Lightweight composite solution in high speed trains


In the transportation sector lightweighting is a key trend. Saving weight reduces fuel consumption, it is what makers of cars, trains and planes are increasingly focused on. Across the automotive industry there is regulatory pressure to reduce emissions. Here, lighter vehicles play an important role. PET foams are the intelligent structural core solutions in the composite industry and Armacell’s PET-based foam products are composite materials that make lightweight transportation possible. Our example in China highlights this.  

Over the past decade, China invested heavily in a network of passenger-dedicated railway network designed for speeds of 250-350 km/h. China operates the world’s longest high-speed rail (HSR) network – 29,000 km at the end of 2018 – and is scheduled to reach 38,000 km by 2025. Lightweighting was one of the fundamental design principles applied in the construction of the CRH3A electrical multiple unit train sets. 

km between Chengdu & Xi’an
hours by high-speed rail

The CRH3A high-speed train connects the cities of Chengdu and Xi’an in Western China. It can transport more than 600 passengers at speeds of up to 250 km/h and travels the 700 km in less than four hours. ArmaPET®was selected as the preferred lightweight structural core material for the train’s nose as a result of its thermo-formability, fatigue resistance and process versatility. The combination of these product performance properties convinced the CRRC Group, a Chinese rolling stock manufacturer.

The success of the CRH3A has put an end to flights between the cities of Chengdu and Xi’an, reducing the carbon footprint on this route. HSR has generally had a positive impact on intercity travel, carrying twice as many passengers per month as China’s main airlines.

Armacell has pioneered the utilisation of 100 percent recycled PET material to manufacture closed-cell, fully recyclable structural core materials for composite sandwich constructions as an eco-friendly lightweight material. ArmaPET MultiCore, for example, combines the benefits of high- and low-density foam cores by incorporating multiple densities into a single foam core. This 100 percent recyclable material is a sustainable alternative to legacy materials such as plywood-XPS and other multi-ply panels. In addition to enabling lightweighting in transportation, other innovative products from Armacell’s extensive portfolio deliver benefits such as energy savings and greater acoustic or vibration comfort.


  • Lightweighting a key trend in transportation
  • PET foams are the intelligent choice among structural core materials in the composite industry
  • ArmaPET selected as a lightweight structural core material for nose of China’s CRH3A high-speed train 
  • Climate-friendly high-speed rail travel, reducing carbon footprint on regional routes
  • World’s largest high-speed rail network in China 
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