2 Industrial Laser Solutions JULY/AUGUST 2017 www.industrial-lasers.com
give hope to traditional
TORRENSVILLE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA – Manufacturing companies in Australia are fnding niches in the medical technologies sector as their traditional mining and automotive
markets diminish. Lower production costs and more robust
large-scale capabilities offshore are playing a major role in
the exit of mining and automotive component manufacturers from Australia. However, industry and government support have helped some frms evolve their advanced manufacturing skills and enter the medical device market.
Medical device production in Australia has grown by
1.3% annually since 2012 and is now valued at AU$3 billion
a year, according to IBISWorld. South Australia is emerging
as a hub for the medical devices industry, and is home to
the Tonsley Innovation Hub and the Adelaide BioMed City
precinct, a $3 billion tripartite health hub comprising a major
hospital, research centers, and educational institutions.
The Tonsley hub is located on the site of a former
Mitsubishi car manufacturing plant, and major tenants
include medical device manufacturers Micro-X, Siemens,
and ZEN Energy. International optical and optoelectron-ics frm Zeiss is also about to move into a new $6 million
premises at the hub.
The downturn in world commodity prices has forced
South Australian company Plastico & Hackett Engineering
to shift its focus from mineral analysis equipment development to components for orthopedic implants (FIGURE). The
company, which offers laser engraving services, received
a $47,500 grant from the South Australian Government last
month to help it transition. It frst dabbled in medical devices
in 2014, but has now decided to make it a major focus following collaboration with Austofx (also in Adelaide), which
has been developing innovative orthopedic trauma devices
for more than 25 years, including a device that allows surgeons to accurately insert an implant inside a bone without
the use of x-rays. Their Ezy-Aim Electronic Digital Targeting
System and associated nails are used to repair fractures of
the femur, tibia, and humerus bones.
Plastico & Hackett managing director David Schiller said
20 years’ experience making mining components had it well
placed to succeed in the medical feld. “The decline of the
mining industry in Australia has forced us to look at other
things,” he said. “China seems to be commanding a large
chunk of the mining components manufacturing and we
have seen our business move there recently, which is hard.
There is a large push for South Australia to transform itself
into a medical device hub
and there is an opportunity
for us to do well here.”
Major car manufacturers
in Australia, including Toy-
ota, Mitsubishi, and Ford, are
moving their assembly lines
overseas because of the relatively small size of the Austra-
lian market and high production costs.
South Australian-based SMR Technologies (Lonsdale,
South Australia) is an independent division of SMR Automotive Australia focused on the design, manufacture, and distribution of high-quality products for a broad range of industries. The car sensor manufacturer developed the world’s
frst plastic automotive mirrors, earning it more than $160
million in exports. However, the exit of the automotive industry from Australia also has it looking to medical devices. The
company is working on a number of noninvasive devices,
including take-home tests for bladder cancer patients that
use biosensors to test urine, with the goal of helping people avoid uncomfortable follow-up tests where tubes are
inserted into the urethra to access the bladder.
In an industry-university collaboration in Adelaide,
researchers from the University of South Australia and
Flinders Medical Centre are preparing the device for a
1000-patient hospital trial. An SMR Technologies spokesman said the company was very interested in exploring
more opportunities in the area of cancer research. “Cancer
is a global issue and we hope that these sensors will play
a key role in the fght against the deadly disease,” he said.
The spokesman said preliminary results suggested it was
a superior method to common cancer detection methods
such as cytology and endoscopy.
This uptake in manufacturing in Australia is also supported by the increase in clinical trials for medical technology, which has grown by about 8% per year, according to
MTPConnect managing director Sue MacLeman.
This article was supplied by Caleb Radford, a journalist
and content creator at The Lead South Australia.
A Plastico & Hackett
medical machinist with
one of its laser engraving
systems at the company’s
operating facilities in
Adelaide, South Australia.