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IET Award Innovation Finalist

Welcome to Railect

Railect

RAILECT is a collaboration between EU companies and research organisations with the objective to develop and produce a novel "clamp-on" ultrasonic testing device for the volumetric examination of aluminothermic rail welds. The system will ultrasonically inspect the weld, and classify it according to pre-determined quality criteria.

There are an estimated 11 million site aluminothermic welds on the European rail network with thousands of new welds (estimated at 300,000 to 400,000 annually) being made daily throughout Europe. These welds form the basis of 'continuous welded rail' (CWR) that is a common feature of the European rail system. Although the aluminothermic welding technique is well proven, it is none-the-less, a critical safety component of the rail infrastructure. An increase in rail speeds, density of rail traffic and freight train weights can now cause an increasing number of rail breaks across the European rail network.

The types of volumetric defects found in aluminothermic welds are those normally associated with gravity feed castings. They include shrinkage, hot tears, 'lack of fusion' slag inclusions and porosity. The main two types of weld failure are a vertical fracture associated with centre line shrinkage and split web or S fracture resulting from the cyclic nature of torsional stress in the rail web on curves in the track. The consequences of a single failure could result in the derailment causes lost of life and millions of Euros of cost.

Yet these welds are not volumetrically examined in any of the countries in the European Union as there is currently no suitable NDT technique due to the complex structure, geometry and thickness of the aluminothermic welds. The need for this project arises from the fact that breakages at rail welded joints occur when there are flaws in the weld. Hence, the RAILECT project is designed to deliver solutions for volumetric inspection of aluminothermic welds.

Detection of Weld Defects in Rails using Phased Array Ultrasonic Analysis Software