Rotating heads with slotted head stuffing
The IAF International Track Technology Exhibition will finally return to Münster in northern Germany this month, five years after the last event. And with Plasser & Theurer set to showcase no less than 18 machines of all shapes and sizes, there should be something to pique the interest of everyone attending the Austrian manufacturer’s show.
One highlight that is sure to turn heads is the Unimat 09-8×4/4S BR Dynamic E³, which has been specially designed to service high capacity track and turnouts.
After two years of development and 11 months of construction, which have not been disrupted by the Covid pandemic, the new 90m long machine comes in at 278 tonnes fully loaded, has a top speed of 100km/h and a turning radius of 120 m. The machine is modular and is the latest example of the constellation configuration associated with Plasser & Theurer machines, with this particular Unimat fitted with three rail lifting units, a tamping unit, a ballast regulator and profiling and stabilization units.
The inaugural machine also features several new innovations that the manufacturer says will help improve the speed and efficiency of high-capacity switch maintenance.
The new machine is equipped with a continuous tamping unit equipped with slotted head technology from Plasser & Theurer. All eight segments of the working unit can be lowered and operated separately when tamping turnouts and are adjustable for diverging track as well as one or two sleepers. They can also be locked together when forming a conventional track tamping unit. Basically, the train only requires ownership of one track, which means the adjacent track can remain open for operation.
From the position of the main tamper, three screens are available to complement the conventional view of the tamping unit.
One of the most remarkable novelties is the location of the cabin for the two tamping operators. Rather than having separate cabins to optimize their view of the tamping process, operators are in a single cabin from which they no longer only stuff with their own eyes. 24 digital cameras are available to provide a clear view of what is happening outside the machine from multiple angles, helping to optimize the tamping process and reduce the risk of error. In addition, 10 analog cameras are installed to provide additional views of other equipment located in the train and to improve operational safety. Air is blown against the cameras to prevent dust from coating the lens and obscuring the view.
The sabotage wizard has the ability to view multiple cameras at once, switching from an overview to splitting into two or four screens. For example, cameras monitor rail lifting equipment while a rolling camera watches under the machine what is happening so operators can react accordingly. From the position of the main tamper, three screens are available to complement the conventional view of the tamping unit. These screens can offer two or four split views each while the tamper can benefit from a visual overlay on these screens, with green indicating when it is safe to tamp and red when it is not.
The work of the operators is also facilitated by the Automatic Lead Computer (ALC). A screen in the cab displays suggested lift and alignment numbers as well as frequency and depth of compaction. PlasserSmartTamping – Assistant application can also provide assistance when stuffing complicated turnouts. AI-based self-learning systems suggest actions based on standard regulations and specifications. The operator presses a button to accept the suggested operation and can cancel it at any time. The intention is to simplify the working process with Plasser & Theurer recognizing that their clients are facing increasing challenges in recruiting and retaining the qualified personnel required for the job, which can take months and years to perfect.
The data used by the ALC is collected by track measurement vehicles and the Plasser & Theurer data recording process. This information is transmitted to the system via a cloud-based machine-to-machine interface. On board the machine, this data is used to present a visual representation of track conditions, helping the operator to see what issues exist before a track takeover begins and informing and optimizing actions. performed by the machine via the ALC. This data can be supplemented and enhanced by an inertial measurement unit (IMU), which is installed at the rear of the machine cab, and can effectively measure the track condition when working up to 60 km/ h. The unit also shows that the remedial work has been done correctly and will stand the test of time. The incorporation of the IMU directly into the machine is a unique development. However, Plasser & Theurer expects this to become quite common in the future.
Sitting in the same area improves communication between the two operators. And with the machines operating at no more than 62dB – the equivalent of two people having a conversation in a room – operators don’t need to wear headsets. The cabin is also soundproofed, which further improves the working environment.
Indeed, working conditions are a major consideration throughout the machine. The extra comfort is noticeable when you step into the cabin. Air conditioning and heating control optimizes the ambient temperature, while operators have access to charging and power outlets for mobile phones, a refrigerator and a radio. Elsewhere, a separate meeting space with a table and seating for six is equipped with screens providing an overview of the train. A galley and toilets are also available on board, which is especially important when you spend a lot of time on board doing what is a demanding job.
The maintenance of the machine itself is also supported by the digital application PlasserDatamatic 2.0, which contains real-time information on the state of the machine, which can support maintenance measures based on the status and the planning of specific maintenance activities. Operators can also directly access the spare parts catalog via a QR available in the train cabin.
Two other operators supervise the machine’s ballast regulator. The ballast is collected and stored in a 5m² storage unit located next to the regulator and a 4m² unit at the front of the train. The governor itself is fully adjustable to the needs of the operator and the track. As a first step, rather than two separate scan units for timber and concrete sleepers, which require the machine to be stopped to allow manual replacement, the new ballast regulator will feature an adjustable scan unit for one either of the sleepers. The adjustment action is performed from the cab, eliminating the time and effort required to reconfigure the machine.
The E³ diesel-electric hybrid concept has been significantly improved for the next-generation machine, delivering around 20% more efficient energy transfer as well as reducing the cost of the turnout stuffing operation by up to €170 per hour compared to diesel and conventional operation. monoblock machines. E³’s low noise emission levels also make the machine suitable for use in urban areas and at night.
Both drive systems generate the hydraulic pressure required to operate all on-board equipment, and Plasser claims to have reduced the level of hydraulic oil used in the latest machine by 80%. Only linear movements now rely on traditional hydraulics with electrically powered rotary movements.
After its unveiling in Münster, the Unimat 09-8×4/4S BR Dynamic E³ will be tested by potential customers before being available for rental from Franz Plasser Railway Construction Machinery Rental.
Other highlights of Plasser & Theurer’s IAF exhibit include the latest generation of its APT 1500 mobile rail welding robot. The new design features an approximately 35% lighter weld while the system number of sensors has been reduced to only the essential elements, which simplifies operation and maintenance.
In addition, Plasser & Theurer will also present plans to expand its customer service offering. The company is set to open a new European distribution center in Linz in July, providing a centralized distribution center for the supply of spare parts to customers. The manufacturer will also present its new segment of used machines, through which potential customers can buy used machines directly, and its retrofit service. Plasser says it is one of the fastest growing business areas and enables existing customers to refurbish their existing machines and install more advanced technologies, including those used on the Unimat 09-8×4/4S BR Dynamic E³.