TRANSFERRING manufacturing from Taiwan to Australia might seem a counter productive business model, but for precision manufacturer Bouwmeester Composites the move was critical to retain absolute control of their research, design, quality and processes.
After initially manufacturing a different bike wheel overseas, company owner Mello Bouwmeester decided to bring the composites work to Adelaide, South Australia.
“Quality control is absolutely critical during the manufacturing process,’’ he said.
“It’s like making a cake. There are lots of different ingredients that go in and they all have to be exact and blended just right or the end result is a disaster.
“We weren’t able to oversee that quality control and research and development overseas to the level we required, by moving manufacturing here to South Australia we can guide the process every step of the way.’’
Bouwmeester Composites has now commenced local manufacture of ground breaking, hi-tech bicycle racing wheels that it plans to sell globally.
The carbon fibre wheels are aimed at the worldwide off-road bicycle market and include professional racers as well as serious recreational riders.
Bouwmeester said the super lightweight composite wheels were uniquely designed and manufactured to provide superior impact resistance, performance and grip.
“We are using a new technology and production process to create the wheels using advanced composites,’’ he said.
“The process developed is also a green technology, presenting low level energy consumption compared to traditional methods of manufacture in the aerospace composites industry. This is something that hasn’t been achieved before in this application and product.
“The biggest markets for these wheels are in the United States and Europe where off-road bike racing and gravity enduro racing are very big business.
“Australia also has a similar market but just not on the same scale.’’
With the assistance of a $20,000 Innovation Voucher grant from the South Australian Government, Bouwmeester Composites enlisted the services of research and development partner Luescher Teknik to help create the unique manufacturing process
“We plan to make about 1000 wheels in our first year with potential for further growth,’’ Bouwmeester said. “They are a premium performance wheel set and depending on the product will retail up to $2500. Which is competitive against some of the big overseas brands that predominantly have their wheels made in Asia.
“There are some key athletes in the ‘Enduro World Series’ we are looking to sponsor, as well as some Aussie home grown talent.
“These key athletes on home turf and overseas will help us gain exposure and provide marketing opportunities for the new wheels.’’
Prototypes of the wheels have already been tested in a number of Australian national bicycle events with excellent results.
“Riders using our new wheels have had registered podium finishes in elite events already so I’m very confident in the product,’’ he said. “It is clearly delivering the results we had hoped for.’’
He said the carbon manufacturing process also allowed for wider applications than just bicycle wheels.
“The process could be used to manufacture everything from lightweight components for airplanes, motorcycle and car wheels, masts on yachts, protective equipment like helmets, as well other sporting goods like rowing oars, tennis rackets and surfboards.
“This is one of the benefits of working with advanced composites, there is huge potential for it's application providing you are innovative with your product design, have sound research and development and an industry leading manufacturing process.”
“The broader applications and possibilities for products to be made in South Australia are very exciting.’’