ZF and Schunk announced at InnoTrans 2022 their intention to cooperate on condition monitoring for power transmission systems. The objective is to provide digital condition monitoring of infrastructure and vehicle technology. Schunk will provide the pantograph hardware and expertise with OnTrack. ZF is to supply a user-friendly data visualization dashboard that is part of the connect@rail digital condition monitoring system. Around 90% of German train traffic is electrically powered – making the safety and reliability of this element of the rail infrastructure significantly important. For both companies, the cooperation is a major step in establishing a comprehensive technology eco system for the rail industry and, in turn, advancing digitalization for rail applications
Whenever we talk about rail infrastructure, we normally refer to the track. If you look up at the station, you will notice that the rails may show the direction you are going forward, but the overhead lines are the one that get you there. Just under 61%, the equivalent of around 23,500 kilometers of the German rail network, are electrified; approximately 90% of rail traffic is powered by electricity.
These figures illustrate that the contact lines and the pantographs mounted on the vehicle must function perfectly if passengers or freight are to reach their destination reliably. With that in mind, Schunk has developed OnTrack Monitoring – a condition monitoring system that can be retrofitted to pantographs and that is now being complemented by the combination with ZF's connect@rail platform. At InnoTrans 2022 in Berlin, the companies declared their intention to cooperate by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
connect@rail and OnTrack: Condition monitoring for power applications
OnTrack measures the dynamic interaction between the overhead line and the pantograph. Here, sensors are mounted on the collector head and the base frame of the pantograph. These sensors continuously record data on the condition of the sliding strips, contact force and the zigzag geometry. They also detect possible interference points (hard spots) on the overhead line. These measured values are collected during regular vehicle operation and sent to the cloud for evaluation.
Collecting and analyzing this data is only one part of the calculation though. For this information to be incorporated into specific maintenance plans, it must also be processed in a user-friendly manner. And this is where ZF comes in: Thanks to the extensive expertise in networking and data visualization integrated into connect@rail, users can identify potential faults on the customer-specific dashboard and make the right decisions for predictive maintenance. In this way, the two companies help avoid train delays and cancellations, minimize downtime and maintain the timetable.
"Partnerships like the one between ZF and Schunk offer real added value to transportation authorities and vehicle manufacturers," says Daniel Härter, Head of Business Unit Marine & Special Driveline Technology at ZF. "Thanks to the modular design of connect@rail, the functions of OnTrack Monitoring can be optimally integrated into our platform. Our customers benefit from this – because they now have access to a turnkey solution from a single source. This helps us make an essential contribution to improving the safety and efficiency of rail mobility."
"Digitalization is not a megatrend for us, but a way of meeting the challenges that today's rail industry faces. We are delighted that we can support our customers together with ZF, while also help increase the competitiveness and the performance of the rail system," adds Paulo Santos, Managing Director of Schunk Transit Systems.
Cooperation is another important step in ZF's strategy of establishing a comprehensive technology ecosystem for the rail sector – for reliable, safe, and clean rail mobility.