A robotic solution is helping French railways (SNCF) to maintain the armatures of its electric traction engines. During its working life of 20–25 years, a normal SNCF traction engine covers a distance of 6–7 million kilometres. While in service the engine undergoes regular inspection and examination. Should one of these periodic tests reveal unacceptable results relating to the dimensions of the dielectrics, the armature must be unwound and repaired. As part of the repair process, the tiny spaces between the hundreds of commutator strips around the armature, onto which the windings are soldered, have to be cleaned. The cleaning of these commutator strips is a delicate job which has to be performed with meticulous detail by sand blasting with corundum or aluminium oxide. The task has been previously performed manually but was found to be very difficult and extremely costly in terms of labour.
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