Applying the auto industry’s discipline on cost and reliability to medical device manufacturing has enabled Adelaide firm Micro-X to win over a leading US medical imaging heavyweight. The ASX-listed start-up has also pursued Apple founder, Steve Jobs’ philosophy of simplicity in the design of its revolutionary lightweight x-ray machine.
Peter Rowland, Chief Executive at ASX-listed start-up Micro-X, says he finds inspiration in the creed of Steve Jobs as he and his South Australian-based team prepare to shake up the world’s x-ray market.
“I love the pursuit of simplicity. That’s what we’ve done with our x-ray,” Rowland says. “Complicated solutions are a sign of lazy engineering.”
Micro-X, which listed in Australia in December, is developing and manufacturing an ultra-lightweight mobile medical x-ray unit based on Carbon Nano-Tube emitter technology.
In the tradition of Apple’s Jobs, the team has spent a lot of time on ergonomics to make sure it is lightweight and small and cheap, as well as “lovely to use.”
The company’s first device, the DRX Revolution Nano, weighs around 80 kilograms and replaces existing portable X-ray devices which weigh a hefty 500 to 600 kilograms.
Crucially, the firm is finalizing details of a global supply deal with New York-based Carestream Health, formerly Eastman Kodak’s health group and the global leader in mobile x-ray, delivering in 130 countries.
“It is very exciting to think that something designed and built in Australia is going to end up in hospitals all over the world as a whole new direction of radiology,” says Rowland.
The Micro-X technology also eliminates a tube filament heater, greatly reducing power consumption and allowing 10 exposures an hour for four hours on one battery charge.
The team moved into the South Australian government’s bespoke manufacturing complex in Tonsley, the site of a former Mitsubishi car manufacturing plant, in recent weeks and pre-production lead units are underway in readiness for regulatory testing where shock, vibration, heat and radiation will all be assessed for compliance.
The plan is to begin selling in early 2017.
“We are on a path to market with Carestream because they’ve got such a big brand. When they start selling this device it will sell very quickly because of brand trust,” says Mr Rowland.
“A very, very groundbreaking x-ray from a company they have never heard of in Australia might not sell, so the big brand solves all that.”
Mr Rowland says he was determined to keep manufacturing in Australia, and a good location can mitigate risk when starting a business.
“I honestly believe that if you design your equipment right, Australia is not a disadvantage. If you are manufacturing something and your only competitive advantage is that you can make it cheaply, you are probably making the wrong thing,” he says.
Micro-X is entering a market where it will sell at less than half the price of the current competition, and the team estimates it will take only around four hours to assemble its product.
“I think I can afford 243 minutes of Australian labour rates for all the advantages, of security and risk mitigation