The winners of the "DITECFER Railway Innovation Contest 2020" - 6th edition

DITECFER > ERCI > The winners of the “DITECFER Railway Innovation Contest 2020” – 6th edition
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  • Veronica Bocci

The 6th edition of the “DITECFER Railway Innovation Contest” has identified also this year its winners, that innovate the railway sector with three solutions in the field of preventive and predictive maintenance, thus confirming that one of the European challenges where the attention is focusing is that of maintainability, leading to more safety, more capacity and less costs.

Lucchini RS S.p.A. from Lovere (Brescia) has developed “Smarset®, an innovative product that provides a solution to the fact that today NDT inspection intervals of wheelsets are not based on the actual loading condition accumulated during the service life but are defined based on historical experience form previous vehicles. This may lead to a potential risk of wasting resources in unnecessary inspections or underestimating the actual loading conditions increasing the safety risk.

Smarset® optimizes the wheelset Nondestructive Testing (NDT) inspection intervals for a railway fleet based on the actual service conditions. This is achieved by a miniaturized telemetry module embedded on the axle body, that continuously measures the bending and torsion stresses. The acquired data is processed in real-time by a specific algorithm updating the wheelset load spectra that is then periodically delivered to a cloud storage. The load spectra that can be related to specific railway lines are then available to the customer through a Web portal for detailed analysis. Moreover, the data are used as an input to a crack propagation software “Starcrack®” that will calculate the propagation of a prospective small crack and the optimal inspection interval, for the used NDT inspection technique. Additional outputs from Smartset are the geotagging of overloads and their evolution over the time.

Smartset® generates benefits for the customer reducing the costs related to the NDT maintenance of the vehicles by optimizing the train stops for inspection. The Smartset® application does not need to be replicated on all wheelsets of all vehicles of a certain fleet running on the same railway network, because measurements coming from one Smartset® wheelset can be considered representative of all other wheelsets of the trainset of the same fleet. For the above reasons the cost impact derived by the installation of Smartset® remains low, while the benefits are amplified by the fleet size.

The first pilot projects have shown the possibility to double the mileage between inspections.


Rail Cargo Carrier Italy S.r.l. from Desio (Monza Brianza) has developed “Rail Cargo Augmented Inspector, powered by Space1”, the first ever application of Augmented Reality and smart glasses for railway field operations. The innovation is addressing the challenge of train inspection, a rail process still heavily paper-based, not standardized, not integrated into ERPs and with critical safety aspects.

Four are the main benefits provided by Rail Cargo Augmented Inspector: (1) agility, speed and reliability in the inspection process; (2) the inspector can work hands-free on field using voice commands, camera and sensors, assisted by remote experts and by technology to avoid paper reports, checklists and non-value-added activities; (3) the company can finally track these operations and leverage the power of data collected by camera, voice and sensors; (4) the customer has proof of evidence of the inspection performed.

The Innovation is providing tangible economic benefits to Rail Cargo Group and to its customers, together with benefits in terms of safety and reliability of inspective activity.

The innovation has been developed in collaboration with “OverIT S.p.A.” of the Engineering Ingegneria Informatica Group, that has developed the Space 1 platform and supplied the smart-glasses.


DIPSA Technes S.r.l. from Castel Maggiore (Bologna) has developed DSG – Defrost Spray Gun” – commercially known as “Iceguard”. Ice formation on the catenary, in fact, creates damages both to the infrastructure and to the rolling stock and influences the capacity of the line, leading to train cancellations and delays.

The action of the Railway Infrastructure Manager is usually “reactive”, while Iceguard allows a preventive maintenance ensuring higher reliability of the line, higher capacity and – at the same time – reduction in management costs.

“Iceguard” is used to spray with an extreme precision never seen before a special oil (95% biodegradable) on the contact wire of the overhead line to prevent the ice formation during the winter. The air-operated spray gun, managed by a robotic arm, is constantly positioned below the contact wire while the vehicle -on which the equipment is installed- runs along the track: this is key to perform the operation in the best way and to achieve the performance expected.

The innovation (patented) consists in the use of a laser scanner which detects the position of the wire (height and stagger) and a custom-made software which gives instructions to a robotic arm having the spray gun on its end. The arm moves the spray gun up/down and left/right thanks to electric motors. The machine does not touch the wire and it works with rain and snow conditions up to 50 km/h.

The machine is remotely operated by only one operator and allows remote uncrypted access for assistance in/from almost any part of the world. A web-based GIS portal will also allow the customer to analyse data (working speed, oil consumption, alarms, etc…) considering the location, performing remote diagnostic and generating working session reports.

In testing phase Iceguard has already been tested on over 500km of catenaries of lines managed by Infrabel, SNCF and KEOLIS. Future tests will prove Iceguard functionality with catenaries powered up to 3000 V DC.


The evaluations criteria of the Contest included: Innovative level of the product/service with respect to the state of the art; Economic benefits produced for the clients; Competitive advantage the Innovation brings/can bring to the candidate enterprise; Positive Societal impact the Innovation brings with respect to the Societal and Competitive Challenges defined at European and International level; Creation of the Innovation by networking (with other enterprises or research bodies); Effect scope (country, Europe, world – geographic aspects). Eligible innovations had to have a TRL over 6 in order to promote applicants’ capacity to bring innovative solutions to the market.