Rotacaster accelerates speed to market with 3D printing
Located in the Hunter Valley, NSW, Rotacaster designs, develops, manufactures and exports a special type of wheel, known as the omni-wheel, and associated products.
Although the company had been using 3D printing for a number of years, it needed a new solution for better functional testing and production of early-stage end-use parts. For this, Rotacaster recently invested in a Markforged Mark Two — a continuous carbon fibre 3D printer for aluminium-strength parts, supplied and supported by Konica Minolta.
“Rotacaster chose the Mark Two because of its ability to produce parts that could be tested from a functional perspective, for the parts’ strength and robustness, as well as its ability to let us produce short-run production parts that can stand up to the rigour of real-life use,” said Peter McKinnon, Managing Director, Rotacaster.
Rotacaster is using Mark Two for rapid prototyping, design iterations, functional testing and initial phase production.
“The Mark Two has really let Rotacaster get products to market faster and iterate design easily before contemplating high-volume tooling, which is expensive and resource-intensive,” he continued. “Most recently, it launched its Omni-Sense cane tip for the vision-impaired, which introduces omni-wheel technology to white canes. Rotacaster printed the mount component to enable use of its wheels with a number of cane types. Printing with the Markforged let Rotacaster iterate the design based on feedback during the field trials and expedite the product to market.
“Rotacaster expects that a lot of its components will follow this route, with 3D printing becoming a key element in its production capability. It gives Rotacaster the ability to produce parts that we never would have been able to even contemplate before.”
“A key trend in manufacturing is the requirement for shorter product runs with faster turnaround,” said Matthew Hunter, Innovation Product Marketing Manager, Konica Minolta. “When used to manufacture end-use parts, 3D printing offers speed and versatility, which is now being realised by Rotacaster through the Mark Two.”
With supply chains in question and local organisations reluctant to continue to rely on overseas supply, there is a real opportunity for local manufacturers to step up.
“Locally, there are not a lot of tool makers and, even then, they often send their tooling work overseas,” McKinnon said. “This is no longer necessary, with 3D printing providing a viable option for getting products up and running quickly without substantial tooling costs upfront. 3D printing will play a key role in helping manufacturers get products to market without being subject to supply chains that may not be as dependable as they once were.”
Local support was also key to the purchasing decision for Rotacaster. With the Mark Two supplied and supported by Konica Minolta, Rotacaster was assured that it would have access to local expertise.
“With Konica Minolta taking on the Mark Two, the investment was a much safer investment because we knew we had local support should we need it,” McKinnon said.
“3D printing can help offset supply chain risk putting control back in the hands of manufacturers and assisting them in getting their innovations into market faster, increasing their competitiveness,” Hunter said.
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