Richmond Wheels and Casters - From prototyping to end stage production

Richmond Wheels and Casters - From prototyping to end stage production

Richmond is at the forefront of engineered materials handling solutions, including heavy duty castors, machined components, wheels, general engineering works and direct access to onsite engineers. Richmond have a complete range of materials handling products suited to the home or office, as well as heavy duty industry.

Richmond moved into manufacturing materials handling products in 1961 and have 61 years of experience in the Australian manufacturing industry. Richmond is also among the last standing Australian manufacturers. Richmond are the major wheel and castor company in Australia, with a reputation as a wheel-maker for industry. Richmond built their reputation around our quality Australian manufacturing, allowing Richmond to provide custom solutions, respond to market demands quickly, and meet the specific needs of a wide range of clients. Richmond are genuine polyurethane engineering experts, and a proven market leader in the design and manufacturing of pipeline rollers for industry.

3D Printing was a natural progression for Richmond who have always sought to be early adopters of cutting edge developments within their industry. Traditionally Richmonds machining work was carried out on NC mills and lathes. This includes machining moulds for polyurethane casting and machining end stage product.

How did you come to choose the Raise 3D Printer?

"Prior to adopting 3D Printing we went through the process of going to seminars & training and got totally confused. With lots of internet research came up with a budget and print size for a printer. So it came down in the end to largest print volume for the best price and quality. It made for an easy decision in the end, and we got a Raise 3D Pro 2 Plus.". David Powell - QA Manager

Prior to the purchase Richmond engaged the engineering consultative services of Bilby 3D to explore what was possible. Was there a material that could make a mould that would withstand the pressure and temperature curing of a polyurethane casting? What steps would be required?

What exactly did Bilby 3D do?

Bilby 3D researched the specific environment the end product would be subject to. The temperature conditions, and pressures.

"With most of our clients it is not a question of which 3D Printer to buy, it is what material can do what we need and then from there, together with the size of the object, the 3D Printer correct for them is usually obvious." Lee Bilby

Bilby 3D produced a mould for Richmond Wheels that was identical to one being made via CNC milling. They used Proto-Pasta High Temp PLA, and then annealed the near 30cm diameter mould over 11 hrs at a temperature of 70°C.

The team at Richmond wheels then used the mould to cast a polyurethane wheel, pictured in green, the wheel came out perfect.

How did 3D printing compare to traditional manufacturing?

3D printed moulds, like the one Bilby 3D made for Richmond Wheels, would normally take similar manufacturing times using CNC vs 3D Printing, however the 3D Printed mould comes out at a significant cost saving from both the material cost as well as human labour.

Richmond have since adopted 3D Printing across a broad range of applications including:

  • Quick turn-around of proto-type samples, ideal for getting that final sell when doing the sales pitch to customers. Developing a design long before cutting steel to confirm Fit and Form has proven to be very helpful many times now.
  • Manufacture of tooling aids, quick manufacture of part supports for the aid of short production runs.
  • Manufacture of poly moulds
  • Manufacture of expensive, hard to replace NC machine bracketry, shields and supports that would normally be imported from overseas, this can reduce machinery down time.

"Getting in early into this technology is key. We still donít know how exactly itís going to fit into the RWC income stream, but getting in now with a modest investment is sparking interest amongst internal Richmond staff, suppliers and customers. The ideas are developing and new ways are being thought of all the time by having the machine here and using it." David Powell

What were the biggest challenges in adopting 3D Printing?

Richmond wheels reports that there was a steep learning curve, but that the support from Bilby 3D made it all easier. "We have a lot of internal learningís around trying to change our mindset built on 30years of conventional machining and part manufacture, there is new thinking required when adopting to this type of manufacturing process." said David Powell

Richmond Wheels is looking forward to the future with 3D Printing. They have been most excited by the ever growing materials they can use on their Raise Pro 2. Next on the agenda is exploring composites using carbon fire. Temperature and dimensional stability are the key issues in mould production and they believe some of these emerging materials will be key in their 3D Printed product development.

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