints 100,000th part

DB created the 570kg gear housing for shunting locomotives by casting it in a 3D printed mold

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Deutsche Bahn (DB), the German railway company, has reached a significant milestone in its use of 3D printing technology by producing 100,000 spare parts. This accomplishment illustrates the transformative impact of 3D printing on train maintenance.

Deutsche Bahn (DB) 3D prints 100,000th part - a 570kg gear housing for shunting locomotives, cast in a 3D printed mold.
Part created using 3D printing. Credit: DB.

The company began using 3D printing in 2015, initially producing simple items such as plastic coat hooks. Recently, the company produced its 100,000th part – a gear housing for shunting locomotives, cast in a 3D printed mold. This part, weighing 570 kilograms and occupying nearly one cubic meter, represents the largest and heaviest item DB has produced using the technology. The company asserts its global leadership in the application of 3D printing technology within the railway industry.

According to DB, typically, acquiring a part like the gear housing through standard procurement would require an average of ten months due to manufacturer delivery times. To address this issue, DB has turned to 3D printing to shorten the delivery time to just two months. Using binder jetting, the gear housing is created by merging a powdered material with a liquid binder to form a mold in which the housing is cast.

The gear housing is part of DB’s expanding digital warehouse, which stores virtual technical drawings of spare parts. These parts can be promptly and conveniently produced using 3D printers. Currently, the warehouse contains around 1,000 virtual models, but DB aims to increase this to 10,000 different components by 2030.

Deutsche Bahn (DB) 3D prints 100,000th part - a 570kg gear housing for shunting locomotives, cast in a 3D printed mold.
Part created using 3D printing. Credit: DB.

DB suggests this approach not only saves space and reduces storage costs but also shortens delivery times and supply chains, fostering independence. Deutsche Bahn Board Member for Digitisation and Technology, Daniela Gerd tom Markotten, emphasized the pivotal role of 3D printing in maintenance during times of global supply constraints and raw material shortages. Furthermore, DB noted that 3D printing is more sustainable – reducing CO2 emissions and waste by minimizing distances and inventories. It also conserves resources, as only the necessary raw materials are used in production.

To facilitate production, DB uses its own printers and collaborates with a partner network. In 2016, DB initiated the “Mobility goes Additive” network, which now comprises over 140 organizations, including users, printer manufacturers, print service providers, universities, and startups. This group collaborates to advance innovations using various 3D printing techniques like material extrusion, the powder bed process, and binder jetting.

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