From test bench to train track: "A bit like Star Trek"

Yunus Özşahin shows a demo electronic brake control system that he played a supporting role in developing. ©Knorr-Bremse

As a Systems Architect at Knorr-Bremse, Yunus Özşahin works with a team to develop the electronics for tomorrow's train braking systems. We asked him what skills are indispensable – and why tinkering with computers and radios as a teenager set him on this path.

Yunus Özşahin's enthusiasm is palpable. He stands wide-eyed before a wall of 18 monitors displaying a dynamic array of complex graphs and models. "It's a bit like Star Trek," he smiles. In the TV series, Captain Picard and his crew control the destiny of the Starship Enterprise from the bridge. Yunus belongs to a team with a similarly crucial mission: helping trains worldwide to brake more precisely, safely, reliably and efficiently. Testing system functionality on test benches is a major part of this. "Sometimes we perform up to 10,000 tests for a scenario like emergency braking," he reveals. "We're satisfied once they all produce the same result."

All functions of the brake electronics are tested on the test benches. Yunus explains how the process works. ©Knorr-Bremse

Hopping between worlds

Yunus works as Systems Architect in the Global Brake Electronics unit at Knorr-Bremse's headquarters in Munich. As an interface between project management and developers, he defines the architectures under which an electronic brake control operates. In other words, he helps ensure that a brake knows how to behave in a given situation. Yunus describes his current role as "hopping between worlds" – worlds that have only gradually opened up to him.

Yunus has been on his team for four months, but he is well acquainted with Knorr-Bremse. Prior to his current position, the 27-year-old worked as a student trainee in the field of brake electronics for three years while studying electrical engineering, and after graduation he was taken on. During his training years he helped to configure test cards for the brake controls. The objective was to check that the controls, on the test bench and in practice as part of the braking system, were opening and closing compressed air valves, for example, or giving the correct commands to the sanding system, which forms part of almost every braking system. "It often came down to very fine details," he says, which is absolutely necessary, given the complexity of the technology.

The result of close cooperation

The electronic cards that Yunus helps to develop are installed in the Brake Control Unit (BCU). Not much larger than a shoe box, this unit is integrated into the brake frame, which houses the brake system and is usually located under the railcars. In pneumatic control systems, close cooperation is always key: pneumatics experts bring compressors, air supply and valves; mechanical specialists contribute bogies, brake calipers and discs; Yunus and his team take care of the electronics. A team of brake system experts thus creates an integrated, networked system from all these components to meet the customer's precise specifications.

It's impressive when you consider the impact our work has on safety. Only through massive testing is it possible to create absolutely reliable products that meet the specific approval criteria of the world's six major railway standards.

Yunus Özşahin – Systems Architect Knorr-Bremse Rail Vehicle Systems

Initiative, flexibility – and the willingness to experiment

What does Yunus find so fascinating about his work? "It's impressive when you consider the impact our work has on safety," he says. Only through massive testing is it possible to create absolutely reliable products that meet the specific approval criteria of the world's six major railway standards. Often this means having to deal with time pressure and complexity. The most important skills for the job? According to Yunus: initiative and ambition, flexibility and analytical thinking. "When tackling tricky problems, it helps if you're someone who enjoys experimenting," he adds. This is one gift he seems to have inherited from birth: hailing from a family of technicians, he began repairing faulty computers and radios as a teenager – gaining a reputation as a tinkerer early on.

"Made by Knorr-Bremse": from Munich to the wider world

Yunus takes pride in all the places the products are deployed. For example, the brake system controls co-developed by his team are used in Desiro Classic regional trains operated by Deutsche Bahn and Smart Coradia regional trains in Italy. In the UK, they are installed in numerous long-distance trains, including the Intercity Express that runs between London and Bristol. Even in India, the Delhi Metro and a number of electric Intercity trains have "their" brake electronics on board. That's what makes him passionate about his mission as a “Knorrian”: "You can really get things rolling here," says Yunus. "Everything is in motion."

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