The ECA Solution to Keep Rail Transportation on Track

Anne-Marie Allard

Product Manager, Surface

The subway and city train cars we use in our day-to-day life are often in the background without much thought. What we do not realize is that, besides their transportation role, they are also meant to protect us. The structural integrity of these cars is of essence as they are used to efficiently transport millions of people in densely populated areas of major cities. Failure could lead to unbearable loss or damage. Fortunately, there’s a viable solution to keep commuters safe and on schedule.

Wheels, axles, bearing retainers and many other components make up some of the critical parts that demand regular inspection and maintenance starting with the initial inspection right after manufacture. In-service subways and trains are subject to vibration and shocks that, over time, can induce fatigue cracking in the welds holding the vehicle together. No one would want a subway car to have brake issues or malfunctioning doors due to failing welds or cracked components.


Such cracking is often tight and difficult to detect with the naked eye. Moreover, visual inspection of thousands of railcars would be an extremely slow task with potentially low repeatability between operators. With the constant increase in demand for rapid and effective public transportation, companies need to keep their trains up and running while ensuring that critical safety inspections are performed in an efficient and reliable manner. Other conventional inspection techniques such as phased array ultrasonic testing can offer the appropriate level of detection but require substantial surface preparation to deal with the fouled, painted or coated components commonly found on subways and trains.

Recent trials show that Eddyfi Technologies’ Eddy Current Array (ECA) inspection system is a reliable technique for routine assessments of subway and railcar welds and critical surfaces. ECA sensors can be optimized for different materials and packaged to conform to the variety of complex geometries found on railcars. These optimized sensors ensure proper contact and high-quality data for a large number of areas of interest. Being a digital technology, recordability and condition monitoring over time are other great benefits of ECA, on top of its high probability of detection.

Inspection solutions can vary slightly depending on the materials, geometry of the area under inspection, and flaws of interest. Regardless, our experts are dedicated to helping you find the optimal and dependable solution that fits your needs. Whether you are manufacturing the railcars or operating them, contact us to learn more and discuss your inspection challenges.

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