3D printed conformal sensors for in-situ monitoring of cracks in critical freight car components

Principal investigator: Rahul Panat

University: Carnegie Mellon University

Industry partners: Wabtec, Corp.

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) will partner with Wabtec Corporation, a Wilmerding, PA-based Fortune-500 manufacturing company to develop a 3D printing technology that can fabricate conformal low-power sensors on railcar components for their structural health monitoring. The PI, Panat, has been guiding a Wabtec-sponsored project on freight coupler designs and the proposed research builds upon this existing partnership to benefit Wabtec, a significant employer in the state. The research aims to solve the issue of in-service freight component breakage that results in millions of dollars of losses to the freight railcar industry and will give a competitive advantage to Wabtec Corporation. The research will also provide an advanced warning of degradation within safety-critical freight car side frames and bolsters, thus improving their reliability and safety. The research will be carried out using a systematic technical approach with an iterative process development for sensor fabrication at CMU on critical freight components followed by their fatigue testing at Wabtec. We will also integrate a wireless module with the 3D printed sensors that can transmit the sensor signal to a remote device such as a laptop. Wabtec plans to actively participate in this project by providing samples, allowing the use of their testing facilities to the graduate student from CMU, and providing regular technical consultations. A well-trained student has been identified to work on the project. The research will combine the latest technological developments in advanced manufacturing at CMU with the requirements of a PA manufacturing corporation. The work will lead to technologies that will generate well-paying jobs in PA, while also training the next generation of PA workforce in advanced manufacturing.