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Wabtec develops metal 3D printing capabilities

21 January 2022
Reading time ~ 3 min
SLM800 3D printer at the Wabtec engineering center in Pittsburgh
SLM800 3D printer at the Wabtec engineering center in Pittsburgh. Source:
Belov Sergey, Editor-in-Chief, ROLLINGSTOCK Agency
Reading time ~ 3 min
Litvintsova Olga, Editor of International Projects, ROLLINGSTOCK Agency

USA: Recently, an American manufacturer has launched several sites for the production of components using 3D printing. Wabtec plans to further develop additive manufacturing, increasing the production of parts to 25,000 units by 2025.

The company sees the development of 3D printing as a way to reduce the producing components cost. Wabtec also expects this technology to reduce production time and improve parts performance, including weight reduction.

Last June, Wabtec’s additive manufacturing centers in the US cities of Grove City and Erie, as well as in Bangalore, India, added another site, which is located on the innovative campus of the US Pittsburgh Airport. According to the Modern Machine Shop article, the new center of the company with an area of ​​about 3.3 thousand square meters is equipped with a large-format 3D printer SLM800, capable of producing parts with parameters of 50 x 28 x 85 cm. The technology lying behind the printer is called LPBF (Laser Powder Bed Fusion, laser welding in the powder layer), it uses metal powders to create more or less complex details. The Wabtec Center in Pittsburgh is focused on the production of aluminum components.

Locomotive engine control unit printed on SLM800 Locomotive engine control unit printed on SLM800. Source:

For example, in the past, a engine control unit of diesel locomotives was produced by soldering various machined parts, now, using a 3D printer, the part is printed as a whole, reducing production time and costs.

Sand pipe printed on SLM800 Sand pipe printed on SLM800. Source:

Similarly, a pipe for supplying sand under the wheelsets is printed on the printer. Additionally, to reduce weight, structural changes were made to the part, namely, a cutout was made inside.

Brake control panel printed on SLM800 Brake control panel printed on SLM800. Source:

Another detail is a brake control panel, which until then was assembled from 32 separate parts. The transition to 3D printing made it possible to produce a complete part and reduce its weight from 7 to 2.3 kg. It takes about 28 hours to assemble one panel, the printer can print six such parts at the same time.

The Wabtec Engineering Lab in Grove City also has metal 3D printing facilities. Here is a GE Additive H2 printer that prints components for locomotives, engines, vehicles and other products manufactured by Wabtec. In turn, at sites in Erie and Indian Bangalore, products from polymeric materials are printed. Thus, the engineering center opened in Bangalore in 2020 is aimed at both prototyping and production of small and medium series of components: adapters, protective cases for brake controllers, dispenser tips, sensor holders, etc.