Maintenance, expansion – railways face rising costs

An innovative hi-tech robotic solution makes it possible to retain welding skills, and allow for
flexible maintenance and network cost planning…

The United Nations projects the global population will reach 9.7 billion people in 2050 with
68% living in urban areas – and the projected form of travel will be the greener, less
polluting, railways option.

However, many rail company revenues were hard hit during the COVID-19 lockdown and
today face increasing pressure on the maintenance, efficiencies and on the network
expansion front. Add to this the goal of reduced global emissions of carbon dioxide by 2030,
means less freight by road and more emphasis and pressure on rail networks, said Welding
Alloys Railways Services Expert Jamie Fata.

“This will come as no surprise to the railways industries worldwide but laying new track
means a lot of welding while existing track, crossings, and heads, also need hardfacing
maintenance against excessive wear,” added Jamie Fata. “Capital investment and increased
maintenance costs will play a large part in the decision processes of these rail companies in
the coming years. Utilising the right hardfacing welding technology will be key.”

And an added headache for the railways is the welding trade is suffering from a lack of
career uptake. Welding is no longer appealing to young people despite being a sought-after
skill. This developing skills shortage is most likely due to negative perceptions of the
profession including the health effects on the welder – toxic fumes, stressful welding
positions, and the like, warned Group Business Development Director for Consumables,
Bastien Gerard.

Faced with this, Welding Alloys developed an innovative solution making it possible to attract
and retain welders and keep in-house welding skills by reducing their exposure to toxic
fumes and physical stress. The solution is Flex, a collaborative robot (Cobot) solution
allowing hardfacing welding in direct collaboration with the welder.

“The Flex offers real positional comfort to the welder, peace of mind by keeping them
away from welding fumes while freeing them from binding tasks and allowing welders to
focus on more valuable activities,” said Welding Alloys Bastien Gerard. “Safety and time are
paramount in all rail operations and the replacement of tracks and crossings is costly and

time consuming. The Cobot solution meets the need to balance retaining skills to extend the
life of networks set against efficiencies and costs.”

Flex is a real evolution in the repair and maintenance of urban area rail networks,
which puts people and their knowledge at the heart of industrialisation, confirmed Bastien

Flex has been specially developed to carry out weld surfacing jobs. Hardfacing
operations by arc welding are essential and offer a true solution for restoring and extending
the life of rail networks. The Flex has a lightweight design and is compact, meaning it
can easily be deployed on site. Two adapters have been developed to place the Cobot as
close as possible to the area to hardface:

✔ For rails above ground, a mechanical clamp will take the shape of the rail. The Cobot will
then attach itself on this support via a base connector.
✔ On a lorry, a magnetic support can be fitted to transform it into a mobile welding station.

In order to retain flexibility, the welder can regain control at any time by disconnecting the
welding torch of the Cobot to perform manual operations (pointing, retouching, finishing,

“We understand transportation is the backbone of many countries and is based on the ability
to maintain and operate an efficient and economically viable railway system,” said Welding
Alloys Railways Services Expert Jamie Fata. “The question for railway networks now is how
to meet expectations in construction and maintenance and reduce costs? The answer is
easy-use integrated technology like the Flex With this Cobot solution it is no longer
about complicated machine programming, instead it just takes a few clicks to define the area
to be hardfaced and the welding technique, direction and inclination. Saves time and time is

Welding Alloys solutions are designed and developed to address specific customer needs,
based on data obtained from the industry for over 50 years. Knowledge, experience,
equipment, and an extensive range of welding consumables offers the flexibility to repair
tracks and crossings, resulting in significantly increased lifespan of these components with
substantial overall cost savings, confirmed Bastien Gerard.

“Welding Alloys offers economical solutions to wear problems caused by skidding, metal
smearing, braking, wheel spin and impact, material deformation, cornering, and general
abrasion,” said Railways Services Expert Jamie Fata. “Then there is the Cobot cost-saving
solution, Flex, future tech available today.”

Manufacturing Update