Wheels, Wheels, Wheels Everywhere
Oct 25, 2023
Wheels, Wheels, Wheels Everywhere
On the 24th May 2023, Dapol took delivery of a new and exciting piece of equipment, pictured on the lorry above. Under the protective coverings is a SR-32JIII Type A sliding head CNC lathe and an FMB Turbo RS 3-38 bar feeder. You can see them been offloaded by the installation team below….. serious bits of kit! This new equipment allows Dapol to have far greater control over the supply and quality of the wheel sets in our UK produced Wagons.
Offloading The New Toys
The bar feeder was the first part of the assembly to be offloaded and placed inside the factory followed by the lathe itself. In the photograph below you can see the two separate units all connected up and about to start operation.
All Set Up In It's New Home
The SR-32JIII Type A Sliding head lathe can work metal bars up to 32mm in diameter. It does this by utilising up to 37 different toolings in 7 different axis. This allows the bar to be worked to incredibly tight tolerances (down to a single micron) making it ideal for our intended use - wheel production. The bar and tools can both spin as required, the bar can spin at 8,000rpm and the tools can spin at speeds up to 60,000rpm.
The lathe is automatically fed fresh bars of steel by the FMB Turbo RS 3-38 bar feeder and both pieces of equipment run 24 hours a day. During daylight hours Dapol’s bank of solar panels provides much of the electricity needed to run the machine (along with the rest of the factory) making it highly economical. We self generate over half of our electricity requirements throughout the year.
The lathe has been predominantly used to produce our OO gauge disk and spoked wagon wheels so far. However it is planned that it will eventually also produce our O gauge wheels. It currently takes 1.5 minutes to produce a single OO gauge disk wheel and 2.5 minutes to produce a OO gauge spoked wheel. An axle takes just 30 seconds to cut from a 4mm diameter piece of bar.
The Wheel Making Process
1. The lathe cuts wheels pretty much 24 hours a day, these are collected in a bin at the end of the conveyor belt that ejects the part finished product.
2. The metal components are then given a good clean to remove all of the oil left over from the cutting process. These clean wheels are then rumbled to remove any sharp edges and give the wheels a cleaner finish. They then receive a further sonic bath to remove any debris that may have stuck to them during the rumbling process.
3. The wheels are then assembled using a very precise jig before each finished wheel set is chemically blackened. The sets are assembled prior to blackening to ensure an even finish is achieved.
4. The wheels are then stored in trays to avoid any damage prior to being fitted to a wagon elsewhere in the factory
You can see from the photographs of the wheels above both faces are of the wheels are profiled.
Why are we doing this?
Dapol has a long standing commitment to doing as much UK production as we possibly can. As you can imagine we use many thousands of wheel sets every year. These have traditionally been produced in China and at a considerable cost. Any delay in the supply chain has a massive impact on our ability to produce wagons here in the UK.
The lathe will allow us to be independent of China for most if not all of our wheel requirements and have far greater control over the quality of the product being produced. The wheels that we are producing in house have an enhanced profile that will help the running characteristics of the models we manufacture. It will also help us maintain the lowest practicable price point which is good for both Dapol and the modeler alike.
We are currently building up our stocks of completed wheel sets to have sufficient supplies to seamless switch over to our UK produced wheels. This will probably occur in the occur in the new year.
Investing in UK production......Priceless!