Innovation Award: MFL Research Makes Railway Services Even Greener
December 15, 2021
To meet the climate-protection targets it gets increasingly important even for the railway industry to reduce energy consumption and environmental pollution. This is mainly achieved by reducing the weight on board which is particularly challenging concerning high-safety components: A Styrian project consortium around the company Maschinenfabrik Liezen und Gießerei (MFL) is currently showing with a perennial research project how railway-relevant safety components can be manufactured with a weight reduction by more than 20 %. Now the project has received an award from the Federal Ministry.
The railway industry is increasingly confronted by demands to reduce weight. This is a challenging target concerning the high degree of possible hazards - especially regarding safety-relevant components. While the international railway industry therefore tends to act in a conservative way, an Austrian research project under the leadership of MFL has set the course to achieve dramatic energy savings of the already environmental-friendly traffic carrier. Since 2019, the lead enterprise from Upper Styria has– together with Styrian research partners such as ÖGI (Austrian Foundry Institute) - examined how resources can be economised during manufacture as well as use of castings.
Reducing weight and CO2 emissions
The reductions are trailblazing – in the true sense of the word: The weight of the spring caps which are used in bogies of high-speed trains and were examined as test components could be reduced by 21 percent (from 62 to 49 kg) – and proof of consistent strength and identical function was provided. This does not only save the emissions linked to ongoing operation: Due to the lightweight construction, CO2 emissions, raw material requirements, and energy needs can be reduced by 15 percent already during the manufacturing process. Another decisive factor is that the reduced weight results in less material wear on the rails – and also less noise. “Thus, our research makes an important contribution to protect the environment and conserve resources throughout the entire product life cycle. These results do not only confirm the innovative approach of the consortium, but they are also a key step in the direction of climate-neutral processes and mobility in railway technology,” emphasizes MFL Managing Director Herbert Decker.
Award by the Federal Ministry
The project has recently been awarded the ‘Innovation Award‘ by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs and the ACR (Austrian Cooperative Research), the network of private and non-profit research institutes. A top-class jury awards this prize for the most extraordinary results in research projects. “We are proud to make a contribution that goes far beyond legal requirements - and to position ourselves once again as an environmentally-aware eco-innovation partner. Our highly motivated employees can take the credit for this award,“ stresses the MFL Managing Director.
Casting in 3D printed sand moulds
The innovation clusters of the research project are stress analyses and topology optimisations based on the process and requirement data provided by MFL. This means that: “Together with our project partners we could determine the perfect design of the components on the basis of a computer-aided calculation procedure. Then we transformed this draft into a producible geometry – and finally we cast it into a 3D printed sand mould,” simplifies MFL Project Initiator and Foundry Manager Pert Fuchs. He stresses. “Optimising these safety-relevant components requires maximum interdisciplinary precision. This constellation of competences regarding mechanical engineering, material technology, and foundry technique is unique in this form.” Fuchs says: “With this venture and future projects MFL is further expanding its status as a competent partner to find highly innovative engineering solutions for steel casting applications in the international market.“
Transfer to production
The development that was significantly supported by FFG (Austrian Research Promotion Agency) in the context of the ÖGI project “Inno Up“ shall be directly transferred to real production as quickly as possible. For this purpose, a follow-up project was started together with the same project partners. “This innovation will make an essential contribution to safeguard the production site Austria,“ says MFL Managing Director Decker.