VOLANTE GmbH & Co. KG was founded in 1998 as an independent transport interiors company and is a system supplier for a wide range of interior systems for rail and road vehicles. Its work primarily focuses on projects to develop and produce functional, yet design-oriented interior solutions. When it comes to preventive fire protection, there are no compromises in this profession. In this interview, Dietmar Graml, Dipl.-Ing. (FH), Technical Sales Manager, explains what this means in detail.
VOLANTE counts on RAUKANTEX FP (fire.protect)
Mr Graml, Volante is a well-established supplier of individual interior solutions for rail vehicles. What are your company’s strengths?
We started out in the traditional carpentry trade, including all the skills that are important for one-off and small-batch production. We’ve maintained these roots throughout our 25-year history. But we’ve also evolved and now specialise in new, complex manufacturing processes with high specification requirements for rail vehicle interior components. We’re flexible and open to innovation, such as new materials for example, as a benchmark for ideal, high-quality products, sustainability and obligatory regulatory compliance.
When producing one-off and small-batch items, you promise your customers individual planning and project management – what is behind this statement?
Rail vehicle interior components are never standard products from an existing product catalogue. The product design and technology is individually developed for every new-build or refurbishment project, based on the specific customer requirements. This always involves traditional project management stages, including design, material selection, certification and prototype production, followed by the acceptance and approval process and then just-in-sequence standard production for a few months or several years in the case of major projects. One such example is our cabinet solution for some Deutsche Bahn ICE trains.
You mentioned certification: Preventive fire protection is not only a major topic in building construction. In rail transport, the bar is even higher. Which standard classifications apply to you?
To be able to supply rail vehicle interior components, we must always be certified according to the currently applicable fire protection standard. The vehicle’s country of use determines which standard has to be met. For European projects, EN 45545-2 has been the benchmark since 2016. Depending on the vehicle type, the materials and products must meet hazard level 1, 2 or 3. The majority of projects comply with HL2. These standards are even more stringent than those for aircraft and coaches.
The planning and production of fire protection solutions are usually extremely complex and expensive. Which edgeband solutions have you previously used and what problems were associated with these?
To fully meet a component’s fire protection requirements, the entire material composite must be certified. So far, this has usually been achieved for visible edgebands using the same HPL (decorative laminate) used for the sandwich top layer. But the major disadvantage of HPL is that it cannot be used to create narrow exterior and interior radii on components. In addition, the usually dark middle layer of HPL at the point where the surface materials change is considered to be unsightly.
As an innovator and development partner, you are now using our new RAUKANTEX FP edgeband. What process modifications and simplifications did this involve?
The new edgeband allows us to create shapes that were previously impossible. We use the material for the inner layers of the sandwich elements and can achieve interior radii of R8 – i.e. 8 millimetres. This not only provides a more visually appealing solution, but also avoids the laborious painting of the middle layers of the sandwich, which are usually made of plywood. A successful example of this is the ‘Albula’ cabinet that we supplied to a Swiss rail company. REHAU produced a colour coordinated ABS edgeband with fire-retardant properties for the components.
So fire protection and design were aligned?
Yes, the main objective of the improved design was achieved using fully-coloured, more flexible material, with greater edgeband durability and improved quality, while meeting certified fire protection requirements.
Thanks to your extensive industry experience, you are experts in fire protection solutions for interior design. In your opinion, what will the future fire protection requirements be, especially at an international level?
Our products are used in passenger trains around the world. The stringent requirements of the European EN 45545 standard for preventive fire protection in rail vehicles are also the benchmark for other trades and non-European countries. If materials meet this standard, they are usually also suitable for other fire protection standards and requirements. Nevertheless, materials should continue to be developed in order to meet even higher standards and improve their versatility. I’m primarily thinking of certification for larger assemblies.