Robotics

Repairing railway lines

Repairing railway lines

Repairing railway lines

Repairing railway lines

Germany's rail network is considered to be in urgent need of rehabilitation. By 2030 alone, around 4200 kilometres of track are to be renovated. An innovative robot system that is capable of repairing rails and switches could soon help. It was developed by Robel Rail Automation, a sister company of Robel Bahnbaumaschinen GmbH from Freilassing in Bavaria. 

The system consists of a wagon that is pulled on rails and equipped with two robots from Fanuc. These detect internal and external defects and repair them fully automatically using welding, milling and grinding processes. The first test projects with a prototype are already running in European railway networks. The system should be commercially viable in two to three years. A stationary repair system is currently being implemented to test the individual process steps on new and used switches.

"Our customers see great demand for fully automated, robot-assisted maintenance systems," says Thomas Weis, head of development at Robel Rail Automation. This is especially true for the time-consuming and complicated repair work of switches. Here, rail network operators are increasingly lacking skilled workers such as welders. 

The Robel Rail Automation System is predestined to carry out continuous maintenance work safely and in a resource-saving manner. "In addition, the use of robots ensures a consistent, well-documented quality of the work," Weis adds. For this purpose, scanners, ultrasound equipment and eddy current measuring systems are integrated in the repair wagon in addition to robots and a camera system. "In this way, we exclude damage that is not visible to the naked eye and make the measurement and process data available to our customers digitally."

Ralf Völlinger, General Manager Robotics at Fanuc Europe, is optimistic about the future use of robots for infrastructure maintenance. "There is a lot of need for modernisation in both the rail and road networks. Robots can help to complete lengthy maintenance projects more quickly by taking over repetitive work and thus at least partially compensate for the increasing labour shortage."

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