Composites in the rail industry

The rail industry requires lightweight structures with good fatigue performance, low overall maintenance, fire resistance, and good acoustic performance, making composites a perfect fit for this industry.

The superior strength-to-weight ratio of composites offers dramatic reductions in weight—up to 50 percent for structural and 75 percent for non-structural applications—which makes the whole system more economical and fuel efficient. It results in reduced power consumption, lower inertia, less axle stress, and less track wear and tear. Commuter trains travelling short distances with frequent stops utilise less energy for acceleration and deceleration.

Composites are the primary material choice for nose cones and front faces of high speed trains because aerodynamically contoured composite structures are relatively easy to fabricate compared to similar metal structures. Composites are also the principal material for air inlets on high-speed trains because they can be moulded into the complex shapes and curvatures needed to alleviate noise.

Composites also provide greater versatility in train design and optimisation of train performance (e.g. lowering the centre of gravity to enhance stability). High stiffness from structural materials reduces or even eliminates supporting framework, increases passenger or cargo room, and carries fittings readily. Due to their excellent structural properties and improved aesthetics, composites find major applications in passenger coaches for parts such as luggage racks, window blinds, toilet cabins, passenger seat shells, tables, and more.

Composites are valued for their parts-consolidation capabilities, where structures can be made in one piece, which reduces manufacturing and assembly time. A modular construction of composites, such as a system of interchangeable panels, is easy to install and offers rapid fitting.

The materials’ fire-resistant and anti-ballistic characteristics can be tailored for specific applications and maximises the safety of the entire system. Composites parts comply with all the world’s most stringent fire norms, including European Norm EN 45545, Australian BS 6853, and American Norm NFPA 130.

BFG International holds four decades of experience in the specialised design and production of composites parts for rail transportation. BFG engineers consistently deliver cost-effective and high-performance solutions for front ends, toilet cabins, interior panels, shades and blinds, toilet cabins, and many more. We work with some of the industry’s biggest manufacturers, including Alstom, Bombardier Transportation, Siemens, and CAF.

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