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Just about everywhere in the world, public transport is making a comeback. As we were shown at Innotrans 2004, the relatively favourable situation is creating demand and opportunities for composite materials, which have a number of advantages to propose in this sector.
(Published on May 2005 – JEC Magazine #17)
Amore than 30% increase in the number of exhibitors and 33% more professional visitors (46,455) are indications of the success enjoyed by the latest presentation of InnoTrans (the International trade fair for Transport Technology – Innovative Components, Vehicles, Systems) on September 21-24 in Berlin. With 1,364 exhibitor companies from 35 different countries, Innotrans is certainly the largest and most international event for this sector worldwide. The trade fair programme was topped off by conferences and forums. It goes without saying that the offering was very broad – nearly exhaustive – and ranged from signalling equipment to locomotives, including seats and electronic control systems of all kinds. Composite materials were there and ready with many original and noteworthy applications.
Exterior and structural parts
The use of composite materials is the most spectacular in the area of body parts. The parts are often very imposing and, what is more, they are visible on the vehicle. German company Qantos was exhibiting this type of very large, autoclaved prepreg component. Qantos uses the prepreg/ autoclave technique to produce train noses, in particular, but also makes RTMmoulded trim components for the aviation and automotive industries. LM Glasfiber group subsidiary Covia presented a new type of fire-resistant roof made of composite materials for European Danish pultruder Fiberline exhibited side panels for trains. These panels are highly appreciated for their corrosion resistance, and also for their low maintenance requirements.
Fellow Danish company Jupiter Plast, a specialist in construction and production of lightweight exteriors parts for rolling stock, was there with a front panel.
German company Compotech was present with a fairly broad range of products. Compotech develops, manufactures and distributes fibre-reinforced plastic components and systems for train interiors, such as wall and ceiling panels, windows frames, housings, skirts, seats, racks and cabin elements. It delivers to all the sector’s leading companies, and makes use of SMC-hot-pressing, RTM and handlayup techniques.
French company Stratime, well-known for its seats and partition panels, among other things, presented a wide range of its know-how. Stratime gave us to understand that it is working on the development of a new composite graffitiproof solution for interior components on trains, metros, etc.
Trioplast was also there, exhibiting a wide range of shelves with a honeycomb structure that perfectly meets expectations in terms of withstanding intensive utilization.
As for doors, we noted the presence of Ederena, a company that works for the transport sector, among others.
As in many other areas of activity, China is once again outstanding, this time with its railway development programme, which measures up to the country and its aspirations. The Chinese authorities took the occasion at the Innotrans 2004 trade fair to present an ambitious development plan for their network.
In 2003, the network included 73,000km of track. Under the terms of the “Mediumand- long-term railway network plan”, this should increase to 100,000km by 2020. At the same time, the plan includes upgrading the main technical equipment to levels comparable to those of the railways in developed countries. The figures indicate that the task is enormous. By 2003, the traffic density of passenger and freight had reached 30.18 million t/km, ranking first in the world. From now until 2020, the plan also provides for: - the separation of passenger and freight operation on busy trunk lines - 50% coverage for double-track and electrified mileage - framework in place for western railways - an improved network of central and eastern railways - setting up a high-speed passenger network and heavy-duty freight network that cover the entire country.
To implement this programme, the Chinese authorities estimate the necessary investment at RMB 2 trillion. A very large market is opening up to players in the railway sector, and there will also be opportunities for composite materials.
Signalling and other equipment
In the signalling segment, Honeywell exhibited an automatic monitoring system for detection of objects (roadway traffic) located between the gates of the level crossing. The outer shell of this radar scanner is made of a glass-fibre-reinforced thermoset composite, a solution that serves to protect the mechanism inside and, of course, to allow the wave transmission necessary for the correct operation of the safety equipment.
Ebo Systems presented human-engineered handrails in glass-fibre-reinforced polyester, designed for access structures such as guardrails and stairs. The handrails are hollow, which allows the passage of cabling – so they can also serve, for example, to supply power for emergency lighting in train tunnels.
In another related area, EEP Vertrieb had very lightweight, stiff composite tubes (glass-fibre-reinforced polyester), used for employee safety on the tracks, and which are easy to implement.
CTS exhibited grill panels, stairs and gratings, all in composite. Photon Meissener Technologies Gmbh was there with a wide range of outer protective cases in glass-fibre-reinforced plastic. We also noted pultruders at the EPTA stand exhibiting profiles that are used in a variety of transport applications.
Cable company Bayerische Kabelwerke AG exhibited a wide product range, notably its BayRail cable with a composite layer sheath, armouring and/or protection againstinterference. The cable is halogen-free, flame-retardant, longitudinally waterproof, and suitable for torsion-free installation. Of course, Innotrans is by no means a trade fair specific to composite applications for the railway sector. Nevertheless, these applications are on the rise and are gathering attention. The type and value of the applications are extremely variable; however, specifications for safety, maintenance, wear, corrosion, fire resistance, and smoke propagation (among others) are so strict that potential manufacturers are forced to propose more and more highly engineered solutions.
The next InnoTrans will take place from September 19-22, 2006.