AMTIL hits 20 years old at Austech 2019

AMTIL held a celebration at Austech 2019 in Melbourne on 16 May to mark the 20th anniversary of its formation in 1999.

Established in 1999, AMTIL (the Australian Manufacturing Technology Institute Limited) is the peak national body representing the advanced manufacturing sector in Australia. The anniversary event was celebrated with an exclusive cocktail reception at the AMTIL stand within the Austech exhibition, attended by AMTIL members and staff, along with several key industry figures. AMTIL’s CEO Shane Infanti was on hand to cut the cake, in what was something of a dual celebration in the middle of a highly successful Austech exhibition.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years,” said Infanti. “We’ve loved every minute of it, and we’re looking forward to continuing to support Australian manufacturing for many more years to come. And it’s great that we’ve been able to hold this celebration with Austech 2019 on track to be one of the most successful shows we’ve ever run.”

Co-located with National Manufacturing Week (NMW), Austech is Australia’s premier advanced manufacturing and machine tool exhibition. Austech 2019 got underway on 14 May at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, and the exhibition has seen a very strong turnout in terms of visitor numbers and high levels of interest at the stands.

Official figures for the first day of the event show that Austech and NMW attracted a combined total of 2,550 visitors – a very high attendance for first day and an increase of more than 40% compared with the first-day attendance two years ago. Visitor numbers have remained consistently high as the week has progressed, with the strong turnout clearly in evidence on the expo floor. Many exhibitors have been reporting brisk traffic on their stands, leading to high numbers of promising leads and potential sales.

Austech 2019 had already been breaking records well before its doors opened. With more than 150 organisations exhibiting, and many of them taking significantly larger stands than in previous years, the exhibition floor space covers more than 6,000sqm – a footprint unprecedented in Austech’s twenty-year history. Austech 2019 was also the fastest to sell out in terms of exhibition space for more than a decade.

Expectations are now high for the overall attendance at Austech 2019, which will continue till 4.00pm on Friday 17 May.

Manufacturing in WA – Times are a-changin’

“The times they are a changin’” for the manufacturing industry of Western Australia amid recent events that have been making headlines in the political landscape, writes accountant and Bob Dylan fan James Hillgrove of William Buck.

The ability of government, at both federal and state levels, to impact change has been demonstrated by two recent developments. The first was the release of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry final report. The second was the recent announcement by the WA State Government to launch a Future Battery Industry Strategy, designed to aid the state’s growth as a battery minerals exporter.

Putting on our manufacturing helmets (for occupational health & safety) to reflect on the Royal Commission’s report, a couple of obvious questions arise: How will this affect the manufacturing industry? And what, potentially, could be the repercussions?

William Buck’s small-to-medium enterprise (SME) clients are experiencing a tightening of available lending as the most immediate effect of the Royal Commission. These effects were reflected in the January edition of the Australian Performance of Manufacturing Index, which surveys 200 industrial companies to measure the performance of the manufacturing industry. January’s PMI stated that: “New orders from smaller customers in regard to plant and machinery have fallen as a result of this tightening.”

That’s because an area of concern highlighted by Commissioner Hayne was that the Code of Banking Practice was being interpreted too widely. In particular, a code in relation to small business states banks should “exercise care and skill when issuing business credit and assess whether a small business customer can repay a loan based on their financial position and account conduct”.

This means that the application process for loans is becoming more strenuous. The banks are now more focused on a SME’s position to pay the loan, previous loans and the current state of their balance sheet. This will be experienced in all new bank applications, where they will be now asking for a wider range of documents, which could include cash flows, financial reports and income tax returns.

As an accounting firm for many SMEs, William Buck has noticed banks are asking for more information. This includes ATO Debts and year-to-date financial statements. For SMEs seeking finance, this highlights the importance of two things – being up to date with your lodgements and financial records, and having high-quality, professional three-way forecasts to give maximum confidence to the bank that you can meet your repayments.

Innovating for the future

Like mining and agriculture, manufacturing still represents a significant component of WA’s economy – producing a vast array of different goods, from fabricated metal products and petroleum, to fertiliser and milk. Manufacturers in WA added a total of almost $12.5bn to the state economy, accounting for 5% of Gross State Product. This was the fifth-largest contribution of any sector, behind mining ($63.5bn), construction ($32.9bn), real estate ($19.1bn) and healthcare ($12.7bn). It also represented 12.3% of Australia’s total $103bn in manufacturing production.

Although the sector as a whole continues to make an important contribution to the nation’s economy, Australian manufacturers have faced numerous challenges over the past 50 years as the economy has transformed. While the manufacturing industry was able to produce almost $103bn worth of goods in 2014-15, ranking as Australia’s sixth‐largest sector, it has not kept pace with growth in the remainder of the economy. This has resulted in its share of GDP dropping from about 25% during the 1960s to the current contribution of about 6.4% – the lowest level in recorded history.

However, the blooming battery production industry represents one area for expansion and innovation within the sector.

The WA State Government recently announced the establishment of a Future Batteries Industry Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) devoted to battery industry growth. This presents an excellent opportunity for the manufacturing industry within WA, a state that produces around half the globe’s supply for lithium within seven mines.

As part of the program, the State Government is looking for SMEs to manufacture key components for research and testing, which should promote the local industry. With the increased adoption of battery-powered electric vehicles and power storage, the increased pressure to create and design new processes can be applied not only to the battery industry but to all spheres of the manufacturing industry.

So, is there room for Australia – and importantly, WA – to grow in research & development?

Quite simply – yes.

According to ‘Productivity, industry engagement and the PhD workforce’, a 2013 study by the then-Chief Scientist Ian Chubb, the proportion of R&D workers in business in countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Finland was more than three times that of Australia. Chubb found that the number of researchers in Australia’s manufacturing and service sectors in 2009 was 3.1 per 1,000 employed in industry, compared with 10 per 1000 in Scandinavian countries; and 10.5 per 1,000 employees in the USA and Canada.

Putting my business advisor hat back on, the Federal Government offers incentive for research & development, which can take the form of a cash payment or a tax offset. This incentive is aimed at boosting innovation, but its complexity means uptake has been low. There are many other grants from bodies such as Austrade and trade offices that can assist in promoting research and development within a company.

With changes in the manufacturing industry continually occurring, it is important to not only have a grasp of where your company is right now, but also where your company is going into the future. The time is right for manufacturers in WA to take advantage of big changes in the political landscape, whether it be by favourably positioning your business for growth with high-quality reports and forecasts, or by taking advantage of the State Government’s vision for the future.

Western Australia’s manufacturing sector is looking up.

James Hillgrove is a Senior Accountant at William Buck based in Perth.

New Touch Industries – How the team stays on top

Developments in technology and machinery have pushed the boundaries of what was once possible in manufacturing, but they also necessitate significant training for machinery operators. For staff at New Touch Industries (NTi), this meant travelling to Germany for training with high-tech machine tool manufacturer Trumpf.

The team at NTi have always found high-tech manufacturer Trumpf supplies them with the best systems to suit its needs. Trumpf’s machines deliver impressive performance that allow NTi to achieve a superior level of service. However, these systems are full of intricate features that require extensive training to operate at an optimal level.

NTi is committed to the growth and development of its staff, maximising its productivity and constructing an environment for its team to thrive. The company offers various in-house and external training opportunities, one of which included collaborating with Trumpf. NTi sent a number of its staff from Australia to Trumpf’s headquarters in Germany to learn the complexities of these state-of-the-art machines, from the creators themselves.

Machines and systems

Based in Bayswater, Victoria, NTi provides high-quality laser cutting, bending/folding, welding and fabrication services. As a company that offers an all-in-one service, it’s vital that its production pipeline runs smoothly. Juggling hundreds of projects at any one time means it requires machines that are reliable and effective.

NTi uses Trumpf machinery for its laser cutting and bending/folding, which has led to notable improvements in production and quality. For example, Trumpf’s TruLaser can cut more intricate profiles than have been previously possible. NTi is now capable of cutting brass and copper on top of mild steels, stainless and aluminium, with automated processes that maximise turnover and reduce lead times.

NTi’s TruBend machine, equipped with an ACB System, ensures an accurate bend up to 3,000mm with a 170-ton capacity, allowing the company to bend complicated parts with consistent high-quality outcomes, over and over again. Both machines operate with TruTops Fab, Trumpf’s top-tier enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. The software connects different departments together, streamlining communication and keeping everyone on the same page.

Developing effective teams

There’s a lot of planning and preparation required to utilise machinery at an optimal level. NTi staff require the relevant training in order to take full advantage of the equipment.

NTi’s solution has been to provide both in-house training and external training to its team. Various programs are utilised to provide this training, including Promote from Within, Job Rotation and Pay for Schooling.

External training is where NTi encourages team members who are looking to improve themselves, by providing a variety of training courses conducted offsite. This is done by both providing the option both for courses that have already been found effective, and for courses suggested by the team. These have included: effective management; Solidworks; MIG & TIG welding; Corel Draw; leadership and management; supervisory courses; general apprenticeship training (fabrication); and Excel training.

NTi’s job rotation program involves circulating staff around the business to other areas, away from their usual tasks. This benefits staff by allowing them to gain a universal understanding of how each area of the factory operates. Staff gain perspective and understanding, increasing their self-value, and noticeably decreasing the threat of boredom from repetition by offering variety and training. Moreover management find it becomes easier to rotate staff during unexpected absences, increasing productivity and team morale.

The company’s programs allow its staff to grow with the company and gain confidence in their ability. Its Promote from Within policy means it looks internally when it comes to finding people to fill new roles. This gives staff the self-assurance of knowing there are always career development opportunities. This increases the overall energy of the team when they have reason to be motivated and strive to be better.

“We believe ‘happy staff are great staff’,” says Brad Drury, Managing Director at NTi. “We are excited by what our company can produce and the direction of the industry. We are proud of the environment we have created for our team and our commitment to staff development has had an equally significant effect on the functionality and operation of NTi.”

Welding breakthrough could transform manufacturing

Scientists from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland have welded glass and metal together using an ultrafast laser system, in a breakthrough for the manufacturing industry.

Various optical materials such as quartz, borosilicate glass and even sapphire were all successfully welded to metals like aluminium, titanium and stainless steel using the Heriot-Watt laser system, which provides very short, picosecond pulses of infrared light in tracks along the materials to fuse them together. The new process could transform the manufacturing sector and have direct applications in the aerospace, defence, optical technology and even healthcare fields.

Professor Duncan Hand, director of the five-university EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Laser-based Production Processes based at Heriot-Watt, said: “Traditionally it has been very difficult to weld together dissimilar materials like glass and metal due to their different thermal properties – the high temperatures and highly different thermal expansions involved cause the glass to shatter.

“Being able to weld glass and metals together will be a huge step forward in manufacturing and design flexibility. At the moment, equipment and products that involve glass and metal are often held together by adhesives, which are messy to apply and parts can gradually creep, or move. Outgassing is also an issue – organic chemicals from the adhesive can be gradually released and can lead to reduced product lifetime.”

The process relies on the incredibly short pulses from the laser. These pulses last only a few picoseconds – a picosecond to a second is like a second compared to 30,000 years. The parts to be welded are placed in close contact, and the laser is focused through the optical material to provide a very small and highly intense spot at the interface between the two materials.

“We achieved megawatt peak power over an area just a few microns across,” says Professor Hand. “This creates a microplasma, like a tiny ball of lightning, inside the material, surrounded by a highly-confined melt region. We tested the welds at -50C to 90C and the welds remained intact, so we know they are robust enough to cope with extreme conditions.”

Professor Hand and his team are working with a consortium led by Oxford Lasers, a laser micromachining systems integrator and Coherent Scotland, laser specialists; and Leonardo and Gooch & Housego, both end-users of the technology to develop a prototype for the laser processing system and take it closer to commercialisation. Two other partners, Glass Technology Services and the Centre for Process Innovation, provide additional routes to commercialisation, including in packaging of OLED devices.

Strong first-day turnout for Austech 2019

Austech 2019 got underway on 14 May at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, and the first day drew a strong turnout in terms of visitors.

Co-located with National Manufacturing Week (NMW), Austech is Australia’s premier advanced manufacturing and machine tool exhibition. Official figures for the first day of the event show that Austech and NMW attracted a combined total of 2,550 visitors – a very high attendance for first day. That strong turnout was in evidence on the expo floor, with many exhibitors reporting brisk traffic on their stands, leading to high numbers of promising leads and potential sales.

“We’re absolutely thrilled with the number of visitors we got today,” said Kim Banks, AMTIL’s Events Manager and Austech organiser. “It’s been one of our biggest ever first days, and an increase of around 50% on the same day at Austech 2017.”

Austech 2019 had already been breaking records well before its doors opened. With more than 150 organisations exhibiting, and many of them taking significantly larger stands than in previous years, the exhibition floor space covers more than 6,000sqm – a footprint unprecedented in Austech’s twenty-year history. Austech 2019 was also the fastest to sell out in terms of exhibition space for more than a decade.

Events got underway at 10.00am at the Industry 4.0 Theatre, in the middle of the exhibition floor, with a speech from Martin Pakula, the Victorian State Minister for Jobs, Innovation & Trade, to officially open the show. This was followed by a presentation by Dr Alan Finkel AO, Australia’s Chief Scientist, to kick off a wide-ranging speaker program that will be running throughout Austech/NMW.

This year’s show also offers a comprehensive spectrum of technologies vital to any modern manufacturing business, with the Air Technology Pavilion spotlighting the cutting edge in compressor systems and associated air technologies, and the Digitalisation Pavilion demonstrating the latest innovations in connected manufacturing. The Additive Manufacturing Pavilion spotlights the advances in 3D printing, complemented by the Unlimit3D conference – taking place in tandem with the exhibition. Finally, the Manufacturers Pavilion provides a platform for some of Australia’s finest precision engineering and advanced manufacturing businesses.

Having broken records on its first day, expectations are now high for the remainder of Austech, which will continue till Friday 17 May.

“The first day has normally been relatively quiet compared with the later stages of previous Austechs,” Banks added. “So we’re very optimistic after today. It’s great news for our exhibitors and it’s great news for the industry.”

Victorian manufacturing on show at Hall of Fame Awards

Some of the most innovative, visionary and entrepreneurial businesses and individuals driving Victoria’s manufacturing industry now and into the future were honoured on the evening of 14 May at the Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame Awards.

Minister for Jobs, Innovation and Trade Martin Pakula congratulated the winners and finalists for their work in continuing to take Victorian businesses to the next level.

“The Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame Awards highlight the strength and competitiveness of Victoria’s manufacturing industry and I want to congratulate all our outstanding winners and finalists,” said Minister Pakula. “Our manufacturing industry is one of Victoria’s greatest strengths and successfully exports, invests and contributes to our thriving economy.”

Inaugural awards were presented to Air Radiators, named the Leader in Innovative Product Development and Commercialisation, and to Holden Special Vehicles, who received the award for Leader in Global Supply Chain Partnerships. Robert Bosch Australia took out the Leader in Industry 4.0 award and Barker Trailers was awarded the 2019 Leader in Workforce Skills Development.

For their excellence in leadership and innovation in the manufacturing industry, Rochelle Avinu from Leica Biosystems was awarded the Woman Manufacturer of the Year award, and Nicholas Orchowski from RUAG Australia received the award for Young Manufacturer of the Year.

Columbia Australia collected the Manufacturer of the Year (Small Business) award, while Safetech was name Manufacturer of the Year (Medium Business). The Manufacturer of the Year (Large Business) went to Dulux Australia.

Geoffrey Bell was inducted into the Hall of Fame Honour Roll, in recognition of the evolution and growth of AW Bell, established as a family pattern making business in 1952. The company now employs 100 people providing unique and one-off metal parts and prototypes for businesses and entrepreneurs. RUAG Australia also became the latest company inductee into the prestigious Hall of Fame.

The Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame has been recognising outstanding businesses and individuals in the manufacturing industry since 2001. Victoria’s manufacturing industry contributes over $30bn to the Victorian economy annually, employs more than 270,000 people and competes globally with $19.6bn annual exports in 2017-18.

AUSTECH 2019 – The Biggest Show Yet

With this year marking its 20th anniversary, Austech 2019 gets underway next Tuesday, running from 14-17 May at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre (MCEC) – and it’s set to be the biggest Austech yet.

Co-located with National Manufacturing Week (NMW), Austech is Australia’s premier advanced manufacturing and machine tool exhibition. In total, more than 150 organisations will be putting their products and services on display within Austech this year. Moreover, with a high number of exhibitors opting to book substantially larger stands than in previous years, the exhibition floor space will occupy more than 6,000sqm – a footprint unprecedented in two decades of Austech expos.

“We’ve been quite blown away by the bookings this time round,” says Kim Banks, AMTIL’s Events Manager and Austech organiser. “The fact that exhibitors have been booking early and taking larger stands suggests people in the industry are anticipating significant sales activity at this year’s show. We’re also well ahead in terms of advanced registrations from people booking in to visit the show. This year’s Austech is going to be packed.”

The high take-up for this year’s event builds on the momentum established with Austech 2017, which was the most successful edition of the show in several years. Together Austech and NMW attracted 11,501 visitors two years ago, the highest turnout since 2009. This included a strong interstate contingent – with almost one-fifth of those in attendance travelling from outside Victoria – as well as impressive growth in the number of international visitors, from as far afield as China, Taiwan and India.

Austech 2019 takes place amid a period of sustained activity growth across Australian manufacturing. The positive outlook for the industry is reflected in the Australian Performance of Manufacturing Index, which has shown a trend of near-continuous growth over the last few years. And this optimism has been clear as preparations for Austech 2019 have continued. The early interest from exhibitors, as well as the enthusiasm expressed by people planning to visit the show, are indicative of strong positive sentiment across the industry and a willingness to invest for the future.

Co-located with National Manufacturing Week (NMW), Austech 2019 will be an unmissable event for manufacturing professionals. More than 10,000 industrial decision makers are expected to attend the exhibition, seizing the opportunity to see the latest technology up close and learn what it can bring their businesses. Every aspect of manufacturing technology will be covered, from enormous laser cutters and press brakes, down to the tiniest precision cutting tools, as well as state-of-the-art support systems, software and accessories, and the myriad services that are essential to any manufacturing operation.

As well as breaking records in terms of sheer size, this year’s Austech will offer an ever wider spectrum of technologies vital to the modern manufacturing business. To help visitors to the show navigate such a diverse line-up of exhibits, Austech 2019 will feature more specially dedicated areas focusing on specific, specialised technologies. New to this year’s show will be the Air Technology Pavilion, which will showcase the latest compressor systems and associated air technologies. Meanwhile, having made its debut at Austech 2017, the Digitalisation Pavilion will again be exploring how developments in digital technology are ushering in a new era of smart, connected manufacturing.

Also making its return will be the Additive Manufacturing Pavilion, spotlighting the latest advances in 3D printing. This will be complemented by Unlimit3D, a two-day conference on additive manufacturing that will take place alongside Austech on 14-15 May. AMTIL has assembled an outstanding line-up of expert speakers for Unlimit3D, meaning the MCEC will absolutely be the place to be for anyone with an interest in this remarkable technology.

Finally, the Manufacturers Pavilion is now a well-esablished part of Austech, showcasing the capabilities of Australia’s precision engineering and advanced manufacturing industry. As well as a diverse array of Australian component manufacturers, precision engineering firms, toolmakers, advanced manufacturers and general engineering companies, the Manufacturers Pavilion will feature major exhibits from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) including BAE Systems Australia and Volgren.

With so much on display, at such a big show, the challenge for visitors to Austech 2019 might just be getting round to seeing everything on display. Fortunately, help is available; Austech’s organisers have partnered up with event management software specialists Map Your Show to create a set of online tools to help you plan your visit in advance. The tools are accessible via the Austech website, so you can start mapping out your movements at Austech right now.

“I think it’s safe to say we’ve got every part of manufacturing you could think of covered at Austech 2019,” adds Banks. “It’s definitely got something for everyone with an interest in manufacturing. Just make sure you leave yourself time to see it all.”

Iscar – Parting for productivity

Parting and grooving are essential aspects of the turning process and the metalworking industry faces a constant challenge to integrate methods that will increase efficiency and decrease downtime for these popular operations. Always at the leading edge of developments in the field of cutting tools, Iscar has introduced a revolutionary system for parting and grooving operations.

Iscar fully understands the importance of parting and grooving operations in the turning process, and recognises that multiple factors need to be considered for every application, including machine tool selection, the type of material being parted/grooved, required depth of cut, and feed and speed rates. Iscar has responded to these complex needs by developing a comprehensive range of highly effective parting and grooving solutions that include an extensive choice of insert geometries, chip breakers, and carbide grades – and the range continues to expand.

With Industry 4.0 demands and standards fuelling industry development at extraordinary rates, Iscar has introduced new parting and grooving technologies capable of integrating seamlessly with the new wave of machining centers that work with incredibly high feeds. TANG-F-GRIP has been designed to answer these needs and to achieve high productivity and lower costs. A revolutionary parting system designed for increased productivity, TANG-F-GRIP comprises a robust tool block carrying square blades that feature four pockets, with a unique parting concept capable of parting off up to 120mm bar diameter to optimise performance.

TANG-F-GRIP is simple to mount and operate on all machine types, including multi-task and machining centres on the X-axis, without any need for special adjustment. The system enables the mounting of both TANG-F-GRIP and DO-GRIP blades on the same blocks.

The square blades possess a support system that provides totally vibration-free grooving and parting. TANG-F-GRIP also saves on set-up time as, in cases of pocket damage, the block’s configuration allows a blade to be rotated to a new pocket without setup.

TANG-F-GRIP is intended for high-feed parting. It extends insert life, improves surface finish and part straightness, and features high stability – especially when parting large diameters. The new patented blades reduce cutting time and also enable significant material savings – for instance, a 120mm bar can be cut with a 3mm blade with high-feed inserts at a feed rate of up to 0.4mm per revolution.

The high-feed‎ tangential single-ended insert was developed to enable highly efficient parting at very high feed rates, by use of a unique chipformer technology. The insert features a new insert chipformer to allow unobstructed chip flow, which increases insert and blade tool life and leads to very high productivity gains.

All TANG-GRIP inserts can be integrated into the TANG-F-GRIP system, which is also compatible with DO-GRIP DGN double-sided twisted geometry parting inserts, to provide an extensive choice of parting widths for all application ranges. Iscar offers a wide variety of chipformers and advanced grades to ensure unbeatable performance and extended tool life.

A revolutionary secure clamping method using a tangentially orientated pocket facilitates pocket life that is three times longer than that of any other conventional self-grip system. The robust clamping method enables machining at high feed rates and provides excellent straightness and surface finish characteristics, while the flat top configuration prevents chip obstructions under all possible machining conditions.

The JetCut system incorporates ingeniously designed through coolant channels to deliver coolant close to the cutting edge, which improves chip formation and slashes flank and cratering rates.

When machining materials such as stainless steel or high temperature alloys, the temperature near the cutting edge area becomes extremely high. In addition, these material types tend to adhere to the tools cutting edge, causing built-up edge. These problematic phenomena can be moderated by targeting high-pressure coolant directly to the cutting zone.

Iscar maintains its unrelenting progress as a result of the company’s continuous development of innovative, high-quality products, based on the talented work of the company’s R&D department and prompted by the evolving needs of global industry. This desire to provide customers with the very latest, most efficient metal cutting technology is reflected in the introduction of TANG-F-GRIP solutions to Iscar’s comprehensive GRIP range of parting and grooving tools.

Markforged – streamlining functional prototyping

Centor, an award-winning manufacturer of industrial door systems, faced a challenge: validating component and assembly designs was inhibited by high machining costs and unreliable outsourcing. With the adoption of a Markforged 3D-printer, the company can produce robust, high-quality functional prototypes in-house more efficiently, rapidly iterating on product designs and validating fit, form and basic function.

Centor develops custom-integrated doors for residential and commercial buildings. Each unique design requires a proof of concept. Three in-house machinists used to spend all their time fabricating components in low volumes, with additional components being outsourced. This approach led to inconsistent quality, lengthy production times, and excess costs.

Seeking an alternative, David Chappell, Group Manager of Product & Engineering at Centor, took a chance on a Markforged Mark Two rapid prototyping machine. He was immediately impressed.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever actually seen a 3D printer do what it promised in a real-life design studio factory like ours,” said Chappell. “It just runs.”

While his team of experienced manufacturers intially expressed doubt about integrating 3D printing in their workflow, they now run the printer almost 24/7. It enabled them to redirect machining bandwidth, iterate on designs, learn quickly from printed parts, and present compelling proofs of concepts to customers. This in-house efficiency “takes out one blockage to innovation”.

The tight tolerances delivered by the printer ensure that multiple components fit together perfectly and enable the prototype folding doors to function reliably. Markforged’s cloud software allows Centor to easily translate their CAD designs into printed parts, with accurate time and cost estimates. Free from the constraints of subtractive machining, 3D printed parts can be designed with complex geometries that improve product function.

By switching to printing on the Markforged machine, Centor reduced the time it took to produce functional prototypes from 156 hours to 12 hours, and cut costs from $800 to $10 – savings of 93% and 99% respectively. Centor has further optimised its production by printing jigs and weatherproof end-use parts. It will soon have a Markforged printer in each of its four factories across Australia, China, Poland, and the US.

Markforged will be exhibiting at Austech 2019 at Stand: AM25.

Government urged to retain innovation patent system

Plans by the Federal Government to abolish the innovation patent system will undermine innovative activity within Australian, and ultimately would have a detrimental impact on Australian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). By Grant Shoebridge.

Innovators currently have two options for protecting inventions in Australia – the standard patent system and the innovation patent system. The innovation patent is Australia’s second-tier patent system and requires that inventions have an innovative step, which is a lower threshold than an inventive step that applies to standard patents. Also, the term of protection for an innovation patent is eight years rather than 20 years under standard patent protection.

The innovation patent system was introduced in 2001 with the aim of incentivising innovation by Australian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by offering a rapid and affordable system designed for the protection of, for example, incremental innovation, that is unlikely to satisfy the patentability threshold set for standard patents. Significantly, and consistently over the years, Australian SMEs have been the predominant users of the innovation patent system.

Killing off the innovation patent system

In 2019, the Australian Government plans to abolish the innovation patent system. This controversial measure came about as a result of a Productivity Commission recommendation, which the Government swiftly supported in August 2017. The proposed abolition of the innovation patent system appears to be exclusively based on equivocal economic analysis of innovation patent use. Moreover, the Productivity Commission seemingly ignored submissions from several industry groups, including the Australia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Business Council of Australia, and the Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys of Australia (IPTA), which expressed a common concern that the demise of innovation patents would be detrimental to Australian SME-based innovation.

For past year, IPTA has been liaising with many Australian businesses and the consistent message from this work is that the innovation patent system represents an important tool for:

  • Protecting commercially significant inventions.
  • Attracting investment funds.
  • Ensuring inventions come to market for the benefit of the Australian public.

The concerns of just a few Australian business owners regarding the proposed abolition of the innovation patent system are presented in a video that can be accessed at the end of this article.

It is clear from the comments of Australian business owners that in the event the innovation patent system is abolished, Australian-generated innovation will, to a significant extent, be replaced by the importation of foreign-based products, and that Australian SME-based employment will fall. For these reasons, the Government must reconsider its decision to abolish the innovation patent.

A more rational approach

IPTA recognises that issues exist in relation to the current innovation patent system and recommends that the innovation patent system be revised as follows:

  1. The innovative step threshold be raised.
  2. Examination be made compulsory.
  3. The term “patent” be applied only to cases that have been examined and deemed to satisfy the relevant patentability requirements.

In relation to point 1, IPTA’s position is that the innovative step threshold should be raised, but to a level that is lower than that of the inventive step threshold. The reasoning behind this is that many businesses, particularly in manufacturing, rely on protecting incremental, but commercially significant, innovations. As such, IPTA believes that a system that provides rapid and affordable protection for incremental innovation, that may not meet the current inventive step threshold, is a necessity.

In support of this approach, and emerging from IPTA’s discussions with Australian business owners, it is clear that developing and commercialising inventions that are likely to satisfy an inventive step threshold requires significantly greater time and expense than protecting incremental innovations.

Moreover, unprotected incremental innovations are susceptible to copying by competitors, which two of the business owners featured in the IPTA innovation patent video, referred to above, experienced and were only able to resolve because of innovation patent protection. It is for this reason that IPTA is strongly opposed to the Government’s proposal to simply abolish the innovation patent system.

For several months during 2018, IPTA actively co-ordinated discussions between IP Australia, Government Ministers, the relevant Opposition Shadow Minister’s office, cross-bench senators and innovators from Australian SMEs, in a bid to save the innovation patent system. This work resulted in a decision by the Government and IP Australia to undertake further consultation targeted at better understanding the needs of Australian SMEs. This, however, has not altered the Government’s decision to abolish the innovation patent system. Accordingly, IPTA urges businesses that believe they will be negatively impacted by the loss of the innovation patent system to make their concerns known to the Government.

Grant Shoebridge PhD is a Principal at Shelston IP and a Fellow and council member of the Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys of Australia (IPTA), where he is the convenor of the Public Relations Committee. Grant has led IPTA’s lobbying strategy to save the innovation patent system.

To view the video ‘Save the innovation patent campaign_IPTA’, visit: