The onboard Train Support System is based on a Generator Sensor Bearing. It records information relating to the condition of bearings, wheelsets and rail tracks, and transmit this information to a higher level control system.
The Train Support System is based on the FAG axlebox bearing, which can be used with an integrated Generator Sensor Bearing (GSB) as a self-sufficient energy source in rail freight wagons. Schaeffler developed the system electronics and software and then integrated these in the GSB, forming an onboard unit.
Used in combination with an information management system, the GSB enables line operators and rail companies to improve track safety, whilst optimising freight logistics. A wide range of different signals are recorded in the GSB and transmitted to a central computer via GPS. The evaluated data forms the basis for rail supervision systems, as well as online timetable generation, routing, process and risk analysis, localisation, length of retention and so on.
Similar to a dynamo, the GSB induces the required electric power via the rotational movement of permanent magnets located on the wheel axle. This power is typically around 100W at a nominal voltage of 24V. Therefore, an independent, self-sufficient energy source is available, which, via an electric storage unit, enables additional functions, such as the automatic opening of train doors or the detection of switches and sensors.
For the Train Support System, the GSB has been refined with a sophisticated electronic system into an onboard unit and connected this with a higher-level information management system. So the signals are not only recorded and processed in the bearing, but are also transmitted via GPS satellite technology.
In the past, such onboard units were not possible to develop, particularly in freight trains. Supply of data using satellite technology only works with an independent, self-sufficient energy supply system. “This is now available due to Schaeffler’s Generator Sensor Bearing. Communication of messages via satellite opens up new possibilities for optimising freight haulage logistics and for enhancing transport safety,” said Bernd Gombert, Head of Mechatronic Systems at Schaeffler.
The sensors integrated in the bearing not only record data on the condition of the axlebox bearing, such as wear or excessive heat, but also determine and monitor other characteristics such as mileage, speed, temperature and noise, which enables conclusions to be made about the condition of wheels, bogies and rail tracks. This means that even the condition of butt joints and switches in the rail network can be monitored.
The evaluation of the data recorded in the bearing also enables the monitoring and optimisation of traffic and goods flow, as well as wagon availability, location tracking and the calculation of track utilisation costs, taking into account the loads, number of axles, time and distance.
The Train Support System is an important step on the road towards a railway guidance system. For example, there are plans for it to be integrated in the European Train Control System (ETCS) designed for European rail traffic. Initial tests are currently being conducted with Finnish Rail. In addition to GPS data collection (i.e. the localisation of individual freight wagons) the entire logistics chain can now be analysed. Transported goods are tracked via satellite and this knowledge of their current whereabouts enables optimised utilisation of routes and containers or freight wagons.