Queensland business pivots from manufacturing shoe orthotics to face shield frames with 3D printers. Vision: iOrthotics
For years, Dean Hartley’s Queensland-based company iOrthotics has made orthotics – individualised inserts for shoes – with 3D printers. But it too has responded to the coronavirus pandemic. It has just completed the urgent manufacture of about 1000 frames to be fitted to polycarbonate plastic sheeting face shields to be worn by doctors and nurses in Queensland hospitals. It did this in response to a social media call-out for 3000 frames within three weeks.
The company, a subsidiary of the ASX-listed Healthia Limited, produced the frames over two nights with two 3D printers in four 12-hour production runs.
We can help solve a lot of these problems, rather than waiting for the factories in China to open up to send us parts. We can do this here.
Dean Hartley, iOrthotics co-founder
The printers, valued about $600,000, produced each frame in less than three minutes. “We did them in two nights … and yesterday the guys just spent the day assembling them, cleaning them up and getting them ready and packaged, and I think they were delivered this morning,” Hartley says.
“What we do is very translatable into other areas of manufacturing. So I guess we’re just pivoting a bit to say ‘we can help in this phase and we want to do whatever we can’.”
The first load of frames generated requests for a “few hundred” more shields from other hospitals, and from a large private health provider.
The company has also had a request to make special parts for a V8 supercar racing team. But it had nothing to do with gear boxes or advanced electronics in racing cars. Instead, the Triple Eight Race Engineering team asked iOrthotics to make components for a prototype ventilator it is developing.
“We can help solve a lot of these problems, rather than waiting for the factories in China to open up to send us parts. We can do this here in Australia,” Hartley says.