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Revolutionizing Rail Operations with Focused Telematics
Pilot testing Clever Devices' AVM-SaaS and Graham White's Air Smart for remote viewing of consist air quality.
Unveiling the Critical Role of Pneumatics and Air Quality in Rolling Stock
Except for low-floor light rail vehicles, where hydraulics take precedence, pneumatics play a crucial role in the operation of various subsystems in rolling stock. Safety-critical systems, including friction brakes, suspension systems, horns, sanding systems, and pantograph systems, heavily depend on pneumatics. Additionally, ancillary systems like door operators, driver's seats, windshield wipers, and toilet modules frequently incorporate pneumatic components. Even in the context of increasing reliance on "blended" electro-dynamic braking, where traditional mechanical friction forces are reserved for lower speeds, spin/slide situations, or specific pneumatically initiated emergency scenarios, pneumatics remain an indispensable element for ensuring safe and efficient operations.
The role of air quality is crucial in pneumatic systems for several reasons. Moisture can lead to corrosion, and airborne contaminants like dust and oil can impact pneumatic performance. Any disturbance to the intricate "air quality chain" poses severe downstream risks to vital components like friction brakes, suspension systems, and other key pneumatically driven elements. These issues may surface abruptly or lead to prolonged deterioration of internal lubricants within the dynamic seals and surfaces of the pneumatic system.
The current limitations in dryer technology and testing metrics for pneumatic systems stem from fixed input parameters and static procedures, cannot adapt to changing environmental conditions, or account for real-world factors like desiccant bed degradation due to compressor oil carryover. Graham White's Air Smart dryers, integrated with Clever Devices' AVM-SaaS systems, represent a groundbreaking advancement. This technology allows for real-time monitoring and adaptation of pneumatic systems, eliminating the need for static air quality tests and offering autonomous operation for improved efficiency, with potential applications beyond pneumatic systems, transforming rail technology.
Understanding the Long History of Pneumatics in Rail
Before 1855, rail braking lacked a unified system or any technology able to control the management of braking on a Rail consist. Instead, braking relied on brakemen in incredibly dangerous positions. These men ran along the top of the cars, turning a wheel that drove a rudimentary mechanical beam system that applied friction to the wheel treads.
The emergence of vacuum and "straight pipe" or "straight air" pneumatics in the 1850s and 1860s revolutionized braking systems. This solution controlled braking via a rudimentary "train line" interconnected from the locomotive to the respective cars.
Although vacuum systems can still be encountered today in certain regions, particularly in developing countries, pneumatics has emerged as the definitive and prevailing choice. Even if George Westinghouse, the innovator of the straight air system from which Wabtec inherits its lineage, would likely find it challenging to grasp the intricacies of modern systems, the fundamental principle of utilizing air pressure to modulate the coefficient of friction against the wheelset has endured.
Challenges in Current Dryer Technology
Today's vehicular engineers face a delicate balancing act, considering factors such as air compressor size/weight constraints, performance, duty cycle, and air dryer operation. The air dryer, a crucial component, filters contaminants, preventing downstream maintenance issues.
Existing air dryer technology faces challenges such as fixed regeneration cycles, an inability to adapt to rapid environmental changes, and reliance on static measurement procedures. These limitations impact the dynamic realities of rail operations, potentially leading to inefficiencies and maintenance issues.
Compressed air contamination poses a significant challenge for rail operations, representing one of the major factors driving maintenance costs and potential extensions of maintenance cycles. Various sources, including atmospheric dirt, moisture, rust, and oil, contribute to this contamination. Any disruption in the intricate and balanced "air quality chain" can have catastrophic downstream effects on crucial components such as friction brakes, suspension systems, and other major pneumatically driven elements. Such issues can manifest suddenly or result in long-term degradation of internal lubricants within the dynamic seals and surfaces of the pneumatic system.
To delve further into this concept of "long-term degradation," it's essential to note that, irrespective of using ester-based oils or lithium soap-based lubricants, the actual wear no longer stems solely from mechanical operation but also from the accelerated deterioration of these lubricants due to moisture propagation and other air quality issues. This phenomenon has been substantiated through spectrographic and visual validation in numerous age-exploration programs conducted across a spectrum of rolling stock classes, encompassing both FRA-compliant and non-compliant authorities.
Core Problems with Current and Accepted Dryer Technologies and Testing Metrics
Current dryer technology and testing metrics currently involve relying on fixed initial input parameters grounded in assumptions of environmental averages. This signifies immovable time/regeneration cycles sans firmware changes, with no capacity to monitor or compensate for rapidly changing environmental conditions. These fixed cycle times also fall short in compensating for flooded/oversaturated regenerative towers during real-world environmental shifts, encompassing both silica and alumina-based desiccant mediums. Another critical limitation is the inability to account for desiccant bed degradation due to compressor oil carryover. The initial cyclic time intervals hinge on a presumption of a 100% perfect desiccant bed and do not consider potential degradation caused by oil contamination or other environmental factors.
Furthermore, the established methods for measuring air quality, which have traditionally relied on static procedures like APTA-PR-M-S-011, are now subject to reevaluation. For the first time, there is the capability to observe real-time air quality during revenue service, continuously monitoring and adapting to dynamic environmental inputs and responses as they unfold. This breakthrough marks a departure from the limitations of relying on potentially biased test procedures and results influenced by exaggerated and preferential static inputs inherent in static test environments.
Revolutionizing Pneumatic Systems with Air Smart Technology and the Power of Clever Devices AVM-SaaS Systems
The future has arrived with Graham White's groundbreaking Air Smart line of dryers, seamlessly integrated with the robust capabilities of Clever Devices' AVM-SaaS systems, ushering in a new era of pneumatic monitoring. This revolutionary pairing enables real-time observation and recording of pneumatic operational and environmental conditions, marking the first instance in history where dryer regenerative cycles can adapt live and automatically based on the actual operating environment.
This cutting-edge technology, complemented by a Clever AVM SaaS variant developed in collaboration with Mercedes Benz for heavy commercial vehicle telematics, presents an intuitive GUI screen tailored for the authority's maintainers. Live compilation of pneumatic data facilitates daily reviews across the fleet, with critical maintainers receiving prompt SMS or email notifications in the event of significant issues.
The autonomous operation of the system eliminates the need for costly, time-consuming, and marginally effective static air quality tests, functioning seamlessly in the background for every piece of rolling stock, every day, and every minute.
Collaborating with partners such as Graham White, Metra, and Metro North in this pilot development, we envision limitless potentials that extend maintenance intervals for subsystems, possibly surpassing the revered "3680" day maintenance interval standard. Moreover, the application of AVM SaaS extends beyond the pneumatic realm, serving as the initial venture into integrating heavy/commercial telematics into rail, promising a comprehensive transformation of rail technology.