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Advanced Materials series: How can rail utilise additive manufacturing and 3D printing?

Additive manufacturing produces objects by printing them one thin layer at a time. It is favoured by designers and engineers for the way it allows complex structures to be produced simply, quickly and cheaply. Among its many applications are producing prototypes, lightweight or customised parts.

The Rail Industry is also adopting 3D printing applications. These include printed components for rail maintenance, which reduce the volume of stocktaking and the delivery of trains on the track, as well as components of rolling stock such as arm rest and seat back table. An advancement in terms of R&D introduced by Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs is 5D printing. This allows printing objects from 5 different axes, resulting in a 25% saving of raw materials and a final product able to better withstand to mechanical stress. At the same time, scientists at GE are developing a new 3D printer which also integrates the cold spray technology allowing for a faster manufacturing.

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