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Ultrasonic inspection solution for railway crossing points

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SAFTInspect (Ultrasonic inspection solution for railway crossing points)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-02-29

The construction of a safe and integrated railway network is one of the EU´s major priorities. Government agencies, suppliers and manufacturers have researched and implemented products and services for the inspection of railway systems to provide timely and accurate information to the responsible maintenance-of-way officers. However, one area that has been lagging in the implementation of new technology has been the area of turnouts such as switches, frogs and the switch mechanism. Through all the history of the railway, the only place where the train wheel has to “jump” is in the space required for the crossing (as depicted in Figure 1). The railway technology has evolved to protect the critical point where the train wheel impacts after the jump. What would be the value of the inspection system for railway crossing in terms of safety? What would it be if it helps to save money to rail operators and manufacturers? What technical, strategic and value for money impact would it provide surrounded by increased demand on public transport, for instance, rail network, and the resulted infrastructure extension? In both cases, the truth is that the complexity of obtaining a proper inspection system for detecting fractures in frogs is overwhelming. Railway sector involves companies that need to inspect railway crossing accurately and in time.
SAFTInspect is the only solution that will guarantee the total inspection of the “frog” and it will also monitor the evolution through time with a Database (Big Data) providing a predictive maintenance service that will enrich the actual maintenance of the whole infrastructure.
Impact on the economy of rail operators and infrastructure manager:
They will benefit from avoiding the unnecessary replacement of frogs in a good state that currently are being replaced as preventive maintenance, saving €1.89M per year to railway operators. SAFTInspect will detect manufacturing defects in the frogs, meaning savings for the railway operators as is shown in Table 2, which tabulates the potential savings made in reduced time, frequency and cost of the inspection. Considerable savings are achieved with full deployment. This estimate does not take into account the benefits of revealing hidden and potentially dangerous defects invisible to a visual inspection, nor does it reflect the benefit of less network disruption a quicker inspection and improved inspection team safety.

Impact on the EU Railway security:
According to the report published in 2014 by the European Railway Agency (ERA) “Railway Safety Performance in the European Union”, there has been no progress in reducing the number of several types of accidents. The number of train collisions, train derailments and fires in rolling stock has stagnated during the last years10. SAFTInspect is a tool designed to detect internal flaws in frogs, thereby, to avoid accidents.

Impact on 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 6-11% of accidents related to train derailment caused by frogs in a poor state.
Impact on the environment:
SAFTInspect reduces infrastructure cost by extending the life cycle of frogs. Currently, frogs are substituted from time to time only to ensure good operation and avoid the formation of internal flaws, which cannot be detected with a visual inspection.
SAFTInspect provides our customers, manufacturers of the rail crossing, railway & underground operators, and maintenance providers, perfect inspection tool to detect defects and internal flaws in railways to cost-effectively achieve their target: “To assure the correct state of railway infrastructure to guarantee the security”.
Through the innovation points presented before we want to offer an NTD tool for the railway industry. With SAFTInspect we plan to consolidate our technology model providing technical assistance throughout the whole process of developing, implementing and commissioning railway products. We expect to expand through our current distribution network and based on our reputation as providers of NTD solutions for the railway industry.
We have a current well-functioning SAFTInspect prototype with high SNR, 3dB higher than current ultrasonic techniques, and capable of detecting internal flaws in frogs of manganese steel. However, SAFTInspect still needs its industrial adaptation to penetrate in the railway market.
We started imposing objectives so we could design a whole new system with an up to date standards:
- First objective: Repeatability.
It was seen on SAFT Inspect I that the input required from the technician to obtain the simulation, was critical as it will make the results change. This was needed to be automated as repeatability was the objective.
- Second Objective: Quantification of the results not only visualization.
SAFT Inspect I was giving a visualization of the test piece but there was no quantification. In order to create a database/big data, it was needed to quantify the result. By having a magnitude, we can follow the progression and be able to anticipate.
- Third Objective: Big data incorporation.
We believe that having the value of the fault is very important, but we needed to somehow compare and contrast with other parameters that could give us information in the future.
- Fourth objective: Intuitive interface.
Minimize the input required and be very concise on what is needed to do step by step. Furthermore, we have put a Help and Display, that could guide us.
Exploitation and dissemination:
To provide some visual explanation, we decided to create a video to demonstrate to our clients the scope of what the project was delivering.
We also wanted to get their feedback to target the challenges they were facing.
One of the key factors of this project is the interest that it has produced on them.
The result is that they have started to take this technology and implement it into their benefit. These two images show the presentation in March 2020, as what they called a preliminary consultation to the market in which everyone can provide their ideas and technology that they have developed. In this case, we are the only company that can cover this point.
Therefore, the impact that the product created when we presented to clients back in December 2019 was very good as they were able to introduce it into a generic consultation which was previously only done for other parts of the railway infrastructure such as bridges and viaducts.