ProPhotonix delivers digital lasers for train wheel inspection systems

Wheelwatcher system partially funded by EU Horizon 2020 program to improve region’s innovation economy


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ProPhotonix Limited, a high technology designer and manufacturer of LED illumination systems and laser diode modules based out of Salem, NH with operations in Ireland and the United Kingdom, announced a new application of its digital lasers, having delivered an initial set of eight prototype laser modules for use in a new wheel wear monitoring and control system.

The system, Wheelwatcher, will provide rail transport operators with accurate and real-time information to improve preventive maintenance of rail systems, which may also enhance rail safety.

The Wheelwatcher system is being developed by a consortium of European partner companies and is partially funded by the EU Horizon 2020 program. EU Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe’s global competitiveness through funding research and innovative to achieve economic growth and jobs, with an emphasis on excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges. 

ProPhotonix has provided its expertise in laser module design and manufacturing while other consortium partners include a high precision mechatronic system builder (Danobat Group), a thermoelectric cell manufacturer (Dr. Neumann Peltier-Technik), a research center specializing in machine vision systems (IK4-Ideko), and an end user (Euskotren), a train operating company in the Basque Country of Northern Spain.

The new wheel wear monitoring and control system is designed to operate in extreme climatic conditions within a temperature-regulated enclosure. The laser module designed by ProPhotonix features thermo-electric control to maintain the laser diode temperature in varying climatic conditions ensuring that output power and wavelength stability remain constant. The laser module also incorporates a host of digital control and monitoring features allowing the end user to set operating parameters appropriate to local conditions and to maintain multiple lasers at remote, on-track locations from a central control point.

“ProPhotonix has more than 15 years of experience with laser diode technology and has developed significant design and manufacturing expertise over this time,” said Jeremy Lane, managing director of ProPhotonix Limited UK. “Working in close co-operation with our partners, this expertise has allowed us to successfully deliver an innovative laser module solution for this challenging application. Upon completion of extensive field testing and refinement, Wheelwatcher is expected to be commercialized in the summer of 2018 with ProPhotonix supplying laser modules for installations throughout Europe and worldwide in 2019 and beyond. In addition, the various features and technologies developed for Wheelwatcher are intended for broader applications and customer requirements.”

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