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4th October 2018, Vantaa

New rail solutions from Exel

As the rail industry looks to new technologies to enable it to answer sustainability, performance and cost challenges, applications for pultruded composites are set to grow.

Exel Composites, headquartered in Vantaa, Finland, is pioneering next-generation rolling stock and infrastructure solutions to enable railways fit for the future via its expertise in pultrusion technology and global cost-effective manufacturing capabilities.

According to the International Transport Forum’s 2017 outlook report, global passenger transport demand will more than double by 2025. © Exel Composites

A new industry briefing from the European Pultrusion Technology Association (EPTA), Opportunities for Pultruded Composites in the Rail Market, discusses the drivers for increased adoption of composite materials in the rail sector and the applications for pultruded components.

“Growing populations, accelerating urbanization, resource scarcity and climate change are some of the critical challenges facing the world today,” it says. “More sustainable mobility solutions will be essential to tackle these issues.”

According to the International Transport Forum’s 2017 outlook report, global passenger transport demand will more than double by 2025, and freight transport is expected to triple. It is clear that rail, one of the most sustainable modes of transportation, will need to take on a larger share of mobility demand in the next decades. Significant investment will be required to increase capacity and provide better services for both passengers and freight operators. Upgrades of ageing vehicles and infrastructure, and new fleets, routes and services will be required to create a railway fit for the 21st century.

Rail modernisation strategies call for improved, energy efficient trains which are faster, safer and more comfortable, and which operate more reliably and cost effectively. New technologies and materials will play a big role in this transformation. European initiatives include Shift2Rail, whose mission is to enhance the attractiveness and the competitiveness of Europe’s rail system by accelerating the integration of advanced technologies into innovative rail products. The programme has set the ambitious targets of doubling railway capacity, cutting the lifecycle cost of rail transport by as much as 50%, and increasing reliability and punctuality by up to 50%. Within the context of the digital era, it is also certain that smarter and more integrated solutions will emerge for moving growing volumes of passengers and freight.

Lightweight, high performance and corrosion-resistant composite materials can offer cost-effective, versatile alternatives to traditional construction materials without compromising safety, providing benefits for the train operator, rolling stock and infrastructure owners, and ultimately the passenger. In all segments of the rail market – from high speed national and international services through to urban and freight networks, and new concepts such as solar-powered trains – rolling stock and infrastructure solutions based on composite materials can help to provide:

  • Sustainability improvements and reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per passenger km.
  • Operational benefits through lower energy costs, faster acceleration, increased payload.
  • Reduced lifecycle costs as a result of fast installation, lower maintenance, reduced renewal frequency.
  • Enhanced functionality through new design concepts, multi-functional components, customized solutions, smart structures.

As part of a multi-material approach to rolling stock design, interior and exterior parts manufactured from pultruded composites can provide a significant contribution to lightweighting initiatives and reduce through-life costs. In rail infrastructure, composites deliver low maintenance solutions of superior structural performance compared to steel, concrete and wood, and offer rapid installation and extended asset life."

EPTA member Exel has designed icomposite solutions for the transportation industry for more than 25 years. It partners with rail customers to create new concepts which deliver the optimum combination of weight, cost, performance and safety.

Exel’s pultruded profiles offer valuable benefits over metals in both rolling stock and rail infrastructure applications. Pultruded composites provide the mechanical properties required at reduced weight, contributing to sustainability initiatives and delivering improved energy efficiency and further operational benefits. Pultrusion enables the cost-effective production of complex geometries and makes it possible to integrate multiple functions into a single component, reducing part count and simplifying assembly and installation. Corrosion and impact resistant composites offer a long operational life and low maintenance requirements, leading to reduced through-life costs – an increasing focus for asset owners.

Using the pultrusion process, large exterior rolling stock parts such as side panels and cant rails can be manufactured with integrated functional elements and customized shapes. Exel is able to manufacture parts greater than a metre in width with very long lengths that reduce seams, may be adhesively bonded to the vehicle’s metal frame, and are easy to paint. In train interiors, the many possible applications for pultruded components include roof systems, air conditioning and heating vents, partitions, luggage shelves and storage units, , window trims and door components.

In rail infrastructure Exel draws on experience gained over many years of designing construction solutions across numerous industries. Lightweight, durable, corrosion-free composites deliver low maintenance structures of superior structural performance to the traditional infrastructure construction materials of steel, concrete and wood, and offer installation benefits and long service life.

Pultruded composites present the opportunity to create prefabricated, modular structures such as bridges which enable fast installation on site. Unlike metals, glass fibre composites do not need to be electrically earthed, making them ideal for applications such as cable trays, third rail covers, rail joints and trackside cabinets. Composite cable management systems provide lightweight, easy to install, low maintenance systems which can carry high cable loads across long spans. Pultruded composites also offer versatile concepts for access platforms, fencing and barriers and embankment shoring systems, tunnel lining panels and many more applications in rail infrastructure.

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