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Novel composite materials that meet FST requirements for railway

News International-French

5 Mar 2020

Cidetec has coordinated a large european joint effort of 3.5 million euro to reduce train weight by developing novel Fibre Reinforced Polymers (FRPs) which can replace structural metal parts of the carbody and which meet fire, smoke and toxicity requirements for railway applications.

Samples of composites with achieved classification of HL2 level or better, apt for structural application for the carbody of trains

Composite materials have demonstrated a high potential for lighter, more energy- and cost-efficient structural components. However, currently available structural composites do not meet fire, smoke & toxicity requirements of the railway sector, and cannot be used for the manufacturing of carbody shell parts. In this context, Cidetec has coordinated a large european joint effort of 3.5 million euro to reduce train weight by developing novel Fibre Reinforced Polymers (FRPs) which can replace structural metal parts of the carbody. This was Mat4Rail project, a Shift2Rail H2020 project, which had between its objectives both the development of such materials to build lighter trains and also to increase capacity and passenger comfort via built-in modularity of train interior design. 

To address the above mentioned challenges, Mat4Rail consortium coordinated by Cidetec Surface Engineering has:

  • synthesised novel fire retardant resins and manufactured and test composite batches.
  • modified fatigue and static load cases according to new requirements for polymeric materials.
  • further developed structural adhesive bonding combined with riveting and bolting for permanent and non-permanent joints and the repair of the new composites.
  • assessed novel design concepts for access door systems with three evaluated concepts based on composite, aluminium and through additive manufacturing, respectively. 
  • developed new concepts for interior design of rolling stock including: 
  • plug & play systems for new electric utilities; 
  • innovative lightweight seats and 
  • a driver’s cabin including an innovative driver’s desk that allows different use cases for grade of automation (GoA) levels 2-3 and even being convertible into a passenger room in full autonomous mode.

Demonstrators of the plug and play systems and the innovative ultralight seats developped within Mat4Rail

Six novel composites compliant with EN45545-2, based on glass, basalt and carbon fibre reinforcements have been developed and validated through a very detailed testing campaign. Their thermal and mechanical characterisation have also demonstrated the potential of these composites for railway applications, while they were proof to be cost-efficient candidates for their future introduction into the market. They are based on novel epoxy benzoxazine and hybrid chemistry based resins have been developed that meet FST requirements.

Additionally, certification procedures for polymeric materials for operational loads and damage accumulation have been validated for structural adhesives, and two novel demonstrators with novel concepts for access door systems were also presented, one based on aluminium materials and another based on composite. This composite door demonstrator, produced by Coexpair with epoxy-basalt prepreg from Cidetec, will be shown next May at the JEC World at Coexpair booth. 

In the Interior Design work stream, Mat4Rail has developed a new seating concept: a hyper flexible and intelligent new ultra-lightweight seat system that can be arranged and fitted in a super dense and rapid way. It consists of a small frame structure which is holding an intelligent woven inlay structure, that generates all the ergonomic and comfort needed. The lightweight frame system is cantilever suspended or floor based fixed. This tangible, producible vision will have an impact to significantly reduce the number of parts and the total weight as well as the production costs and CO2 emissions during production and use. 

Additionally, Mat4Rail has developed a plug & play system up to the stage of a fully functional mock-up. The system addresses all the needs with an intelligent multi layered energy & communication grid and a flexible mounting structure, including quick and easy refurbishment, installation on side wall of the train and different suppliers for lighting and crane systems.
Lastly, a virtual prototype of the whole train, showcasing the driver’s cabin as well as the plug & play system and a modular seating concept, has been built.

Impact to railway

Dr. Elena Jubete, Coordinator of Mat4Rail and Business Development Manager in Cidetec Surface Engineering
Dr. Elena Jubete, Coordinator of Mat4Rail and Business Development Manager in Cidetec Surface Engineering explain us the significant impact that these results can have for the railway industry:

“It has been a pleasure for Cidetec to drive this initiative and we are convinced that Mat4Rail has made a significant contribution to the trains of the future. It will enable the introduction of new composites for carbody shell parts based on novel resins that meet FST (Fire, Smoke and Toxicity) requirements as well as the mechanical performance and cost effectiveness criteria of railway. Structural adhesive joints combined with riveting/bolting will allow joining of these polymeric materials to metals and thus will allow primary multi-material structures of carbodies. This is expected to allow a weight reduction of carbody shell sections by up to 30% and a weight reduction of access door systems by 10-20%, depending on the train family. Additionally, Mat4Rail results will increase rail operators’ competitiveness by reducing costs for maintenance and refurbishment, while increasing passenger comfort, increasing passenger numbers and profitability of rail operators. The new interior design concepts are expected to allow an increase in capacity by up to 30%, reduced maintenance costs and reduced energy consumption due to the weight reduction. The key for achieving these great results have been the collaborative efforts by committed and effective professionals, including researchers, designers, engineers, all across Europe. It has been a great pleasure to lead this excellent team”. 

For sure the experience of the Polymer and Composites Unit within Cidetec Surface Engineering in the development of new resins and composites, as well as the good European positioning of Cidetec (participating in 45 European H2020 projects, 14 of them as coordinators) and their partners, has certainly been relevant to achieve these significant results.

In short, Mat4Rail, recently finalised at the end of 2019, has gathered joint efforts from  6 research institutions (Cidetec, Aimplas, ITA Innova, Rise Centexbel and Universitët Bremen, and 10 companies that are well market-leading and/or sMEs highly innovative (Huntsman Advanced Materials, IMA Dresden, NVGTR , GRrammer, ASAS, Spirit Design, ESCATEC, INDAT, CoExpair and Accelopment). Mat4Rail has run in parallel with a complementary project for Shift2Rail members called PIVOT, coordinated by Bombardier and involving large train manufacturers and service suppliers such as TALGO, CAF, AERNNOVA and SNCF. 

The MAT4RAIL project was funded by the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking (S2R JU), a public-private partnership in the rail sector established under the European Union Research and Innovation programme Horizon 2020, grant agreement number 777595.