Endeavour Award winner profiles – Keech 3D Advanced Manufacturing

On May 28, Manufacturers' Monthly held its annual Endeavour Awards. We will continue profiling winners this week. Keech 3D Advanced Manufacturing was the champion in the Technology Application of the Year category.

It has a long history in high integrity steel castings, particularly for mining, but Keech’s reputation for additive manufacturing expertise continues to grow with its 2015 Endeavour Award for Technology Application of The Year.

The multi-generational, family-owned Keech group of companies dates back eight decades, though the ideas of innovation and adaptation have always been part of its DNA.

It is best known as an OEM and direct supplier to the world’s largest miners and equipment makers. In recent times it has been diversifying in 3D printing services.

Keech has constantly worked to upgrade its systems and its processes, aiming to lift the productivity of its foundries and the people that work in them.

“It means adapting advanced manufacturing techniques, from the most basic manufacturing right through to the most complex,” Herbert Hermens, the company’s CEO, told Manufacturers’ Monthly after winning the Endeavour Award.

“Companies such as my own – which is a foundry, and is thought to be the second-oldest profession in the world – we can adapt and we can put processes in and control information so that we can improve our systems and reduce our production costs.”

To Hermens, advanced manufacturing – what goes on at Keech’s Bendigo headquarters – involves operating in a thoughtful way, making sure that everybody’s involved in the process.

Being advanced was absolutely vital, added the CEO.

“It is not necessarily talking about a unique and dynamic change in manufacturing, it just means a process development,” he said.

“And that’s the key.”

Among many efforts to improve the way it runs, the company had experimented with 3D printing for several years in its patternmaking division before deciding a couple of years ago to be a serious provider of 3D printing services, both for its region and the country.

The patternmaking department had been a major bottleneck, with a shortage of skilled patternmakers available.

The company recognised 3D printing as suitable for making its patterns, and was excellent for reverse engineering old designs (with digital scanning).

A major recent development was re-branding its patternmaking division Keech 3D. The subsidiary was then launched as Keech Advanced Manufactur­ing 3D, showcasing its brand new, ultra-large Stratasys Fortus 900 mC production machine last July.

Keech has invested around $1 million in machines and implementation. Its suite of additive manufacturing systems includes an Objet PolyJet machine, Mcor paper machines and the little uPrint Plus that started the company’s experiments in 3D printing.

It has acted on its earlier vision of being the major provider of the technology for the Central Victoria region – where it has been based since 1995, relocating from Mascot in Sydney’s south – with early clients including defence giant Thales.

“Keech 3D is a major new manufacturing initiative for Victoria and makes large scale 3D printing, design and advanced manufacturing accessible to businesses across the state,” its nomination reads.

“As well as supporting its own business customers, Keech 3D enables its parent company Keech Australia to implement advanced manufacturing technologies within its core business of providing high integrity steel castings to global customers.”

Within Keech, accelerated design processes and rapid prototyping help its Quality and Innovation Centre (which opened in 2012) bring products to market more quickly.

This year it announced a partnership with the CSIRO and became the first Australian company to have guaranteed access to the research organisation’s metal additive manufacturing capabilities.

Other recent developments include Keech’s agreement to offer back-end support for Officeworks’ new 3D printing services.

The Bendigoan engineering solutions provider continues its winning ways at the Endeavour Awards, following its victory in the Most Innovative category last year.

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