The highly versatile machine for predictive maintenance

The highly versatile machine for predictive maintenance


For the sake of economic efficiency, track construction and maintenance increasingly rely on a holistic approach that takes all relevant factors and parameters into account. The basis for this is high-resolution data of the individual track components. The precise and complete recording of the track, track bed, substructure, and environmental parameters is key to the timely, efficient. and cost­effective implementation of maintenance measures. This is exactly where the EM 120VT, Plasser & Theurer's universal track inspection vehicle comes in: it is designed to acquire comprehensive data for large-scale construction measures. The VT in the machine name stands for "Virtual Track", but it does more than just deliver an exact image of the track. This is what sets it apart from other track inspection vehicles: the data obtained by the EMl 20VT already provides the information about where on the line which intervention has to take place. 

Research partners

Measuring from A to Z

Outer track geometry: ReferencedTrackGeometry

By including fixed points in the maintenance process, the track remains in the desired position even after several maintenance cycles. The proven IMU-based track geometry measuring system calculates the track geometry between fixed points. Integrating fixed points enables verification of the absolute track geometry in space. With this data, a tamping machine can work according to the precision method, guided by fixed points. The labour-intensive and time-consuming manual work needed to calculate the absolute track geometry is a thing of the past. The fixed-point measuring system is essential to measuring the entire track infrastructure. This is particularly true of high-speed lines.

Rail profile measurement: profile determination and comparison with target profile

To determine and analyse the wear condition at the rail head, the EM120VT has laser sensors for rail profile measurement. At a maximum speed of 120 km/h, the sensors measure the current profile of the rail, which is then compared with the target profile on the computer. The software classifies the deviations according to predefined tolerance values.

Video inspection with automatic evaluation

The EM120VT has a monitoring system, including algorithms to automatically detect rail surface defects, missing or damaged fasteners, and sleeper defects. The system automatically detects missing or misaligned track components, such as fasteners and bolts, damaged rail joints (fish plates), and much more at measuring speeds of up to 120 km/h. The modular system can be configured to test specific elements for the customer's track infrastructure.

Overhead contact line geometry with radar technology

In addition to the position of the wire, the radar system also measures its height and offset or lateral position. The advantage of radar technology is obvious: it is perfectly usable regardless of weather conditions and solar radiation, unlike video-based systems. In addition, the system does not require any servicing. As a result, it is not necessary to access the vehicle roof.

Inner track geometry: InertialTrackGeometry

By determining the inertial measuring data, the inner track geometry can also be derived. This serves as proof of rerailing safety and track geometry quality. The non-contacting track geometry measuring system with integrated GPS navigation and optical gauge measuring records the track geometry by generating relative 3D space curves.

GPR: safe rail system and multi-channel system

What happens below the sleeper? GPR enables a comprehensive, complete exploration of the superstructure. Using the non-contacting method, electromagnetic waves penetrate the track to a depth of 2.5 m, are reflected according to the subsoil conditions, and recorded in radargrams. This allows the detection of parameters such as mud spots, degree of fouling, and boundaries between ballast bed layers. The EM120VT has two complementary GPR systems.

Digital Twin: a virtual twin of the track

The Digital Twin provides the basis for sustainable optimisation of the railway track which is particularly helpful for rerouting. A virtual world - the digital twin - reflects all relevant elements of the real track. This results in a consistent, database-assisted track model, containing a wealth of information and its interdependencies. The digital twin provides a high-quality data basis for planning according to BIM (Building Information Modeling). The virtual track is used to carry out holistic tests and develop optimisations.

Research projects: sounding out the future already today

Data will increasingly be used to sustainably optimise the track as a whole. That is why as a carrier vehicle the EM120VT is currently not only used for practical applications, but it also provides an ideal research environment for innovative technologies with high application potential. Developers test new technologies under real conditions during regular measuring runs. Here, data is collected and verified in order to use the results to improve the new systems, such as hollow layer detection (relative track geometry without load with chord system) and rolling mark detection.

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