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Amtrak bridges the gap with carbon fiber

Carbon-fiber reinforced specialist Plasan Carbon Composites Inc. will produce the first commercial composite ramps and bridgeplates for Amtrak.

The ramps and bridgeplates make boarding trains easier, and more accessible, for passengers with disabilities, the elderly and people pushing strollers or heavy luggage.

Amtrak has placed an initial order for 190 units, following a project testing prototype bridgeplates.

Amtrak is redesigning and rebuilding platforms, station structures and parking lots at many stations to ensure they comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. One goal: lighter and better designed technologies for accessible boading.

Bridgeplates and ramps, stored at stations, are used to provide level boarding by passengers. Ramps, kept on trains, are used for uneven or bi-level boarding, or at shared-use platforms. The aluminum parts are heavy, which increases liability issues for the railway.

After Amtrak developed its own prototype tooling and units produced by RLE International of Madison Heights, Mich., the train service put the job out for bid, specifying bridgeplates weighing no more than 20 pounds and telescoping ramps with integrating, folding handrails that could weigh no more than 55 pounds.

Wixom, Mich.-based Plasan won the contract to make the new carbon fiber composite parts, both of which are made from five expoxy prepreg components. Plasan will make then using vacuum/bag autoclave, with additional bladders to produce hollow handrails.

Plasan will paint both types of parts and give them a scratch-resistant top coat and decals, plus apply a non-slip surface to the base.

See more on RLE's pilot program for Amtrak.

» Publication Date: 08/01/2018

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This project has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° [609203].

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