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An empty water tank in a train in Serbia, a defective door on a train in Sweden and a cold start at -50 degrees Celsius in Russia. All of this information comes together in Stadler Rail’s fleet database. The data is collected by Stadler’s own RDS (Rail Data Services) remote analysis system which runs on one of Syslogic’s EN50155 railway computers.
Stadler Rail, in the town of Erlen in Switzerland, operates its commissioning center adjacent directly to the Zurich-Romanshorn main line. Seven test tracks are housed in a giant hall, 40 meters wide and 220 meters long, for Stadler Rail’s trains, which can be up to 200 meters long. The Swiss company is among the leading manufacturers of rail vehicles and has almost twenty subsidiaries worldwide.
All vehicles, which are manufactured at Bussnang and Altenrhein, are tested and commissioned in Erlen. Stadler supplies vehicles globally. The best known models are FLIRT (Flinker Leichter Innovativer Regional Triebzug) and KISS (Komfortabler Innovativer Spurtstarker S-Bahn-Zug).
During our visit in Erlen, three FLIRT trains were in the process of being commissioned for Serbian Railways. It is easy to grasp what a logistical and technical feat building such a train is when in the giant hall. Stadler employees can be seen stooping over open switch cabinets in the FLIRT for Serbia, connecting the lighting or conducting software tests with their laptops. One track further, a double-decker KISS composition is being polished to a brilliant shine with a polisher.
Early Planning for Maintenance with Remote Analysis System
Once a train is rolled out, things are not yet over for Stadler. Using its own remote analysis system, RDS (Rail Data Service), Stadler monitors its trains during the entire warranty period. RDS supplies diagnosis and operating data as well as process values and stores them in a fleet data base. Diagnostic data, for Stadler, is, for instance, reports or errors from a train; process data includes data such as the train speed or the pantograph’s condition; and operating data, for example, gives information about the number of operating hours, the number of times the doors have opened or the kilometers driven. With this useful field data available to them, Stadler can recognize technical problems early on. Andreas Büchi, the RDS product manager who leads a team of 10 computer engineers, says: "RDS gives us very exact information about the condition of our trains." The system detects potential vulnerabilities and shortens the time we need for intervention.
In addition, the maintenance intervals can be exactly planned with RDS. According to Büchi, there are many customers who do not have reserve rolling material. These customers are dependent on all maintenance work being performed during a train’s switching time or in the night. Such time-critical work can be precisely planned with RDS. Stadler Rail also offers the remote analysis system as a managed service once the warranty period is over, and customers are increasingly taking advantage of this. Büchi says: "Currently, 600 Stadler vehicles are equipped with RDS."
RDS Is Operated on a Certified EN50155 Railway Computer
RDS is installed on the so-called RCU (rail communication unit) in the vehicle. Even when RDS is not relevant to security, the RCU must comply with the high standards of the railway industry, EN50155 TX Class. To do this, Stadler chose a unit from the European embedded specialist, Syslogic, that was specifically developed for railway applications. The Syslogic EN50155 railway computers feature a galvanized, separate storage input and threaded M12 plugs. The railway computers also are set up for an infeed voltage of 16.8 to 45 volts and can keep up with electrical feed fluctuations typical for trains. For position determination and data transfer, the railway computer is equipped with GPS and GSM/UMTS functions. With versatile interfaces such as RS232, RS422/RS485, CAN and Ethernet, a flexible system connection is also possible.
An important criterion in the evaluation of the railway computer was the extended temperature range of –40 to +75 degrees. Andreas Büchi says that: "Our trains are used around the world, so extreme temperatures are usual occurrences. The first KISS compositions, for instance, have just been delivered to Russia, where cold starts at very low temperatures occur." To be certain that the computers also functioned perfectly under Russian conditions, the Syslogic tests were performed according to the Russian GOST norm which includes cold starts at –50 degrees Celsius.
Stadler supplies its FLIRT compositions throughout the entire world.
Stadler supplies its FLIRT compositions throughout the entire world. Here, two vehicles for the Serbian Railway.
At the commissioning center in Erlen in Switzerland, all vehicles from the Swiss production are tested and commissioned.
The rail communication unit is built into the driver podium.
Syslogic, one of the few European embedded manufacturers, fabricates its products exclusively in-house, including the SMD assembly.
Stadler counts on the railway computer from the embedded specialist Syslogic for its rail communication unit.
Stadler’s headquarter in Bussnang, Switzerland.
Stadler’s commissioning center in Erlen in Switzerland.
The railway standard defines not only the temperature range but the ability to withstand shock and vibration as well. Syslogic guarantees high functioning safety at constant vibrations in its railway computers. This is achieved through a smart design, which completely eliminates movable parts, and ingenious test algorithms. Thanks to the various tests which have to be completed by every Syslogic product, potential field outages are drastically minimized. That is why the Syslogic railway computer is among the most reliable and robust on the market and is well suited for using with rolling stock.
Long Availability Is Important in the Railway Sector
One criterion which was ultimately decisive, and why Stadler chose Syslogic, is long-term availability. Andreas Büchi says: "The predecessor product from another supplier was discontinued after just a few years, contrary to expectation, which was very disappointing."
According to Büchi, trains usually have a service life of 30 years or more. That’s why long-term availability is a central point for Stadler, because arbitrarily discontinued equipment results in time-consuming and costly requalifications. Syslogic has been supplying the railway branch for years, and experience has shown that the company’s products are available far beyond ten years. Syslogic is, for instance, still able to supply computers from the eighties today.
Florian Egger, sales manager at Syslogic, says: "We can deliver 20 years of shape, fit and function upon request." At Syslogic, extended availability for products is already being considered in the development phase, according to Egger. The company only uses components which will be available long-term. For example, only processor platforms are used which are listed in an embedded roadmap guaranteeing availability for ten years or more. Another reason why the product life cycle at Syslogic is longer than with other suppliers is because it has in-house production and, above all, because of its vertical range of manufacture. Syslogic is one of the few European companies in the embedded sector which assembles its CPU boards itself. The company has its own SMD assembly. Thanks to this in-house manufacturing, Syslogic can make reliable prognoses regarding availability in contrast to other suppliers who, for example, finish a board made in Asia with their own housing.
Andreas Büchi, Stadler RDS product manager, says: "We are convinced that we have found a supplier with Syslogic that shares our views concerning long-term availability and meets our requirements."
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