Anyone who travels has stories to tell. For example, how their own components perform in real life.
That was a close call. Carsten Klages stows his suitcase, removes his tie and sits down with relief.
A comfortable seat, an air-conditioned compartment and a cool after-work beer is exactly what he needs right now. The last few weeks have been quite successful for him, with two trade show highlights – InnoTrans in Berlin and bauma in Munich – but also a bit exhausting. It’s a good time for a few days off. In Rome, the weather is still quite nice and comparatively warm, even at the beginning of November. But instead of taking a plane, as he often does, this time he uses a completely new, almost archaic way of travelling. Because the good old overnight train still exists, only ultra-modern, safe, digital, sustainable, comfortable and full of components from Continental – like many local and long-distance trains and even high-speed sprinters around the world. Over the next 13 hours, he has the chance to experience life and first-hand what they do to make the coming night safe, comfortable and restful.
Smart air springs for more rail comfort
On the way to the dining car, he knows where he might come across some Continental traces: sensor-based safety systems for the cockpit; a wide variety of hose and line systems for hydraulics, cooling or water consumption; high-quality materials for the interior from floor to ceiling. As Head of Sales Operations & Marketing in the Advanced Dynamics Solutions division, however, he is particularly interested in suspension and anti-vibration solutions. And that's why he took a look under the vehicle as soon as he entered. Because there, there are two areas where Continental springs show us what they can do.
As the link between the axle and the bogie frame, the primary suspension minimizes the effects of contact between the wheels and the rails during travel, thus absorbing vibrations and reducing noise caused by impacts. In the secondary suspension between the bogie and the car body, air springs act as elastic mounts for the car body. They decouple it and the passengers to a large extent from the irregularities of the track and, at the same time, allow the bogie to spin out as the train curves through the Alps towards the south. And because they have a low natural frequency, the transmission of vibrations is minimized. The same applies when the air springs are installed in a construction machine: here, too, uneven surfaces on the construction site can cause unpleasant vibrations that could be transmitted to the vehicle, driver and load without sufficient damping – which can be unpleasant and, in the worst case, even dangerous.
For Carsten Klages, however, the exciting thing about the suspension sector is that digitalization is no longer just a dream of the future, even in these rather robust areas. With the help of integrated sensors, intelligent big data solutions could also become possible in industrial applications. For example, so-called HPTA sensors are integrated into smart air springs. They monitor the condition of each individual air spring and measure height, pressure, temperature and acceleration. This not only increases safety and energy efficiency, but also allows malfunctions to be detected at an early stage, unplanned downtimes to be avoided and maintenance costs to be reduced. The customers at his trade show appointments quickly understood this added value as well.
Sustainable travel in many respects
Over a delicious dinner and a well-earned after-work beer, Carsten Klages starts talking to a fellow passenger about train travel itself, the renaissance of night trains and why there are not more people actually using this mode of transportation It's much more environmentally friendly than flying! That's right, sustainability is also one of the megatrends that plays a major role in train travel – in component development as well. Because with new technologies and innovative materials, air springs can also achieve top performance with smaller bellows volumes and thus less use of resources.
The industrial reconditioning of components for trains makes an important contribution to greater sustainability in rail transport. In its refurbishment service for air springs, for example, Continental combines the intact system components of used air springs with a brand-new bellows and a new metal-rubber auxiliary spring. The advantage: up to 100 kilograms of metal can be reused per air spring system, which does not have to be disposed of or manufactured again. This not only makes the new OEM-quality air spring 50 percent cheaper and speeds up its delivery by up to 60 percent; it also means that at least 300 kilograms of CO2 are not emitted. Faster, cheaper, more environmentally friendly – a real win-win-win for the train industry.
Red-hot for train travel – without fire hazard
Back in his sleeping compartment, Carsten Klages makes himself comfortable. The air springs are doing a great joband he still feels a pleasant swaying that is sure to make him sleepy soon. It is dark outside, and he looks at the passing lights. In some areas in the Als, there are also one or two fires, lit around Halloween and All Saints' Day. During the two fairs, he has had more than one conversation with customers about fire safety which is immensely important when you look at the numbers in rail transportation: in 2019, almost 500 billion passenger kilometers were covered in the EU and almost 400 million tons of goods were transported by rail in Germany alone. And on the construction site, too, the machine can certainly get hot from time to time due to the high stress. Fortunately, the air spring systems used not only meet the technical specifications, but also the high requirements of the European fire protection standard EN 45545.
After seven hours of undisturbed sleep, the night train has gained a new fan. Carsten Klages has rarely arrived at a destination so refreshed. It's still two hours to the final stop in Roma Termini. More than enough time for a shower, a big cup of coffee, a tasty breakfast, and a bit of landscape gazing. And at the next trade fair, he can tell his industrial customers from his own experience what Continental's smart air spring systems can do. But for now it is time to relax!