Railways Engineering
Microcontroller improves performance and reduces cost by 15% of railway points temperature control
Technologies used


Industrial sector (PRODCOM code)
    34-35 Parts of railway track signalling, safety or traffic control equipment
ESA Schaltanlagen Grimma GmbH is a medium-sized company with about 70 employees. Main business field is the development and manufacturing of products for electrical engineering and power supply. The company is specialised in manufacturing of electrical equipment and components for the railway. The products are typically used for the heating of points in order to guarantee their functionality also in the winter time. The necessary control components are manufactured, assembled and installed as system solutions. Customers are railway companies, e.g. the Deutsche Bahn, but also regional railways and private companies having their own track systems or works sidings. Up to now, the market is restricted to Germany.

The product to be improved is a temperature control and snow-warning device which is used for the automatic heating control of rail points depending on the weather conditions (frost or snowfall). All the functional blocks of this device consist of discrete analogue components. Using a relay contact, the power supply for the heating coils is automatically switched. The structure of the system is shown in the figure.

For the detection of frost and snow, sensors are measuring the temperature of the track and the air. In addition, the system is able to detect rain or snowfall. These three sensor elements are connected with an electronic control unit. Here the incoming data are analysed, and the heating is switched on or off.

Within the Application Experiment, a new temperature control and snow-warning device consisting of the two main components weather station and track temperature measuring unit was developed. They are connected by a bus, all data processing and control functions are realised by a microcontroller.

The new product is characterised by improved parameters and additional functionality which was not possible to obtain with the old technology. In addition, the manufacturing costs could be reduced by 15% resulting also in price advantages for the customer.

The know-how transfer within the Application Experiment enabled the First User to introduce new products with intelligent features on the market which will result in additional sales and market shares. The company will be able for the first time to sell their products abroad.

The company acquired the following knowledge and experiences
: Management of microcontroller projects
Marketing strategies for microcontroller based products, co-operation with partners
Product specific application of microcontrollers
Software programming
Application of bus systems for data transfer

ESA Grimma will be able to replicate the know-how within the company. In addition the experiences are useful for any other company in Germany and Europe with similar starting conditions when introducing microcontroller technology.

The Application Experiment durstion was 10 months as planned with a working prototype at 30.3.1999. After finishing the field test at the Deutsche Bahn AG the system will be introduced to the market in April 2000. The costs up to the working prototype were 55,600 of which 50.000 was the FUSE investment. An additional 26.500 was spent for the industrialisation.

The payback period on the FUSE investment will be 24 months. Within the first five years of product life, a Return-on-Investment of 315% can be expected.
ESA - Elektroschaltanlagen Grimma GmbH
Prophetenberg 7,
04668 Grimma

Detailed information

You can also benefit from microelectronics

Microcontroller technology provided ESA - Elektroschaltanlagen Grimma GmbH with the means of improving its products and enhancing its market position. You can also achieve significant benefits by acquiring the right microelectronics technology and utilising it in your product or manufacturing process. You can get help from FUSE to realise this.

FUSE is a technology transfer programme, funded by the European Commission to stimulate the wider use of microelectronics technologies by European enterprises to increase their competitiveness and enhance their economic growth. The demonstrator described here is one of many examples in the public FUSE portfolio covering the whole spectrum of microelectronics technologies and spanning a wide range of applications and industry sectors.

FUSE provides you with:

  • Best practice in acquiring specific microelectronics technologies and conducting full development projects through the FUSE portfolio of real life demonstrator documents.
  • Local training and expert support to plan your innovation realistically and help you conduct your project successfully.

Further information and support relating to this and other demonstrators can be obtained from the addresses below.

Further information   Guiding Technology Transfer Node
For further information and support regarding this case study, please contact a Technology Transfer Node (TTN) in your region.
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