Unfortunately, for several decades there have been inconclusive efforts of European railway companies to replace the historically evolved screw coupling connecting individual coaches by modern and more easily manageable couplings (e.g.: central buffer coupling, Z-AK). At shunting yards of cargo transport enormous resources of personnel are needed to disconnect and connect couplings, and physically heavy and partly dangerous work is involved.
The work of uncoupling and coupling is to be replaced or supported by an automation solution similar to a robot. Due to very fast developing technologies in the field of sensor systems and handling techniques this project should make clear if a new attempt may have realistic chances of success. The focus of study lies on the question of uncoupling (“Langmachen”) and on the question of uncoupling coaches in front of the hump.
Aims of the project are therefore (1) technical and corporate / organisational requirement analysis, (2) search for approaches to sensor systems and handling technique, (3) technical and organisational solutions regarding employment protection legislation, and (4) research of cost effectiveness and further effects. The project is to provide an authoritative basis for decision-making by means of constructions showing how promising a continuation of the project is.
Methods in use are in-depth research work and workshops with experts for an analysis of requirements and in search of possible solutions. Technical solutions are to be selected in the mechanical part by means of systematic analysis and a breakdown in sub-processes with correspondent kinetic simulation in the work environment. Concerning sensoric and IT, on the basis of newest experience with autonomous systems algorithms are adapted and simulated in parts, and the necessary architecture is described. Regarding employment protection legislation a technical and organisational concept securing safety is developed on the basis of a comprehensive analysis.
The targeted result of the project is a basis for decision-making showing how the idea of a coupling robot can promisingly be continued to pursue.