DB produced its first 3D printed component - a simple coat hook - at the end of 2015 and has so far printed more than 1000 spare parts of various types. More than 2000 components will be printed by the end of this year, and 15,000 by the end of the end of next year.
DB says all components are subjected to rigorous evaluation, including fatigue testing, before approval for use on its rolling stock.
With their layered construction, 3D-printed components can be optimised to reduce the risk of failure. While the first components were made exclusively of plastic, DB says it is now using powder printing to produce metal parts.
In addition to maintenance, DB is exploring other possible applications for 3D printing, such as improving wayfinding for passengers with reduced mobility. 3D printed signs are currently being trialled at Berlin Main Station.
An interview with DB’s project manager for 3D printing Mrs Stefanie Brickwede can be viewed here.