Fast track Bike wheel manufacturer takes the lead with sustainability agenda
Cycling is a ‘clean’ mode of transport that is becoming increasingly popular among eco-conscious buyers. It is not surprising, therefore, that bike manufacturers are constantly innovating to reduce their own impact on the environment.
So when the cycling accessories team at Rodi – €30 million manufacturer of aluminum rims and wheels – was exploring new ways of improving its own environmental credentials by moving away from anodizing to a more sustainable process, it turned to Interpon – the leading brand of powder coatings from AkzoNobel.
The challenge in replacing anodizing was to find a coating that could perform in multiple ways: it had to be durable, sustainable, and capable of delivering on style with a lower gloss finish. The answer was found in a bespoke Intepon powder coating that delivers a smooth, soft ultra matt finish – with just 3% gloss.
The bespoke ultra matt powder coating comes with AkzoNobel’s X-Pro technology which gives Rodi’s rims excellent scratch resistance properties along with the high durability, UV and weather resistance expected from the Interpon brand. It is already applied to some of Rodi’s rims with plans to increase production capacity using the Interpon powder coating in due course.
This ultra matt coating is the latest success to come from Rodi’s partnership with AkzoNobel Powder Coatings – a partnership which is built on a shared ambition to protect natural resources, reduce energy consumption and wastage, and contribute to a kinder world in which to live.
Rui Mendes, Manager of Rodi’s Rims and Wheels business, says the partnership is an essential part of Rodi’s winning strategy: “It’s a formula that attracts the trust of some of Europe’s largest bicycle manufacturers including ACCELL, Pon Holdings and Decathlon,” he explains.
“We are serving an environmentally conscious sector of consumers and buyers, all of who are pushing a more sustainable agenda which we take very seriously. For us, this starts with the suppliers we work with and the products we use, and it is why we use Interpon powder coatings.”
Their relationship started almost two years ago when AkzoNobel demonstrated that Rodi could significantly reduce its energy consumption by switching to Interpon: “Achieving greater energy efficiency is one of our main objectives and forms part of our strict environmental policy, so the impressive test results comparing Interpon 610 Low-E to the powder coating we were using from a different supplier made the decision to buy Interpon easy,” Rui continues.
Interpon 610 Low-E requires much lower curing temperatures and meant that Rodi could reduce its oven temperature to 170°C (from the 195°C required for the previous brand of powder coating). Additionally, Rodi also discovered that Interpon 610 allows them to coat 20% more rims per box than it was previously coating. The overall result of switching to Interpon Low-E has been a 25% reduction of gas consumption.
“Using Interpon means we are able to coat our rims by consuming less energy and using less powder coating,” says Rui. “So with Interpon our business has found value and performance, as well as being able to significantly reduce our impact on the environment.”
As well as Interpon’s 610 Low-E range, Rodi also uses a black from the Interpon Textura collection to add a fine textured finish to surfaces that need it.
Crucially, the successful partnership between Rodi and AkzoNobel Powder Coatings extends beyond the benefits that come from the powder in the box. It is AkzoNobel’s Interpon team and their expert knowledge which have also made a significant impression on Rui and his team: “When we were investing in our cycling accessories paint line our team found the new technology and processes to be completely different to what they were used to,” explains Rui. “It was the Interpon team who shared their expert product and technical knowledge to help us get things right. They knew the right adjustments to make and the fine tuning that was required to optimize process flows and reduce waste to achieve optimal efficiency and productivity in our paint line.”
To take this optimal efficiency one step further Rodi is now using AkzoNobel’s OptiMesure software which optimizes the coating process. It improves the regularity and aspect of the film when a high standard of quality is needed by measuring and managing the thickness of the coating, and therefore controlling paint usage and minimizing any reworking. Rodi is the first manufacture in the bike sector to add this level of control to its coating process.
Rodi is a specialist in metallurgy and metalworking which started out manufacturing accessories for two-wheel vehicles in the 1970s. As well as making chrome rims, mud guards and fuel exhausts for motorcycles it also became a pioneer in the production of two-bowl kitchen sinks made without welding. Its investment in state-of-the-art manufacturing technology brought it success in the Portuguese market as well as in the European Union, Eastern Europe and South America. The cycling accessories side of the business gathered momentum in the early 1990s when Rodi invested in its manufacturing capabilities to produce aluminum rims and wheels.
In a typical year, Rodi manufactures some three million rims and 500,000 wheels at its 60,000 m2 manufacturing site in Aveiro, Portugal, and is continually looking at new growth opportunities.
“With the Interpon team’s technical support we have created the most efficient production line possible, with minimal powder wastage, and high-quality output so no resources or energy are wasted,” Rui concludes. “We believe we have an exciting future ahead and one in which Interpon powder coatings will play an important role.”