Lightweight Materials for Rail Vehicles

The less trains weigh, the more economical they are to run. Lightweight materials for rail vehicles are becoming more and more important for that exact reason. New and hybrid structures allow considerable weight savings and result in lower operating costs.

Researchers from the Department of Lightweight Design at Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU have developed a new material and manufacturing concept with an excellent lightweight design potential.

Material Lightweight Construction

Weight saving with the same or a better stiffness, operability and cost efficiency are demands which can all be realized by consequent lightweight construction. Light-weight system and lightweight structures are two out of three fundamental pillars of lightweight construction in conventional metal construction. An even greater weight saving could only be possible due to high-strength or high-rigid but at the same time very light materials by material lightweight construction which forms the third pillar of lightweight construction.

Especially Fiber Reinforced Plastics (FRP) feature high specific strength and rigidity and are therefore very well suited for lightweight materials. Moreover, regarding endurance strength, attenuation and thermal expansion, FRPs are far superior to conventional lightweight materials.

Hybrid Design

One way to combine the best properties of different materials is by hybrid-design. Smart combinations of different materials are for example FRP combined with aluminum foam, synthetic foam or with honey- comb material. In the sandwich structures presented, the high-strength and high-rigid CFK-toppings take on the transmission of heavy loads on small displacement. The function of the sandwich core is to prevent buckling of the topping and at the same time ensures good damping properties in the case of aluminum foam. Hybrid design enables the production of complex, high load bearing, geometric structures and additionally a notable weight reduction.

For more information, please download Fraunhofer’s Lightweight Construction by Hybrid Design PDF below.

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Fraunhofer IWU


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