Hitachi Rail is one of the globe’s leading rolling stock manufacturers, with a rich company history that stretches back over 100 years. By developing and supplying innovative and first-class technology and products, Hitachi’s vision is to answer society’s challenges and meet them head-on.
Hitachi Rail recently invested £5 million into its Newton Aycliffe site to construct a new industrial space coined “Aspire”. Since its opening in September 2015, this takes the total factory investment to over £100 million, creating more than 700 permanent jobs and further roles in its supply chain.
Airblast Eurospray approached Hitachi Rail UK at Chicago’s FABTECH convention in December 2019. Impressed with our body of work in the rail sector, and especially the installation at Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group, a contract was signed to install a new comprehensive blast room to treat rolling stock. On the 22nd of June 2021, Airblast Eurospray commissioned the comprehensive blast room housed inside the “Aspire” building.
The rolling stock is manufactured and transported on a rail system. The blast room was built around one of these rails. Once the carriages are assembled, they are manoeuvred to the blast room to be processed.
Hitachi’s new blast room is designed to be as efficient and reliable as possible to meet production targets. The blast room features an end-to-end full sweep recovery floor, multi-axis blast lifts situated on each wall, and an integrated pit for blasting underneath the carriages for complete surface coverage. Outside the blast room, the grit wash and elevator were designed and installed with maintenance platforms for quick and easy access to their internal components. Finally, to make this facility fully comprehensive, it is entirely ATEX compliant.
The integrated blast pit inside the blast room allows operators to access the undercarriage of the rolling stock for processing. The recess provides ample head clearance for operators inside and complete surface coverage. When the pit is not in use, its floor can be raised to match the height of the adjacent sides of the blast room.
We recommended the sweep abrasive air flex recovery floor solution to Hitachi for its best-in-class abrasive recovery. This is a system designed for high output blasting with minimal downtime. When the facility is in operation, the reclamation system works actively underneath the feet of those blasting inside. As a result, there is a continuous circulation of media without any labour assistance, which would be time consuming and inefficient.
As an object is blasted, abrasive falls through steel grating into a traversal corridor. Once there, a series of flexible scraper blades attached to steel combs pushes the abrasive to the grit wash. The grit wash separates viable abrasive from spent abrasive and filters out dust; this is achieved through a vibrator sieve and air wash. Large contaminants and spent abrasive are diverted to a collection bin, and dust is transported to the dust collector. Viable abrasive then flows into the blast machines for use.
The abrasive used in the facility is high-quality stainless-steel grit. Compared to other abrasives, stainless steel offers a better finish, faster cleaning action, and durability. While steel abrasive has a higher initial cost, it is much less friable – as a result, steel grit can go through the blast machine more than 2000 times before it degrades, which makes it more economical over its lifetime.
One of the fundamental challenges of this project was ensuring that operators had optimal surface coverage for processing while being health and safety compliant. In addition, the carriages themselves were huge; erecting scaffolding to gain access to areas of the carriage would have been time-consuming and inefficient.
Airblast incorporated a new innovative access platform in its designs to work around this problem, the multi-axis blast lift. Designed from the ground up to be used in an active blast environment, the blast lift can traverse both the X and Y-axis of the blast room’s wall and features an extendable arm that projects the platform out from the wall for complete coverage.
The multi-axis blast lifts allow operators to access both the sides of the carriage and its roof without the need to leave the platform. All the lift’s controls can be manipulated inside a protected cavity behind the guard rails. This single innovation dramatically increases the facility’s throughput and makes blasting more convenient for operators inside.
Airblast is proud to have worked alongside one of the world’s leading rolling stock manufacturers by supplying a technically excellent rolling stock blast room and contributing to the Northern Powerhouse. Construction of these facilities now gives the means of production back to manufacturers, allowing them to meet demand, grow, and provide employment for local communities.