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Aluminum_Applications_in_the_Rail_Industry - Extrusion...

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LIGHT METAL AGE, OCTOBER 2007 Extrusion Research Challenges Aluminum Applications in the Rail Industry
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2 LIGHT METAL AGE, OCTOBER 2007 Introduction T he connection between the aluminum industry and railroads goes back a long way, in fact almost to the inception of the aluminum industry itself in 1888. The first reported use of aluminum in this market was by the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad in 1894 when it built a special lightweight car with aluminum seat frames. This was followed in 1931 by the development of the all-aluminum hopper cars for freight. 1 At the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1933 the first two main-line, all-aluminum, passenger railroad cars were exhibited. 2 The development of further applications of aluminum in the railroad area continued especially following World War II when excess material capacity was available. Developments have continued apace, driven by aluminum’s light weight, corrosion resistance, and overall durability. This paper provides an update to this interesting and dynamic market, explores some recent advances in the technology, and discusses the potential impact of newer aluminum alloys and fabrication technologies, such as Friction Stir Welding (FSW). A Proven Material in Rail : Experience with aluminum over the past several decades has resulted in numerous applications for the metal not only in freight cars, but also in light rail and inner city commuter trains, metros, and underground trains as well as in the express, intercity passenger trains. There is also considerable use of aluminum in the advanced high speed trains such as the Acela, the TGV, Transrapid, Shinkansen, and Pendolino- type trains,and the futuristic magnetic levitation (Maglev) trains. Aluminum Applications and Advantages Freight Applications: One of the most significant applications of aluminum in rail has been in the development of freight cars for the transportation of a range of commodity materials, especially coal. Typically, rail cars are designed for a 30-year life, and materials developments have tended to evolve gradually. 3 However, much of the existing rail stock is now approaching the end of its original design life. This, together with the recent high demand for the transport of low-sulfur coal from the western mines to the eastern markets, has caused a boom in the construction of coal cars. An article in American Metal Market (AMM) 4 forecast that deliveries of railcars will approach some 60,000 units per year by 2009 and projected a 50% growth in coal car deliveries over the five years starting in 2005. In a more recent article, AMM 5 estimated that some 27% of these cars will be aluminum. The lighter aluminum railcar bodies, about two-thirds the weight of the comparable steel body, enable a greater payload. The higher payload capacity repays the higher initial cost of aluminum in less than two years, and the resistance of aluminum to corrosion by the high-sulfur coal ensures long durability for these coal cars. In addition to the operational advantages, the U.S. DOE has reported that the conversion of coal cars
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