As part of the qualification process, prototype units of both bridgeplates and ramps were required to pass tests including an 800-pound/363-kilogram service-load capacity and a three-times safety factor of 2,400-pounds/1,089-kilograms ultimate strength. Additionally, each item was required to be warranted by the manufacturer against defects and/or premature failure for a service period of not less than 12 months from the date of field deployment into Amtrak revenue service and to include a maintenance contract to inspect and refurbish units that might need repainting or other repairs.

Plasan was the manufacturer chosen to produce the new Amtrak carbon composite bridgeplates and ramps. Amtrak provided technical specifications for the ABT units; Plasan provided technical expertise in carbon composite manufacturing, engineering support, and finite-element analysis to optimize part strength and mass.

As designed, both bridgeplate models consist of five carbon fiber-reinforced epoxy prepreg components with honeycomb and foam cores:  a base plate, two fins, and two gussets that are bonded together with a structural epoxy adhesive. Finished telescoping ramps consist of five carbon fiber/epoxy components:  upper and lower carriers, a slider section, and two single-piece handrails attached to the upper carrier. Additional hardware allows the handrails to open into position during use and fold back for stowage; stainless grades were used to increase corrosion resistance.

All carbon composite components will be produced via vacuum bag/autoclave cure with additional inflatable bladders used to produce the hollow handrails. After demolding, handrails will be attached to the ramp’s upper carrier via hinges. Next, both bridgeplates and ramps will be painted (either blue or yellow depending on model) and received a scratch- and chip-resistant top coat and decals, as well as a non-slip surface, which will be added to the base. In the event units become damaged during use, Plasan will non-destructively scan them to determine if they can be repaired or need to be replaced; for units requiring minor repairs, CFRP patch kits will be used.

For more information, visit PlasanCarbon.com.