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Smart protective coatings on classic materials for a new generation of ecologically sustainable ‛green’ railway vehicles

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - smaRtAIL (Smart protective coatings on classic materials for a new generation of ecologically sustainable ‛green’ railway vehicles)

Reporting period: 2015-07-01 to 2015-12-31

The main objective of the project is to implement a regeneration technology of railway wheels by using advanced low energy Laser Metal Deposition Technology (LMD) which will enable to market implement by Plasma System, within the framework of advanced industrial research and development (assumed to cooperation with research units), an innovative low-energy laser technology regeneration of the rim railway wheels and as a result - implementation to business (mainly by expanding Plasma System new service). Due to the high cost of equipment low energy Laser Metal Deposition (LMD) has not been widely used on an industrial scale. Dynamic improvement of the quality of lasers with the falling cost of their acquisition and operation caused that Laser Metal Deposition (LMD) becomes commercially used in more and more sectors of the economy. This project aims to meet the needs of the rail industry, in particular municipian.
The results of the project will enable the selection of deposition process and the materials used, which allow to meet the needs of the target group, will reduce the burden on the environment and will achieve a Plasma System expected financial results. As a target group for the implementation of the regeneration technology of rail transport was chosen operators for rolling stock used to rail transport and providers of repair services for those enterprises – as a results of the increasing need to reduce the cost of rolling stock.
Use of low-energy Laser Deposition Technology allows the construction of a profile rim with eliminating the adverse effect of heat on the structure of the wheel and the damping insert a railway wheels, allowing the reuse of wheels (assumed to increase the life of the wheel rim 50%). After completing the regeneration of the wheel rim will be additionally secured by slip layer of bronze which is patented (EP2300242) by Plasma System and will enable noise reduction by approx. 15 dB.
The specific objectives of the project are:
1. extension of the offer and the launch of a new product by Plasma System,
2. increase the qualifications of production employers of Plasma System related to the service of modern machines and equipment in the planned purchase technological lines.
Specific objectives will be achieved till 2018-01-31
Determination of main technological issues was an essential step toward work plan development. Plasma System’s goal is to reach 9th level of TRL in time- and cost-effective way.
In order to solve the abovementioned issues and develop the expected Project results, the following division of activities was adopted:
Stage 1. Development activities aimed at developing the principles and concepts for the technological process as well as activities concerned with determining the material degradation of worn-out wheels at their surface, in order to specify the way in which such wheels are to be prepared for the process of refurbishment.
Stage 2. Development activities aimed at the selection of parameters for laser deposition process and choosing appropriate materials for performing laser deposition on samples of material that was used for wheel rims production, as well as conducting preliminary tests to confirm the choice of selected materials. The stage shall be completed with test results analysis and specifying the materials for the refurbishment and the parameters for laser deposition.
Stage 3. Development activities aimed at the selection of parameters for laser deposition process to be performed on wheels prepared for refurbishment, based on data collected in the first 2 stages with regard to research confirming the compliance of the refurbished wheels with applicable regulations.
This Project’s adopted method of resolving the main technological issue will lead to the desired result of the Project, i.e. technological readiness of smaRtAIL at the 9th level.
"The main objective of the feasibility study was to assess the technical feasibility as well as economic viability of the smaRtAIL implementation on the EU market. The work undertaken within the project resulted in the following deliverables:
- Feasibility Study report – where overview of work done and analysis of technical part of implementation were presented
- Business Plan – where the financial, strategic and market parts of SME I project were presented
Above mentioned documents allowed the company to reach other specific objectives that were defined for the ""SME I"" project, i.e.:
• Identification of crucial resources needed to success of next stage of product development;
• Market analysis together with economic factors and the analysis of the current and future market demand for the technology;
• Development of a suitable marketing strategy;
• Choose the most adequate form and scope of IP and innovation’s management tools;
• Analysis of weak and strong points and a risk analysis;
• Multi criteria optimization of the achievable operational characteristics of the railway wheels with added smart coating (increased durability in %, noise reduction in dB etc.) with optimized structure and additional components supported by an analysis of the outcomes of the preliminary research for the current and new coatings with added components;
• Determination of the optimum strategy for maximizing the territorial scope of the smaRtAIL implementation;
• Reaching preliminary agreements with the leading manufacturers of railway wheels in order to apply this technology during the manufacture of railway wheels.
Above listed objectives were being achieved by activities done within the SME I project, broader description and overview of the work done and the results is included in part 1b of technical report. Below we present examples of activities done within the project:
- Market analysis for the following: market environment, target group, competition and others;
- Risk and SWOT analysis;
- Financial ratio analysis (NPV, IRR other);
- Contact with market stakeholders.
Conclusions of the action are as following:
- The target market is absorptive and growing;
- SmaRtAIL responds to the identified needs of the target group;
- - Competitive advantages of smaRtAIL been identified;
- Intellectual property is not a problem. In addition, portfolio management methodology was implemented in that aspect.
- New methodology of innovation management, as a result of couching session, is implementing in Plasma System.
- Work plan and budget for next steps of development as well as reaching of 9 TRL is realistic and feasible;
- Plasma System has sufficient human and financial resources needed to market implementation of smaRtAIL. Infrastructure gaps has been identified and included in the financial analysis;
- All analyzed economic ratios indicated the viability of the implementation;
- Mixed path of commercialization of smaRtAIL has been chosen (provision of services based on the technology by the Plasma and licensing)

Taking into account the above, main conclusion is that the project shall continue
The planned research and development works are concerned with research issues that are related to the use of innovative laser technology (which belongs to the Additive Manufacturing group) and unique bronze layer used in order to refurbish rail wheel rims, and thus extending their life cycle up to 3 times. The analysis of the market environment shows that the lack of effective technologies used for refurbishment and protection of railway wheel rims is one of the current problems of rail transport, including railway transport (both in Poland and the EU). Currently used technologies of wheel rim refurbishment focus on re-profiling. The wear of railway wheel flanges caused by their contact with the rail head forces the use of this refurbishment method. It is widely used in order to restore the proper shape of the rim profile. Developing a technology that uses advanced laser methods common in laser deposition processes (one of the technologies being a part of Additive Manufacturing) shall enable an innovative refurbishment service of filling up the worn material at the wheel flange to be introduced into the market.

Appreciating the idea and the direction of our development, the EU has selected Plasma System to take part in the SME Instrument project, phase 1, to optimize the developed sliding layer.

Currently, the technology in question is on the 6th level of TRL. So far, basic subsystems of the technology have been verified, i.e. laser deposition and a unique layer of bronze. Internal tests and attempts to refurbish railway wheel rims have been conducted in laboratory conditions. This project shall constitute an expansion of the adopted approach to solving the identified market problems.

The main technological challenge that is concerned with the planned work and whose solution will determine the competitive advantages of the Project results is the selection of laser deposition technology and its optimization for railway wheel rims refurbishment, which shall significantly increase their durability. The very process of laser deposition optimizing is connected with carrying out a series of tests relating not only to robot programming, but also to the selection of a number of variable parameters, including the speed of the process, the amount of the powder to be fed, laser power, gas supply and the temperature of heating of the sample.
The elimination of minimal thermal stresses created during laser deposition shall constitute another important technological issue. It is expected that this challenge will be resolved by:
- maintaining the railway wheel rim in strict temperature regime for the entire duration of the laser deposition
- providing the deposited rim with ultrasounds of a specific frequency (about 24 +/- 2 KHz form a 12 kW generator
- induction heating of an area of 7 mm in diameter to a depth of 1.5 mm in the point of laser deposition
- producing preloads by stretching the rim from the inside for the duration of deposition and cooling of the rim.
This Project’s adopted method of resolving the main technological issue will lead to the desired result of the Project, i.e. technological readiness of smaRtAIL at the 9th level.
Innovative laser technology reconstruction and extend the durability of wheels contribute to reducing the problems identified.