The Anonymous Widower

Zero Carbon? Not Here! Carbon-Fibre Bogie Frame

When I was at University in the 1960s, the big UK engineering project was the Rolls-Royce RB-211 turbofan engine.

One of the features of the engine was a carbon-fibre fan blade, which saved weight and thus made the engine lighter and more efficient.

However the blades were found to shatter with bird strikes and titanium had to be used instead.

At Liverpool University, we knew something was wrong, as a fellow student on our course was the son of the Manager of Tesco in Derby. What used to happen to Tesco’s out-of-date chickens? They ended up at Rolls-Royce, where they were used to test jet engines for bird-strikes. He told us the story of the failed testing one liquid lunch-time.

That was over fifty years ago and the RB-211 has morphed into the successful Rolls-Royce Trent engine, which first ran in 1990 and is still going strong.

Carbon-fibre has gone its own way and is used in many applications from cars to tennis rackets and golf clubs.

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Rail Engineer.

The article describes work at Birmingham University to create a carbon-fibre bogie frame.

This paragraph from the article describes the outcome.

A major achievement is that the mass of the frame as built is 350kg, compared to the steel equivalent of 936kg. By the time the metal fittings were installed and paint applied, the mass had increased to 940kg compared with the steel equivalent of 1468kg, a reduction of over half a tonne per bogie.

Lighter bogies mean lower track-access charges.

I will be interesting to see how this project ends, when a prototype has been running in a real train.

April 11, 2020 - Posted by | Transport | , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. I thought the bigger problem with the RB211 carbon fibre blades was that the resin softened when it got hot [in operation] and the blades lost their shape.

    Comment by R. Mark Clayton | April 12, 2020 | Reply

  2. They certainly failed!

    Comment by AnonW | April 12, 2020 | Reply

  3. Interesting! I have worked on Carbon Fibre in both Aerospace and Motor Sport areas. I do not believe the bogy frames will survive a derailing due to impact shattering. Most designers make a point about saving weight. This is not necessary on railway carriages or motorised stock. Carbon has a directional load gradient. Traditional ideas of stresses on todays manganese steel rails must have stopped when civil engineers worried about steam engine out of balance loads. I hope the parts are tested under realistic operating conditions. I too worked on the RB211 Turbine rotors. We made the rotor centres out of a very tough nickel alloy. Virtually impossible to machine, but we got paid on cost plus, so plenty of bonus money.

    Comment by jagracer | April 12, 2020 | Reply

  4. Thanks for the insight, into what must be one of the most successful British designs. I worked at ICI Plastics in the 1970s and some of the promising concepts, they were working on, still haven’t seen commercialisation.

    Comment by AnonW | April 12, 2020 | Reply


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