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SKF has launched the IMx-R, an onboard condition monitoring system designed to increase reliability and safety, while cutting maintenance time and costs in rail applications.

The IMx-R can be used as part of a train’s bogie condition monitoring system or as a standalone unit for remotely monitoring and gathering data while the train is in full service – even on extremely high-speed trains – for the early detection of defects to reduce component damage or complete failure, eliminating expensive downtime.

The system provides the data to help rail operators establish an effective preventative maintenance strategy, allowing them to perform repair work during planned stops.

This also helps to extend maintenance intervals and eliminates unexpected downtime and costs, resulting in increased bogie uptime.

Furthermore, the data collected by the IMx-R enables root cause failure analysis to be conducted, helping to prevent recurring problems and failures through equipment improvements and redesigns.

The system has been specifically developed to detect any deterioration in the condition of axlebox and drive bearings, or any rotating component by monitoring the temperature and/or its dynamic frequencies.

If any faults are detected, the system then communicates a diagnostic message to the train operator and indicates the need for operational restrictions when necessary, depending on the extent of the bearing damage.

The IMx-R detects and analyses the dynamic frequencies of rollers and inner ring raceways of axlebox and drive bearings, as well as toothed wheels using geometry data and shaft speed.

As a result, minor geometry bearing differences, such as spalls, can also be identified particularly early through the analysis of the generated frequency spectra.

In addition, IMx-R can detect the wheel condition, the bogie instability and the possibility of derailment.

SKF said the system fulfils the requirements of the European Technical Specification for Interoperability (TSI) Directive 96/48 EC, which stipulates that the monitoring of the running stability must be continuous or at a frequency to provide reliable and early detection of damage.

The company also offers a range of other condition monitoring technologies for railway applications, including vibration sensors for the consistent monitoring of traction motors and gearbox components, such as bearings and toothed wheels, as well as shafts and couplings.

Gearbox oil level, temperature and condition can also be monitored either as part of the bogie condition monitoring system or independently.

Combined with a global positioning system, the information from the axlebox vibrations and the bogie condition monitoring system can be used to profile the track in order to accurately determine the deterioration of the track as seen by the wheel sets over time.

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