In the rolling stock sector, train systems comprise a large number of individual moving parts. Alstom, a French rolling stock manufacturer operating in rail transport markets, operates multi-nationally and each of its trains has its own set of part requirements.

Since the very small batches require molds and other tooling, which lead to high upfront manufacturing costs and excessively long delivery times, the manufacturer relies on Additive Manufacturing to meet its production requirements.

At the heart of the various AM strategies the company implemented, one that would enable the company to save costs is the use of a software developed by 3D Spark, a spin-off of Fraunhofer IAPT. Alstom would be an early adopter of the 3D Spark software, a solution that enables to identify the ideal 3D printed part.

We heard about this solution early at the beginning of the year when Fraunhofer IAPT demonstrated a cost saving of 50% and a weight saving of 30% for an automotive 3D printed part. At a very early stage of the design, the experts determined the cost-optimal orientation of the component in the 3D printing process. Using the optimized orientation, it was possible, for example, to minimize the number of support structures required while maximizing the number of components that could fit on a build platform. The thus identified component orientation leads to cost savings of 15 percent compared to an additive manufacturing process without such optimization, one recalls.

In this specific case, the Alstom team could identify and leverage validated savings of over €1.8 million costs and about 20,000 days of lead time with 3D printed jigs, spares, and end-use parts. “My mission is to ease the adoption of 3D printing at Alstom, and that’s exactly what 3D Spark is helping us to do. That’s why we will make the platform available to all Alstom employees in the next deployment phase and plan to triple the number of parts analyzed by the end of 2023, targeting cost savings of more than €5 million,” says Aurelien Fussel, 3D Printing Program Manager at Alstom. “Personally, I dream of seeing the carbon footprint regarding different manufacturing alternatives analyzed on the platform soon, which will help us make our production even more sustainable.

3D Spark now plans to roll out this success story to OEMs and manufacturing service providers worldwide.

“Millions of industry employees worldwide can make smarter decisions with the help of the 3D Spark platform, because they get the effects of different production alternatives transparently presented. This enables them to make a real contribution to more sustainable, crisis-resilient, and efficient productionRuben Meuth, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of 3D SPARK said at a ceremony where the company has received a startup prize of 7,000 euros as well as individual coaching from the jury of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK).

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