Wheel and axle inspection is a fundamental component of high speed railway safety. As more high speed trains become available and the speed at which they transport and the loads that they carry continually increase, the possibility of material failure grows substantially. High profile incidents, most recently in Germany, France and the U.S., demonstrate a significant need for increased safety practices and improved technology to mitigate these risks.
Trains traveling at speeds greater than 200 km/h and urban commuter or metro trains subject their hollow axles to increased strain, which puts their structural integrity and reliability at risk. Fatigue cracks occur in areas where there is a high stress concentration, including the hollow axle, wheel rim, wheel disk, bore hole and gear seat, and the wheel seat. Remnants from the wheel and axle manufacturing process can also cause stress at high speeds, reinforcing the need for inspections to be done accurately on a scheduled and ongoing basis. As a result, hollow axles must be inspected regularly for early detection of flaws to assure the cracks do not propagate quickly.
GE recently introduced technology to dramatically improve inspection quality for the rail industry. The Compact Hollow Axle Tester (CHAT) combines hollow-axle inspection mechanics and ultrasonic angle-beam probes with GE’s high quality ultrasonic instrumentation. GE’s CHAT allows inspectors to perform regular evaluations and create dynamic inspection plans through fast data acquisition and image display with an intuitive interface and advanced software.
Global rail operators conduct inspections at regular intervals, primarily during the night shift to avoid traffic disruptions. The ability to complete a full inspection quickly, without the removal of the wheelset and axles from the car, allows rail operators to increase the productivity of the inspections.
Watch this video to see CHAT at work: