“For the moment, we chose to keep the steel fittings, but for further projects it could be interesting to replace the steel fittings with composite fittings so we can reduce the final weight a little more,” Seurat says.
One consortium member, the sensors and composites group at the University of Birmingham, is overseeing the development of fiber optic monitoring sensors that will be integrated into the composite bogie at the manufacturing stage. “The majority of the sensors will be focused on monitoring strain at discrete points on the bogie and others on temperature sensing,” Seurat says. The sensors will allow real-time monitoring of the composite structure, allowing lifetime load data to be collected. That will give valuable information on peak loading and long-term fatigue.
Initial studies have shown that the composite bogie should be able to achieve the desired 50 percent weight reduction. The project team hopes to have a full-sized bogie ready for testing in mid-2019. If the prototype performs as predicted, they will produce more bogies for testing on rail cars made by the rail transport company Alstom.
Although there’s still much work to be done, initial indications show that it would be possible to produce a commercially-viable composite bogie that could compete in cost and strength with metal bogies, according to Seurat. She adds, “[After that,] I think there are plenty of options and potential applications where composites could be used in the rail industry.”