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FUTUre RAil freight transport: cost-effective, safe, quiet and green!

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FUTURA (FUTUre RAil freight transport: cost-effective, safe, quiet and green!)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2018-02-28

Majority of accidents in rail freight transport (collision of vehicles and people with trains) happen at level rail crossing because the braking distance of heavy freight trains is too long. Furthermore existing braking systems of freight trains (cast-iron brake blocks) cause noise, which has negative impact on environment and human health. These brake blocks roughen the wheel surface, causing the wheel to vibrate and thus emit noise. The problem is much more important because freight trains in particular are mostly operated at night. Noise, caused by freight trains, is the main reason for health problems of millions of people who live or work near train tracks. The social cost of rail traffic noise in the EU is estimated to be at least 2.4 billion € per year and this takes into account only effects, related to noise levels above 55 dB.

The core intention of the FUTURA project was to develop Divided, axle mounted Rail Freight Brake disc (DRFB disc) for freight wagons with the main objective to improve the quality and safety of life of over 55 million EU citizens who live or work near train tracks. This is the first disc of its kind for rail freight wagons in divided form.

The overall objectives of the project followed 3 key elements:
• decreasing the number of accidents through reducing the braking distance of freight trains,
• improving the reliability of braking systems through better heat dissipation, caused at braking.
• improving human health through decreasing noise levels of rail freight transport,
• reducing the volume of freight transported by road and air transport through the increased use of rail transport, which is cleaner and more environmentally friendly.
• enabling longer life-cycle of wheels through divided disc form (when replacing the brake discs there is no need to dismantle the axle, wheels and other mechanical parts),
• lowering maintenance costs through decreasing of assembly/dismantling costs,
• lowering life-cycle costs (LCC),
• decreasing the mass of train composition through optimization of the mass of DRFB discs.

During the project FUTURA two final prototypes were developed and successfully tested: first one with standard width of 170 mm and 22,7 % of mass reduction, and the other one of 110 mm width and 34,5 % of mass reduction. Due to different width and mass, the final prototype versions are suitable for different specter of customers.

Results of the project in comparison to the initial prototype show decreasing of the braking distance of freight trains by 31 %, the maintenance costs by more than 60 % and increasing of the overall efficiency up to 12 %. Compared to non-divided brake disc the life cycle of DRFB disc is 18 % longer and LCC costs 13 % lower.
DRFB discs are made from two parts: disc crown and disc hub. Within the project boundary conditions of technical solutions for both parts were defined. The calculations and documentation for seven prototypes were prepared. Five of them reached certain level of compliance to the requirements, while other two didn`t (Futura 1.1 and Futura 2.1). All five prototypes were manufactured, they finished the laboratory testing. The first three prototypes didn’t reach the certain level of compliance to the requirements, the fourth and the fifth prototypes were compliant to all requirements. The fourth one with standard width of 170mm achieved 22,7% of mass reduction and the fifth one of 110mm width achieved 34,5% mass reduction.

For the testing in real environment the first prototype was used for the whole one year in order to check integrity of DRFB disc crown and hub connection, and to predict life cycle of DRFB disc. During this year the wagon traveled 67.082 kilometers. As second and third prototypes of DRFB discs were intermediate ones, and not all objectives were achieved with them, there was no need to perform real environment test. Final prototypes (the 4th and the 5th) were also included in real environment test and were mounted on the second wagon which traveled 3.780 kilometers.

On the both wagons together 12 inspections were done covering the following types of examinations: visual inspection, roughness of friction surface, wear rate of disc measurement, degradation of material (Hardness measurement), noise measurement, penetrant testing for cracks, ultrasonic examination of crown and hub and wear rate pad measurement.

The real environment test showed 18 % longer life cycle of the disc, 50 % longer life cycle of wheels and 13 % lower LCC of the DRFB disc in comparison with undivided discs. Furthermore, noise level measurements were recorded and compared with wagons with brake blocks. The result was 10 dB lower noise level. During one year of testing in real environment, it was noticed that noise measurements levels didn`t increase.

For dissemination of project's results the website ( Facebook profile and logotype were created and the promotion material was prepared and delivered. Prototypes were presented in different relevant countries on 11 fairs. Every year at least 25 international personal visits of potential customers were done. In different newspapers 9 articles and 6 press releases were published. Furthermore, 5 professional articles were published and 1 scientific article was prepared. For professional and wider public 3 conferences and 3 activities in schools were organized. For validation of business model in-depth analysis of several potential markets were made.
The current state-of-the-art braking system for freight trains are disc brakes, where the brake crown is made of one piece. The main problem of the current state-of-the-art solution is: when replacing the non-divided brake discs, one must remove the complete axle and other mechanical parts on it, such as bearings, wheels and hubs, which causes high maintenance costs of disc brakes. Additionally, while dismantling the discs, mechanical parts can be damaged, because they are connected by press fit, which is usually dismantled by using force.

The developed DRFB brake discs are divided. The crown of the disc is made of two parts, bolted together with self-developed bolts. There is no need to dismantle the axle and other mechanical parts (bearings, wheels, hubs); one only needs to replace the brake crown, which enables a considerably easier and cheaper assembly/dismantling and influences the decrease of LCC.

Results of the FUTURA project have influenced academic, science and research institutions, suppliers, competitors and customers. The most important channel used for communication with relevant stakeholders were face-to-face dialogues and fairs.

Some impacts of the FUTURA project:
• Economic impact is achieved through safer, more secure, cheaper and faster rail fraight transport.
• Social impact is achieved through improved safety (due to reduction of braking distance) which will result in fewer accidents. Due to lower noise and vibrations level, the human health and quality of life will improve.
• Environmental impact is achieved through lower noise and vibration level and shorter braking distance, which has positive influence also on transport of dangerous goods.
• R&D results can be transferred to the automotive, chemical, electro, metal processing and similar industries.
Futura_4 Prototype
Futura_5 Prototype
Project logotype