Deutsche Bahn Certifies Essentium’s 3D Printing Platform for Rail Parts

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Essentium, the Austin-based original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of additive manufacturing (AM) platforms, announced that its High Speed Extrusion (HSE) printer has been certified for use by Deutsche Bahn (DB), Germany’s national railway. DB certified that parts printed on the HSE system in Essentium 9085 and HTN-CF25 comply with AM Standard ISO/ASTM 52920:2023 and ISO 52920, both of which cover a variety of sectors including rail.

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to assert that DB has been one of the world’s most legitimizing forces for use of AM in production. The company began gradually building its digital inventory of parts in 2015 — an inventory which now includes around 1,000 digital models — and reached the milestone of 100,000 spare parts printed, for over 500 different applications, in summer 2023. One of the biggest considerations in terms of certifying parts for an industry like rail is flame-retardancy, a demand which Essentium demonstrated is met by its materials.

In a press release about certification of its HSE platform by DB, Blake Teipel, PhD, the CEO of Essentium, said, “A lot of people still wonder if additive is ready for prime time. [DB], which is 3D printing tens of thousands of replacement parts for its trains, proves it is. We look forward to advancing [DB’s] AM capabilities to speed repairs and keep its assets operational with minimal downtime. This partnership will pave the way for others in the rail and transport industries to follow.”

 

When it announced it had reached the 100,000 spare part milestone, DB noted that it plans to increase its digital parts inventory from 1,000 to 10,000 by 2030. DB isn’t shy on its bullishness surrounding AM. At this year’s Additive Manufacturing Strategies (AMS) event in NYC (February 7-9), Stefanie Brickwede, the head of AM at DB as well as the managing director of DB-led AM network Mobility goes Additive (MGA), pointed out that the consensus in MGA is that as much as 10 percent of rail parts are good candidates for 3D printing, and eventually, 50 percent could be.

It seems noteworthy that, with all the AM options to choose from in Germany, DB took an interest in Essentium. The even more noteworthy aspect of this certification concerns the domestic rail system in the US, which is desperately in need of new ideas for retrenching its ability to supply itself with spare parts.

Since it’s so central to the domestic transit of goods in the US, ensuring the future vitality of the rail system could be a project on the par of something as big as MRO for the US Navy fleet. That is true concerning both its potential to stimulate new AM applications, as well as ultimately to benefit from them. Finally, the unique position of MGA as a social network means that increasing the number of US AM companies involved in rail could eventually have an outsized impact on the economic cooperation between the US and Germany.

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