Meidensha: Creating a better future with our people and technology.

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This content is a reprint of "Meidensha: Creating a better future with our people and technology"
that was posted in the Nikkei Online Edition from March 2018 to April 2018.

This content is a reprint of "Meidensha: Creating a better future with our people and technology"
that was posted in the Nikkei Online Edition from March 2018 to April 2018.

Pursuing greater safety and stability in railway transportation./明電舎

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Stage4 Pursuing greater safety and stability in railway transportation. 鉄道電化が1000kmに及ぶマレーシア架線トラブルの悩みを解決する切り札

Asia has become a center of global growth. As the economies of ASEAN countries grow, development of social infrastructure is accelerating proportionally. Rail is one type of infrastructure that carries large volumes of people and goods, while at the same time relieving road congestion. It is not enough to develop and expand rail networks for safe and secure rail transport, but high quality maintenance is also required after construction. Meidensha solves maintenance issues with its unique technology. How has this technology been utilized for the development of railways, bearing the future of so many people? We have made a research in one of the largest ASEAN cities, Kuala Lumpur (KL).

Atsushi Oikubo
Atsushi OikuboMEIDEN MALAYSIA SDN. BHD
KVMRT Project

“A measurement vehicle mounted with a camera and various sensors inspects the catenary while the vehicle travels on the tracks”. KTMB (Malayan Railways Limited) maintenance base in Kuala Lumpur. Sweating under the strong tropical sun, Atsushi Oikubo, Project Director, Meiden Malaysia's Rail System Division, has started explaining the equipment installed on the roof of the vehicle. This equipment inspects the catenary conditions and measures any faulty values. The catenary that provides power to the rail vehicle is in contact with the train’s pantograph. Constant friction between them causes the catenary wire to wear and may break over years. Since these can cause equipment faults and accidents, it is essential that the catenary be inspected regularly to ensure safe and stable railway operation.

In 2012, Meidensha was the prime contractor for power supply equipment for the KVMRT*1metro transport system that runs across KL. Under the Industrial Technology Cooperative Program (ICP)*2that was part of the contract, one set of the Overhead Catenary System (OCS) Inspection System was installed free of charge in 2017. The OCS Inspection System is a product that provides high-accuracy and highly efficient inspection of catenary, which has previously been performed visually and manually. KTMB had rated the OCS Inspection System very highly for its performance and had not taken one year before they decided to introduce 6 units.

Inspection equipment mounted on the roof of the inspection vehicle.
Provided with cameras and laser sensors, the equipment inspecst the catenary while running on the track.
A PC that is linked to the rooftop inspection equipment is set up inside the vehicle to collect measurement data.

The background to the quick evaluation of the OCS Inspection System by KTMB is a rapid development of the railway system. “The role of rail in land transport is growing year by year. The KTMB network now has more than 1000 kms of electrified stretches.” (says Mr. Oikubo) The prevention of catenary problems and maintenance for stable railway operation is essential for economic growth. The OCS Inspection System can be said to be an ultimate solution to further development of the Malaysian railway.

*1KVMRT: Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (KVMRT) is an urban transportation system that runs for 51 km east-west across the capital Kuala Lumpur. An urban transportation system traversing the capital city Kuala Lumpur 51 km east to west. The whole line was opened on July 17, 2017.

*2Industrial Technology Cooperative Program (ICP): A program stipulated in large-scale Malaysian projects that requires a return to the Malaysian state in the form of systems and services of the value proportinal to the contract amount. This has been implemented by the Technology Depository Agency Berhad (TDA) under the policy guidance of the Ministry of Finance (MOF).

Through its use, a catenary inspection speed more than 240 times faster than conventional visual inspection was achieved. Through its use, a catenary inspection speed more than 240 times faster than conventional visual inspection was achieved.

Formerly, visual and manual inspection work required 8 hours for 2km of inspection. The OCS Inspection System, mounted on the rail vehicle, performs inspection on a running rail vehicle. The type delivered by Meidensha in Malaysia has an inspection speed of 60km/hour, permitting a section of 480km to be inspected in 8 hours of operation. Simply calculated, this means an inspection speed of 240 times that of visual inspection.*3

“The biggest feature of the OCS Inspection System is the combined function to display the catenary condition in charts digitized by image processing and to display the correstponding visual images to those charts side by side”. Masaru Muramatsu, Deputy General Manager, Rail System Business Engineering Division. emphasizes the advantage of this function. "From the charts we could identify faulty locations of the catenary numerically, but these are only digital data, and in the end we had to go onsite to check those sections visually. On the other hand, if photographic images are available, we can check the catenary conditions without going to the site, but that is insufficient to identify thet faults numerically." It is only by having a function that collects both the numeric and image data for the inspection section, while moving at high speed, that it has become possible to accurately assess the catenary conditions remotely, and thus contribute to increased maintenance accuracy and efficiency.

Masaru Muramatsu
Masaru MuramatsuRail System Business
Engineering Division
Rail System Business Unit
Meidensha Corporation
走行しながら検測し、異常の検出を行う
Photographic image (left) and digitized inspection result (right). Permits linked comparison of the images and numbers, without error.
*Images are for illustration purposes only.

Technology for industral equipment to identify exact positions for accurate assembly was used in the development of the OCS Inspetcion System.
Muramatsu recalls, “it was actually the long-term practice of Philip Kotler’s ‘Innovation A-to-F’ model that contributed to these results.” Involvement by specialists in various fields who were responsible for innovation has resulted in the technology to be established and the product to be commercialized.

*3In fact the inspection is actually conducted during the few hours between the operation of the last train and the first train of the day. It cannot run continuously for 8 hours.

First utilized in the Kyushu Shinkansen.
We will utilize AI technology to enhance
the catenary inspection equipment even better.

The OCS Inspection System was first used in the Kyushu Shinkansen that commenced service on the Kagoshima Route in 2004. The maximum speed on the Kyushu Shinkansen is around 260km/h. Because catenary inspection can be performed during commercial timetable operation with the equipment mounted on a in-service rail vehicle, maintenance can be conducted very efficiently. Since then, the Catenary Eye has been widely adopted, mainly by Japan’s private railways.

Exchange of views with the Malaysian Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) about their future strategies

The technology continues to evolve even after commercial use. The first product did not have catenary wear measurement that is a standard inspection item now, and there were 6 inspection items such as height and deviation. In the latest model, more than 16 items are inspected, including changes in the force of contact between catenary and pantograph.  In future, we plan to inspect all peripheral equipment that can be captured on camera, such as overhead wire hangers and the insulators. In addition, Mr. Muramatsu says “we intend to introduce artificial intelligence (AI) to achieve equipment diagnosis using deep learning”.

The OCS Inspection System, already widely used in the advanced railway nation of Japan, is now being employed in other countries. Besides Malaysia, there are installations in China, Taiwan and Singapore. Naoto Kojima, Assistant Manager, Rail System Business Sales Division, tells us that “we are pursuing sales inquiries mainly from Asia. Our website receives many inquiries from overseas railway operators”.

Of course, the process to an order is not always smooth. The OCS Inspection System is excellent in performance, but overseas tender conditions sometimes require pricing adjustments and local content in constituent parts. Mr. Kojima says that “clearing these obstacles is an issue for the future”. We have good products, but it does not mean that they will always be adopted. However, with a gleam in his eyes, Mr. Kojima says “We are gradually becoming more accepted as we increase our installations. In future we aim to achieve installations in the birthplace of rail, Europe.”

Naoto Kojima
Naoto KojimaRail System
Business Sales Division
Rail System Business Unit
Meidensha Corporation

Summary.

Electric railways, with a history going back more than 100 years, are important infrastructure for the development of countries, regions and cities. Railways are indispensable for people to live securely and for companies’ long-term activities. Oikubo, who has been involved with the Asian rail systems business for more than 30 years, since his twenties, says, “I want to contribute to the local development of railways, including post-installation maintenance, over the long-term”. Meidensha also expects that Japanese technology will continue to contribute to the future of developing countries.

Overhead Catenary System (OCS) inspection system

Products for railway systems OCS inspection systems

Explanation of terms.

Evolution of rail and their catenaries.
In electric railways, the speeding up of commercial operations cannot be accelerated simply by improving vehicle performance. Through high-speed operation, the wiring and the pantograph connection becomes unstable, affecting the stability of power supply to the rail vehicles. If the pantograph detaches, arcing occurs between the pantograph and the overhead wires, leading to degraded wiring. To achieve high-speed rail operation, both wiring equipment and rolling stock performance have evolved. Also, accurate daily inspections that do not overlook wiring deterioration are required. Installation and inspection of wiring equipment that at first glance all appears the same, but requires knowhow accumulated through the long history of rail.
*Honorifics omitted.

Meidensha: Creating a better future with our people and technology.

  • Stage1 Powering the excitement.
  • Stage2 Protecting water resources and infrastructure that nurture the community.
  • Stage3 Driving force for a new automotive era.
  • Stage4 Pursuing greater safety and stability in railway transportation.
  • Stage5 AI for water treatment protection.
  • Stage6 Efficient energy management.
  • Stage7 Lightning Protection.
  • Stage8 IoT to protect from heavy rain.
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