Kimya 3D prints spare components for the railway trade with customized PEKK filament

The 3D-printed protective cover.  Photo via Kimya.

Kimya, the additive manufacturing materials branch of technology company ARMOR, continues to offer 3D printing services to the railroad industry with its latest project.

An unnamed railroad supplier in need of a protective cover component developed in 1982 recently contacted Kimya to 3D print a small batch of the polymer part through the Kimya Factory’s manufacturing service. Since the mold for the cover no longer existed, the replacement parts had to be completely redesigned before production. Using a PEKK filament developed at the company’s research and development center, Kimya Lab, the team was able to deliver the 3D printed protective sleeves with cost savings and shorter lead times.

Pierre-Antoine Pluvinage, Business Development Director at Kimya explains, “Designing a traditional mold would have increased development time and costs that could only be recovered by making thousands of parts. The Kimya factory offers our partners a functional end product made from their own materials in small quantities. “

The 3D-printed protective cover. Photo via Kimya.

From the laboratory to the factory

The project initially began in the Kimya Lab, where ARMOR offered its customers a special PEKK SC filament. The material is designed to withstand high temperatures up to 260 ° C while providing flame retardancy, abrasion resistance and even chemical resistance. As such, it was just the thing to meet the strict quality criteria of the railway sector and to meet the fire and smoke protection requirements of the EN45545 standard.

Pluvinage adds: “For this collaboration we had to meet the certification standards of our customers’ division. This is why we decided to introduce the PEKK SC, a filament that comes directly from the Kimya Lab, our research and development center, as it complies with the smoke / fire standards set by the customer. “

With no digital twin or shape for reference, the Kimya factory engineers had to work with a single paper plan they had available. Although the original part was made of PVC, the team was able to 3D print a number of PEKK SC versions that successfully made it to end-use.

A supplier spokesman said, “We compared different technologies to manufacture these parts in small quantities and additive manufacturing has proven to be the right choice for economic, technical and lead times. Assembly tests carried out by ARMOR and the submission of the FAI quality file led to the successful completion of the entire quality acceptance process for these additive manufacturing parts. Only 3D printing was able to meet our requirements so efficiently. “

Close up of Kimya's PEKK filament next to a 3D printed PEKK object.  Photo via 3DGence.Close up of Kimya’s PEKK filament next to a 3D printed PEKK object. Photo via 3DGence.

Spare parts 3D printing in the transport sector

Because of the inherent complexity of the mechanical assemblies on trains and trams, the need to source replacement parts is all too common. Unfortunately, many of these faulty components go back decades, meaning their production lines may no longer be operational and the existence of a corresponding digital file cannot be guaranteed. In these situations, 3D printing has proven valuable for both maintenance and vehicle upgrades.

Just last month, the public transport company Azienda Napoletana Mobilità (ANM) enlisted the help of the Italian engineering firm 3DnA to redesign mechanical components for the bus and tram network in Naples. The company reverse engineered and 3D printed trolley heads, the parts that connect each tram to the network’s airflow lines. Without the components available on the market, the traditional manufacture of the assemblies would have resulted in lead times of more than a year.

Technology company Siemens Mobility Services previously used FDM 3D printing technology from OEM Stratasys to manufacture spare parts for the German and British rail industries. Last year, the company also announced that it would expand its rail maintenance activities to Russia, where it has since supported the 13 additional Velaro high-speed trains it has built for train company RZD.

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The picture shown shows a close-up of Kimya’s PEKK filament next to a 3D printed PEKK object. Photo via 3DGence.

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