“All these images are taken as the train passes at track speed,” notes CSX. “Machine vision allows us to pinpoint potential problems and quickly address them before they grow into larger issues that can cause service delays.”
CSX, BNSF and other railroads have turned to companies like Beena Vision Systems Inc. as they deploy this relatively new tool. Beena Vision was founded in 2003 by Kambiz Nayebi, who during an earlier academic career “realized that there were a number of commercial applications for machine vision.”
“During discussions with my peers, we felt the largest technology gap was in the rail industry,” says Nayebi. “In those days, it was an industry looking to improve efficiency. I commenced on the preliminary design work for what is now our core product, WheelView. Following a number of design iterations, discussions with potential users and hard testing at TTCI, we had a product ready for commercialization in 2003. WheelView proved that technology theory can be applied into rigorous and difficult applications in the railway industry.
“TTCI provided world-class railway resources and a skilled and informative technical staff. We worked closely with them as they are the industry-recognized ‘systems prover.’ The FAST facility provided the opportunity to test for repeatability of wayside system data. It was invaluable to have the association with TTCI. We still have a very respectful cooperation with TTCI, but as Beena Vision became more global we had to become more independent.
“Our product range has increased to more than 15 systems with a market presence on five continents. We manufacture high-quality hardware with complementary software applications that provide meaningful information by converting inspection data into actionable information, and we support our equipment in the field.
“Our new TreadView system provides comprehensive wheel condition monitoring, detecting a variety of wheel surface defects such as shelling, spalling, broken wheel sections, and flat-spot depth and size. Recently, some customers identified a need to look at coupler securement integrity. We have taken this on with our CouplerView Cross-Key and CouplerView Pin products, which have saved significant outage and remediation costs for users.
“Machine vison has to be supported by intuitive software that connects data to multiple levels of information and gives customers access. The challenge is combining passive images with dynamic measurements. The future is having fewer capital-intensive systems that won’t require large Internet capacity, and maybe a level of portability. People talk about onboard systems as the future. Perhaps, but not in the foreseeable future. We’re integrating machine vision into all levels of maintenance, including pre- and post-repair shop inspections, creating a much safer environment for shop and field technicians.”
Among the numerous innovations that Beena Vision customers experience are: breaking trains apart and shopping rolling stock as an exception; maintenance based on condition rather than schedule; running components to full service life; applying labor to repair, not inspect; reducing reliance on heavy workshops; eliminating unscheduled maintenance through continuous monitoring; and driving planning and the supply chain through condition assessment.