Swindon facility tests rail products for rolling stock under a harsh regime of electrical, mechanical, thermal and environmental tests to reproduce real-world operating conditions
TE Connectivity (TE), a world leader in connectivity and sensors, has completed a major enhancement to its global rail business with the opening of a new, in-house Rail High Voltage (HV) Test Centre in Swindon. TE has created the new facility specifically to carry out electrical and mechanical tests on HV rail products for rolling stock applications, especially the roofline systems that provide the vital electrical connection between the overhead catenary wires and the transformers that supply the power for traction and other on-board loads.
“The majority of TE’s rolling stock products are tailored to suit specific customer requirements and specifications, so testing is a critical aspect of the design and development process. Plus, we need to verify that products meet the exacting requirements of international and national standards,” said Al Ghelani, general manager of the Rail division of TE's Industrial business unit. “Previously, most of this testing was carried out at external facilities, which was costly, time-consuming and inefficient. Our new test centre provides all the capabilities we need in-house, with the key benefit that we can reduce the time to market by around 30 percent as well as provide a faster response to customer needs.”
New product development and leadership in qualification under rail stresses
A key driver for the creation of the new Rail HV Test Centre is to reduce the time to market for new products. There can be long delays in arranging testing at external facilities, and since it is essentially a pass or fail process, it is not possible to use these tests to improve designs. However, TE’s in-house facility now enables testing to be fully integrated within the iterative design and development exercise.
The facility will enable TE to improve its designs for optimized manufacturing processes as well as establish a leadership position in the qualification of products under real-world rolling stock stresses that will feed into the development of new standards. It will also provide the capability for comparative benchmark testing against competitor products.
Verification, validation and qualification testing
The Rail HV Test Centre enables TE to carry out all the independent checks that provide the evidence that the product performs to its intended purpose. These tests are: Verification – to check that the product meets a set of initial design requirements or specifications; Validation – assurance that the product meets the needs of the customer’s requirements or specifications; Qualification – a formally designed series of tests for the functional, environmental and reliability performance sign-off by the customer
The Rail HV Test Centre houses all the equipment required to carry out the various combinations of electrical, mechanical, thermal, environmental and multi-stress tests that mimic the harsh conditions experienced by rail products fitted to rolling stock. One of the main elements in the facility is an impulse generator capable of delivering impulses up to 300 kilovolts (kV). The testing areas include: Automated transient endurance test; Automated thermal cycling test; Automated mechanical endurance test; Robot for multi-mechanical load tests on cable assemblies and jumpers; Flex test rigs for systems endurance; AC withstand and partial discharge test system; Impulse voltage test system; Immersion test – water tank with thermal cycling.