DB plans significant expansion of 3D-printed parts by end of 2018

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A headrest for a regional train service being made b a 3D printer. Credit: DB.
A headrest for a regional train service being made b a 3D printer. Credit: DB.

From headrests to ventilation grilles, DB has already produced 1,000 spare parts using 3D printers. By the end of this year that number will have increased to around 2,000.

But DB has ambitions to expand its use of 3D printers further, with as many as 15,000 components expected to be produced using the technology by the end of 2018.

The process, which was first used by DB in 2015 to print a coat hook, is faster, more flexible and cheaper than conventional manufacturing processes, the company has said.

Other parts made using a 3D printer include damper components and braille station signs.

The first spare parts were made of plastic but metal items are now also being produced using a powder bed printing process. Using this technology, DB has been able to fabricate terminal boxes for Germany’s high-speed ICE trains.

The chief executive of DB Fahrzeuginstandhaltung (vehicle maintenance) Uwe Fresenborg said (translated from German): “For the maintenance of our vehicles we need immediately available spare parts. Our trains are expected to roll.

“3D printing helps us in doing so. Printing is faster, more flexible and cheaper than conventional manufacturing processes, and the vehicles are available again in a very short time and are used for our customers.”

The above video from DB shows the construction of a headrest using a 3D printer.

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