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Grant helps Hunter manufacturer to reinvent the wheel

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Hunter manufacturer Rotacaster Wheel will be able to expand local production of its revolutionary omni wheel thanks to a $563,000 grant from the Australian Government’s Manufacturing Modernisation Fund (MMF).

The windfall allows the completion of a $2.25 million automation project at its Beresfield facility.

The venture will deliver a new, high volume, production system capable of making more than 1.8 million, 50mm omni wheels a year at a lower per unit cost.

The system also increases efficiency and process control, reduce waste and OHS risks, while supporting at least an extra 11, higher-skilled, local jobs.

Managing director Peter McKinnon was thrilled by the announcement.

“With the help of the Australian Government, we’re investing in manufacturing excellence, skills and jobs, here in the Hunter,” he said.

Omnia designs and manufactures omni-wheels in the Hunter.

“The project will allow the company to meet growing local and international demand.

“We export about 50% of production, but we expect that to grow to at least 80% within the next few years.

“We’re getting a lot of interest from the United States, Asia and Europe for our MedTech, robotic and consumer good applications of our omni wheels.”

According to Mr McKinnon, omni wheels are “wheels with a wheel”, which presents industry and consumers with an exciting alternative to the traditional swivel caster.

“Because the wheels do not need to swivel, they respond directly to the force applied, and can move in any direction, providing greater load stability and directional control,” he said.

“There are only a handful of omni wheel producers worldwide.

“Omnia, a business of Rotacaster Wheel, has become a global leader in the development and manufacturing of omni wheels.

“Its patented wheel technology uses a different design and manufacturing approach to its competitors, making our Hunter-made omni wheels the most capable, across a broader range of applications, worldwide.

“The Hunter is literally re-inventing the wheel and is at the forefront of innovation in mobility.”

Omnia’s wheels are being used to improve MedTech equipment and by Australia’s best-known retailers and wholesale distributors to move goods.

The Greek Postal Service has just ordered the company’s multi-directional conveyor sortation tables.

Robotic mobility is another area where Mr McKinnon believes there is great potential.

The nation’s first autonomous sterilising robot, at the Royal Hobart Hospital, runs on Omnia’s wheels.

“A host of consumer goods can be improved,” Mr McKinnon said.

“Our Plant Glider uses omni wheels to allow people to have an attractive plant pot that they can easily move without scratching surfaces or tipping.

“With an omni wheel, a shopping trolley or hotel luggage will actually go where you point it.”

Mr McKinnon is particularly proud of one application – the Omni-sense white cane tip – for people with a vision impairment. 

“Omni-sense is another example of how Omnia’s wheels can improve people’s lives,” he said.

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