The FUTURA action improved the quality and safety of life of over 55 million EU citizens, who live or work near train tracks. The main objective of the action provided last development steps for market launch of Divided Rail Freight Brake Disc (DRFB disc).
DRFB disc is a revolutionary solution, influencing 3 key elements in the rail freight transport:
- safety and security
- health and environment and
- cost-effectiveness with strong horizontal and vertical ""spill-over"" effects and crucial social, economic and technical impacts.
Today there are two competitive solutions: K-block and non-divided brake disc (the current state-of-the-art). Although non-divided brake disc is a superior solution (as it ensures higher safety, lower noise levels and less vibrations), it is used in practice in less than 10%, because it is too expensive. That is the problem that FUTURA action was solving. Our ambitious solution, DRFB disc, was developed by 4 high impact companies in the field of development, production and testing components for freight rail vehicles.
The specific objectives of FUTURA action were:
- 10-15 dB lower noise
- 11% shorter braking distance
- 14% less vibrations
- 21% lower mass
- 7% less accidents
- 12% less damage of freight
- 50% longer life cycle of wheels
- 13% lower LCC of the disc.
For an operator with 1,000 6-axle wagons, the savings within a life-cycle would amount to 5,838,000 € in comparison with K-block and 9,840,000 € in comparison with non-divided brake disc. DRFB disc will contribute considerably toward increasing the transported freight volumes via rail, which is environmentally friendlier than alternative modes (by road and air).
Total available market size for our innovation is around 12 billion € per year. Our key target markets are EU, USA, Canada, Russia, China, India and Brazil. The aim of commercialising the innovation is to capture 7% of the market share in the production of brakes for rail freight wagons on the global market."
Quieter, safer and greener freight transport
Noisy freight trains may soon become obsolete, thanks to a new and much quieter braking system. Less noise, decreased maintenance and better health for nearby communities are only some of the emerging benefits.
Europe’s railway industry is continuously modernising its infrastructure and equipment, as railway operators adopt cutting-edge technologies and innovations. On these lines, the EU-funded http://www.projectfutura.com/ (FUTURA) project has developed new braking systems that minimise noise and are more efficient. “Freight trains run more frequently at night and are ten times noisier than modern passenger trains,” says Ivan Smolej, project coordinator. “We developed a new generation of brake discs for freight wagons that reduce the noise considerably, offer shorter braking distance, enable higher speeds, facilitate maintenance and promote safety,” he adds.
Better brakes in every respect
The new divided rail freight brake (DRFB) discs can reduce noise by up to 10 decibels and raise speeds for freight trains of up to 160 km/h. “The discs are lighter, which allows more tonnage to transport goods,” explains Smolej. The project team developed and tested five different prototypes of brake discs, meeting or exceeding initial project objectives. The research involved interviews with customers and market analyses, examining as well issues such as CO2 reduction, energy consumption, megacities, aging populations, and of course noise reduction.
“We narrowed down the prototypes to two: one with brake plate width of 170 mm and the other with 110 mm, both of which passed demanding dynamometer bench tests and live tests,” reveals Smolej. The 170 mm plate achieved 22.7 % less mass, 21 % less air resistance, and 17.3 % more thermal dissipation efficiency compared to traditional discs. The 110 mm plate, which research showed was very much in demand, achieved even better results: 34.5 % less mass, 34 % less air resistance and 32.7 % thermal dissipation efficiency. Both models can handle a maximum velocity of 160 km/h.
Noteworthy as well, the braking distance of a freight train will decrease by 11 %, which will in the long term ensure 7 % less accidents according to the project, while vibration will decrease by 14 %. Better heat dissipation will improve the reliability of braking system operations as the brakes will not overheat and are much less likely to break down.
Commercialisation in full swing
Today’s new freight wagons are mostly equipped with less efficient and cheaper K-block brakes. The project’s DRFB disc brakes represent the current state-of-the-art braking system for freight trains, where the brake crown is a single piece. “This will enable much wider use of brake disks as they will be marketed at a better price than K-block brakes,” says Smolej.
When DRFB hits the market, the consortium will be the only provider of this type of disc worldwide. “Commercialisation of DRFB discs, which boast a much lower life-cycle cost than the K-Block brakes, will make K-Block brakes obsolete,” he highlights.
Over the next five years, the project consortium hopes to equip 45 % of all new freight wagons with DRFB discs. “This will result in other benefits such as shorter braking distance, safer rail freight transport, lower noise and vibration levels, and better financial results for rail transport providers and users,” asserts Smolej.
Already, the consortium has received considerable interest from the European market, especially Austria, France, Germany and Switzerland, where the noise level of freight trains must be reduced to between 8-10 dB by 2025. In Germany and Switzerland, 80 % of all freight wagons will be classified as “silent or non-noise making” by 2025, representing 180 000 wagons in total.
Health and environment emerge as winners
Noise from freight trains affects the health of millions who live or work near train tracks and DRFB discs are expected to improve the quality and safety of life of over 55 million EU citizens. “The social cost of rail traffic noise in the EU is at least 2.4 billion euros per year, representing a sizeable budget that can be used for healing different diseases caused by high noise levels, from anxiety and sleep disturbances to cardiovascular diseases,” says Smolej.
Lastly, railways represent the most environmentally-friendly mode of transport both for freight and passenger traffic. DRFB discs are going to play a crucial role in furthering this noble mode of transport.