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Mechatronic technologies for trains of the future


Industrial objectives

The more commercial approach being adopted by the world's railways requires that industry supplies vehicles which are more cost-effective, more energy efficient and more attractive to the railways' customers. To date railway vehicle design has depended on evolutionary development which is slow. The industry has traditionally been based strongly upon mechanical engineering skills, and although electronic controls are starting to be incorporated with the introduction of tilting trains, the various technologies are still being applied in a piecemeal fashion, which means that the benefits of a fully Mechatronic approach to design are not being realised. This proposal describes a Basic Research project which will lay the foundations for taking a fundamental step forward in the engineering of railway vehicles, based upon a full exploitation of the use of active suspensions, active steering, and integration of the driving, braking and guidance functions. Central to the approach will be the simultaneous application of such systems, and the synergy will create a beneficial circle of increased efficiency through reductions of mass, installed power and braking requirements. The work is consistent with priorities which have been identified by the taskforce on Train and Railway Systems of the Future, viz. technologies which will lead to reduced costs and increased energy efficiency, and it directly addresses the Brite-EuRam III Area 3B: Technologies for Surface Transport Means, specifically 3B.1 but also 3B.3 and 3B.6.

Technical objectives

Future railway vehicles must be more cost-effective and energy-efficient. This means that they must be lighter and mechanically more simple, requiring the use of lightweight constructions and new mechanical configurations of running gear which it is believed can only be achieved through an extensive use of advanced electronic control, embedded within the vehicle system from the earliest stages of the design process.

A fundamental problem in this advanced technology ll be the interaction between the structural dynamics, the forces between wheel and rail, and the control system. The overall aim of the research project is to discover the engineering science needed for the analysis of those interaction problems in systems which contain equally important components involving electronics and mechanics. The satisfactory completion of this work would provide analytical tools and understanding which would underpin and stimulate an increased rate of beneficial innovation. Specific objectives are as follows:

1. To develop a fundamental understanding of the dynamic stability and response of light weight vehicles with active controls, and to establish basic engineering approaches by which the characteristics of the wheel/rail interface can be fully exploited.

2. To develop methods of analysis for advanced railway vehicles, giving emphasis to configurations which would take full advantage of emerging control technology to give full integration of suspension, guidance and drive functions (leading to reduced weight, maximised passenger space, lower cost, etc).

3. To research systems architectures (sensors, actuators, processing) which would provide the level of safety, reliability and maintainability needed for an operational railway, taking account of the high levels of uncertainty relating to some of the parameters, particularly those at the wheel/rail interface.

Objectives and content
The title of the proposed project is: "OCTOPUS" Remote
Control Maintenance of Ships' Hull and Topside. It aims
at the development, manufacture and experimental testing
under real conditions of a prototypal system together
with the cost/benefit analysis of its use.
The project takes into account the recommendations given
by the Maritime Industry Master Plan, Sector 1 - The
Maritime Transport Chain of 2000. In fact the cooperation among two shiprepairs, one equipment
manufacturer, one industry leader in robots
manufacturing, one industrial organisation skilled in
computational fluid dynamics and two research
organisations will contribute to gain productivity and
competitivity to shipping industry.
It is well known how in the maritime transport industrial
sector the ship's "aspect" is strictly correlated to its
efficiency; in general a good appearance of the ship's
hull is a good indicator for the potential customer to
judge the reliability of the carrier. It is worthwhile
to mention that the aspect of surfaces is not only a
matter of aesthetic impression, in fact the normative of
Registers of Shipping imposes to the ship owners the
regular maintenance and repair of the hull's panels and
of topside to guarantee the safety and the efficiency of
the carrier. The operation for the maintenance and
repair of hulls and topsides is quite expensive, time
consuming and has to be performed manually, at the
shipyards, only by specialised teams with proper
equipment. At the end of the 20th century, rust
removing, high pressure water cleaning, scraping, sanding
and painting of hulls and topsides remains a tedious,
repetitive, harmful and unhealthy and sometimes dangerous
Most of shipowners chose South East Asian shipyards to
perform the maintenance of their vessels because the low
cost of man power; the proposed project, fostering the
competitiveness of the European organisations dealing
with shiprepair, will contribute to maintain and create
occupation in EU. Moreover, it has to be emphasised that
the proposed robot will also improve the safety and
health at work of the people that, at the present, to
carry out the maintenance of ships, are obliged to
repetitive, tedious, harmful and dangerous functions.
Till now, the technologic development had been addressed
toward the improvement of the tools which are used for
this kind of intervention, but currently, these tools are
still manually operated by workers.
The proposed project aims at an innovative technology to
overcome the above problems by the use of a remote
control system capable of moving itself along the
vertical walls of the ship and of performing the above
described operations of maintenance. The device will
bring the following benefits to the shipyards involved in
maintenance and consequently to the ship owners:
lower the cost and reduction of the time requested to
carry out the maintenance.
improve the safety and health at work.
At European level, the successful completion of the
project will contribute to:
improve the competitiveness of EU Waterborne Transport
foster the competitiveness EU shiprepair industry and
its related occupation.
provide the EU industry with a new concept of climbing
robot, faster and more powerful which benefits to several
sectors such as naval, nuclear and building cleaning and
maintenance industries.
in general, to improve of the competitiveness of EU
Industries of the naval sector.//ORL


Ashby Road
LE11 3TU Loughborough
United Kingdom

Participants (6)

José Miguel Iturrioz
Centro de Estudios e Investigaciones Técnicas de Guipuzcoa
15,Paseo De Manuel De Lardizabal
20009 San Sebastian
Deutsche Bahn AG
10365 Berlin
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V.

82234 Wessling
European Rail Research Institute
754,Arthur Van Schendelstraat 754
3511 MK Utrecht
INTEC - Ingenieurgesellschaft für Neue Technologien
20,Münchener Strasse 20
82234 Wessling