3D printing as a digital manufacturing technology

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3D printing

Layer by layer, high-performance and safe.

Article: 3D printing as a digital manufacturing technology


3D printing expertise at Deutsche Bahn

A timely supply of spare parts is a fundamental requirement for vehicle availability. Thanks to our many years of experience in the production of safety-critical components, we deliver spare parts rapidly. We cover the entire value chain in cooperation with DB-certified partners, identifying which parts are 3D-printable, creating the required CAD data, carrying out the 3D printing and conducting comprehensive quality testing. With over 500 implemented applications and 80,000 printed parts made from a wide range of materials, we lead the rail sector in additive manufacturing. Of course, we subject each component to intensive testing before release to ensure it meets operational requirements.

We are driving forward rail-relevant innovations in additive manufacturing through the network Mobility goes Additive. DB initiated this network, and it is now the largest 3D printing network in Europe, with over 130 well-known partners and seven additional European railways. We are constantly expanding our portfolio of usable 3D printing technologies and materials for the entire DB Group.

Our services for rail vehicles 

Examples of applications for 3D printing
  • Protective caps for brake systems 
  • Fan grilles for driver's cabs  
  • Mountings and casings for passenger displays  
  • Replacements for worn interior parts such as coat hooks, snap-in joints or casings  
  • Switch or simulation models for training or construction projects 
  • Large, safety-critical metal parts, such as connecting links and terminal boxes for the ICE 1/2  
  • Traction motor housing, axlebox covers 
  • Covers, fan guides, headrests, cable harness covers 

3D printing offers many advantages

High-performance vehicle maintenance is an important key to more customer comfort, reliability and safety in rail transport. Missing spare parts and delayed deliveries often hamper the core objective of ensuring the greatest possible availability of vehicles. This is where 3D printing has a critical contribution to make. As an alternative procurement channel for discontinued components and critical parts, 3D printing can be used to reduce system outages and vehicle downtimes and to shorten delivery and order times. This digital manufacturing process also offers the greatest possible safety, so your passengers can travel in the greatest possible comfort. The technology can also be faster, more resource-efficient and sometimes even cheaper than conventional manufacturing processes. With 3D printing, there are no minimum order quantities, having a digital warehouse lets you cut down on high holding costs, and you can often replace components partially, avoiding the need for expensive complete replacements.

Use cases for 3D printable components 
  • Discontinued components 
  • Threats of availability bottlenecks 
  • Small quantities with high costs or minimum order quantities 
  • Accident repairs 
  • Special tools and aids 
  • Prototyping and simulation 
  • Partial replacement