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Sensors can solve weight distribution issues in rail freight wagons

Lithuanian company Viezo is working on sensors for the weight monitoring of freight wagons. Loading wagons too heavy on one side can lead to derailments, which has happened in the past. Like all of Viezo’s sensors, the sensors will be powered by vibration energy harvesting, a technology with very low maintenance needs.

As an IoT solution provider, Viezo sees a viable opportunity in accurately monitoring the weight distribution in freight wagons as it was a cause for quite a few derailments over course of history. To install weight monitoring, companies must access hard to reach places, this becomes very hard and costly over time. That is why Viezo is planning to develop a fully self-sustainable solution to solve this challenge.

Weight distribution

Vytautas Jaskevicius, co-owner of Viezo: “we talked to a lot of railway companies, and there is a big need for a solution to see whether wagons are loaded correctly, and if the weight distribution is right. When that is not the case, it is one of the things that can cause derailments”. The reason for this it that the wheels on one side will have a lot more more degradation, which can lead to derailment. It is also bad for tracks if wagons are loaded with too much weight on one side.

The sensors are to be placed under the wagon, near the axis and next to the springs. At least four sensors per wagon are needed, but eight to get the best measurements, explains Jaskevicius. The sensors will be powered by their vibration energy harvesting technology called PolyFilm, in which Viezo specialises and also uses for their other IoT sensors. This is one of the advantages, says Jaskevicius. “The weight sensors are placed in quite hard-to-reach places, and vibration harvesting is perfect for that. After being fitted, there is no maintenance needed and no costly battery replacements.”

Railway solutions

Monitoring and predictive maintenance will play a huge role in Europe’s Rail sustainability goals. Predictive maintenance will help in keeping rolling stock as efficient as possible and always on the rail, with very few, planned and short stops to provided required maintenance. Jaskevicius: “These solutions will help railways become even more safer and efficient than it is today. Railway operators will be able to spend more resources on other challenges, as full monitoring and maintenance will be provided by IoT service providers.”

Next to distribution of weight in freight carriages, overall monitoring will also help in areas such as brake system monitoring, tracking cargo/containers, and weather condition monitoring in risky areas of the railtracks. Viezo is currently in talks with railway companies to launch pilots for the weight distribution sensors this year. Then, the sensors can be used and tested on the wagons of railway customers. The brake monitoring as well as asset tracking (such as container tracking) sensors are already in the middle of the developing stage, and are planned to be tested around the summer.

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Author: Esther Geerts

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