What happens when two financial juggernauts in the same industry combine? It seems we are about to find out. Just a few weeks ago, it was confirmed that Wabtec Corporation is entering a definitive agreement to merge with GE Transportation, a branch of General Electric Company. This major transaction will not only boost Wabtec into a Fortune 500, global transportation leader in rail equipment, software, and services, but it will significantly influence the direction of 3D printing with regard to the railway industry as well.
3D printing has cemented itself as a core component in the evolution of railway manufacturing and equipment over the last several years, with several agencies and companies investing research and development resources into exploring further applications for the technology. The Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has integrated 3D printing technology as a cost-effective method of creating and developing parts for the train system, including the ticket gates, ticket vending machines, and even the railways themselves as well as other assets across the metro network. In 2013, rail freight operator Union Pacific (UP) began experimenting with 3D printing to create handheld automatic equipment identification (AEI) devices to ensure that rolling stock is properly tracked and assembled. UP has also implemented 3D printing processes to greatly accelerate their production cycles, with parts now able to be 3D printed within mere hours.