CORDIS - EU research results

Ultrasonic Inspection Solution for railway crossing points.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SAFT (Ultrasonic Inspection Solution for railway crossing points.)

Reporting period: 2015-12-01 to 2016-03-31

For more than 10 years we, Airtren, have been providing technical assistance throughout the whole process of developing, implementing and commissioning railway products. By perfectly knowing and understanding current issues for railway operators, we envisaged the SAFT Inspection Project.
Thanks to the received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for the project called “SAFTInspect - Ultrasonic Synthetic Aperture Focusing Technique for Inspection of Railway Crossings (Frogs) (Ref: 314949)”, we were able to develop our innovative solution SAFTInspect. After that, we submitted a proposal to the call Horizon 2020-SME-Phase 1 which was granted with the aim of developing our feasibility study.
SAFTInspect is a technology platform that enables for the first time full volumetric inspection of railway manganese crossing due to ultrasound penetration. SAFTInspect developed and implemented an advanced ultrasonic inspection technique known as Synthetic Aperture Focussing technique (SAFT), which combined with signal processing algorithms offers an enhanced SNR (signal-to-noise to ratio) which allows full volumetric inspection (full ultrasound inspection) of materials with coarse structure like manganese.
Our main objective is to commercialize SAFT Inspect for both in-service as well as pre-service inspections of railway crossings.
We have been working in the prototype of SAFTInspect since 2008 to 2015 as one of our main Research & Development activities. Our SAFTInspect prototype, which is at TRL7, will enable efficient in-service inspection of manganese rail crossings by applying Phased Array UT full matrix capture in combination with Synthetic Aperture Focusing Technique (SAFT).
After the innovative developments and achievements obtained from the FP7-SAFTInspect project, we have the firm purpose of bringing SAFTInspect to the market and achieving a TRL9. Because of that, we submitted a proposal for SME Phase 1 and during the last four months, we have been carrying out our Feasibility Study. In this Study, we have evaluated the length of railways of several countries with manganese steel crossings, the most important railway investments and identify the countries for exploitation. Moreover, we have carried out the assessment of suppliers, local distributors and subcontractors, a deeper Freedom to Operate Analysis and we have updated our Business Plan and Financial Analysis.
SAFTInspect system will improve levels of safety for the railway industry and its customers, preventing 6-9% of the accidents. Rail operators, underground operators, rail maintenance service providers and manufacturers, will benefit from our SAFTInspect innovative device that will be used both in pre-service and in-service analysis:
Pre-service: SAFT Inspect will allow the manufacturer to control every asset produced and to offer a better service to its customers. No special infrastructure is required, no special skills from the user. No more inherently flawed frogs will be putted into service offering 100% of quality.
In-service: Full volumetric inspection not only is more effective (90%) than other competitive techniques but also is economically beneficial. We will reduce inspection time on service from 5 to 1 hour, reducing the total time per inspection (including the downtime) from 30 to 5 hours (85%). The savings on time are closely related to savings on labour costs, meaning a reduction of 94% from labour costs.
As preventive maintenance for avoiding rail derailments, we will inspect all the frogs of the railway and we will be able to detect the frogs with flaws or cracks for being replaced. We will eliminate the unnecessary cost of replacing frogs that are not damaged; this means savings in maintenance of the infrastructure of around €1.89M per year.
Cracks that occur during service will be detected at an early stage in their growth cycle (at least 3 months in advance in lines with heavy traffic), this will allow strategic monitoring and planning to be undertaken to manage the asset condition. From a global perspective, avoiding unscheduled maintenance, rail operators will save up to €87.5M in penalties in Europe from train delays.
Impact in the EU railway market: There is a pan-European desire to increase the speed and therefore the capacity of rail travel to make it more attractive to the general public. SAFTInspect will have wide industrial and commercial application not just in Europe but worldwide. Patenting the products and licensing for further exploitation will be inevitable to meet the demand for global sales. All revenue streams will plough back into Europe as it is the European SME Airtren that holds the IP ownership. Therefore the total economic impact of the project will result from inclusion of the SAFTInspect project benefits at European Level through international market penetration and transfer of technological development without the transfer of IP to regions outside the Europe. Besides, we will avoid the unnecessary replacement of frogs in a good state that currently, are being replaced as preventive maintenance, will detect manufacturing defects in the frogs and will save money to railway operators from penalties due to train delays.
Impact the society: SAFTInspect will impact in the society by adding safety and efficiency into rail transportation by reducing the delay of trains thanks to reducing the time required for inspection of rail crossings (85%), for increasing the efficiency (90%) of detecting internal flaws in the manganese steel railway crossings, and for avoiding 6-9% of accidents related to train derailment caused by frogs in poor state. Besides, we will reduce 5% the train delays caused by the inspection of frogs.
Impact to AIRTREN: As it will allow our SME Company to consolidate and expand its market in countries like Sweden, Mexico, UK or Poland, with a production of 81 SAFTInspect devices in 5 years. SAFTInspect will be highly profitable by 2023 with total revenues (cumulative) of €33,630,000 only from sales of the SAFTInspect device and a total profit (cumulative) of €12,464,000. Considering a total budget of €500,000 (already invested) + €1,615,820 (pending to invest), our Return of Investment by 2023 is 4.89 proving the profitability of our business model and consolidating Airtren as a leader in the railway inspection and maintenance industry.
Railway crossings (Frog).
SAFT Inspection system validation on trackside environment.