By Romy Udanga
Milking systems manufacturer Read Industrial has invested more than $1 million on a new investment casting plant in its six-acre facility in Rangiora – the unit is capable of batch melting 300kg of stainless steel.
Read manager Noel Read says they’d be able to pull metals out of the two Inductotherm furnaces, each capable of melting 150kg, being installed in the custom-built building around Christmas.
The 20 metre by 27 metre building has rooms for wax moulding and mould coating, and a temperature-controlled drying room.
“We’re aiming to get a better surface finish on our castings so that we don’t have to spend the time hand-finishing them to the standard that we need. Investment casting will give us that,” Noel says.
“But we’re not in a big rush because we’re actually casting in our existing foundry anyway. We can comfortably do 50 tonnes or more of stainless in a year if we have to.”
Read’s existing foundry casts aluminium, brass, bronze and stainless steel melted on electric furnaces.
Two bailout furnaces can each melt 300kgs of aluminium at pouring temperatures of between 650 degrees and 700 degrees Celsius.
An induction furnace used for melting brass, cast iron and steel pours out steel at about 1700 degrees Celsius and brass and cast iron at around 1100 degrees.
A tilting furnace mainly used to melt stainless steel does 100kg at a time, all from scrap metal. Fast melting crucibles can melt 50kg of bronze at a time.
The machining section where Read finishes all the components of its milking machines, irrigation fittings and general engineering components has several Japanese-branded Okuma machines – a couple of lathes, a CNC machining centre and a bigger CNC twin chuck machine.
“I bought the first Okuma lathe about 15 years ago. After three years I bought the bigger Okuma LB400, then Okuma MB-56VA machining centre about eight years ago.
“Two years ago I bought the Okuma Multus B400W which is a Twin Chuck machine. They’ve been very good, reliable machines,” Noel says.
Also on the fabrication line are a rolling machine, a guillotine, presses and welding machines. All machining wastes are recycled by Read.
Some 35 people man the shop while six service trucks are on the road servicing milking machines and doing new installations.
Noel says Read will be looking to add new staff once the new investment casting facility is up and running.
About 65 percent of Read’s $8m to $12m yearly turnover is dairy associated – that is milking machine systems and components. The remainder is a mixture of irrigation and general engineering components and fittings.
Over nine decades, Read has installed about 6000 milking machines, ranging from standalone units, to 50 unit herringbones, to 100 bail rotaries, including some that were installed in the United States, South America and Indonesia. At present, two of its staff are installing a 70 bail rotary milking system in the UK.
“We export our systems a bit but our main focus is the New Zealand market. It’s a wee bit closer to home,” Noel says.
The pulsation system on Read’s milking machine is a mechanical slide pulsator. “It’s very simple, the farmer can understand it and there’s nothing really that can go wrong with it. A lot of the milking systems out there at the moment are electronic, while they might operate well, if something goes wrong with a unit the farmer can’t fix it himself. He’s got to get a serviceman out to fix the problem,” Noel says.
“For instance, on the West Coast of the South Island more than 70 percent of the milking systems used are our slide pulsation systems simply because with electrical storms and the like—some of the electronic systems can get fried.”
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