Smoother Operation With 3D Scanning: The Footwork Podiatric Laboratory Story
June 5th – 2020
In this episode of the TechMed 3D Podcast, we talked to Artur Maliszewski, Founder and managing director of Footwork Podiatric Laboratory in Melbourne Australia.
Here is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Kate Stern: Hello! I’m your host Kate Stern, and I’m here today with Artur Maliszewski. Founder and managing director of Footwork Podiatric Laboratory in Melbourne Australia. Great to have you here Artur.
Artur Maliszewski: Well, great to see you, Kate.
Kate Stern: So, Artur what sort of Orthotics do you specialize in?
Artur Maliszewski: Well, we manufacture orthotic foot podiatrists. I am a Podiatrist myself from training 30 years ago finished my Podiatry degree at La Trobe University in Melbourne. And as a Podiatrist, I started making orthotics myself for my patients in the garage. One of the main reasons being is I could not get what I wanted back in those days from a commercial laboratory. From there, a couple of my colleagues saw what I was doing and liked what I was doing, and they said can you make mine, and before we knew it we had a fully-fledged commercial laboratory going. We had to move out of the garage into a factory. We moved on from there and today we are 3D printing scanning and one of the biggest labs in Australia at the moment, and hopefully one day in the world.
Kate Stern: Wow, that’s awesome.
Artur Maliszewski: Yeah.
Kate Stern: So, I understand you have switched to 3D scanning. Can you tell me a bit more about what you were doing before versus after?
Artur Maliszewski: Well, that was all as technology gets invented and brought into our industry. So, initially, Podiatrists would say plaster casts, and 90% of the Podiatrists in our industry would use Plaster of Paris and take a plaster mold of afoot. Then that mold would be poured with plaster itself creating the positive model that would then be shaped. So, whatever the patient required in order to offload different parts of the food and stuff for different parts of the food and materials such as polypropylene, plastic carbon fiber, or EVI, which is rubber would then be molded onto that positive model and then all hand-ground by hand.
So, in the early days was very much as far as much as an art form more than anything else. With digital technology, we were able to utilize 3D scanning and scanning enabled us to be able to receive casts or scans from Podiatrists much faster with depending on the top of scans that we used the scans were much more accurate. But as we grew from a local Melbourne based laboratory and supplying local Podiatrists, we started going all over Australia and then global. Scanning allowed us to receive cast from podiatrists or scans from Podiatrists much faster pretty much instantaneously, regardless of whether they were 2 kilometers down a road, or you know 15,000 kilometers across in the UK.
Kate Stern: Wow. About how long have you been using 3D scanning?
Artur Maliszewski: We started 3D scanning around 2009, 2010. So, initially, the scanners that were available were sort of big boxy scanners very expensive. And they were great producing a good quality scan a great quality scan, but there were limitations with it where a Podiatrist would work in three different locations during the week. So, we had one particular Podiatrist and this scanner weighed about 25 kilograms. The scanner would literally leave in the boot of his car and because he worked in three different locations and no one location on consecutive days. He would literally take the scan out of his car and there were problems with you know if he knocked that somewhere miss calibration and so forth. But the problem now even just moving the scanner between the rooms.
So, he had a clinic of multiple Podiatrists and one, but I just wanted to use it and somebody else in addition to consulting or in wanted to use. It was very difficult because they’re all connected to computer hardware etc. So, around 5-6 years ago we noticed structures can I develop a scanner and we’ve been looking at it for about a year until. But the problem we always had was with the development of the apps, and we found that the structures cannot back then the apps were very rough very unreliable.
Until we got onto simply by researching the market or we got onto TechMed 3D and there looked far better much smoother operation. And gave us the much more precise scan that what we required for our production. We actually did some in-house testing, the iPad scanner as opposed to TechMed scanner where we scan feet ourselves with both scanners and then compared them and the average difference between the foot at any one point was I think was point two of a millimeter. So, we thought we had all of a sudden that a scanner that was a tenth of the price even less maybe 15th of the price, much more portable than just attached to an iPad and we had the technology with somebody like TechMed 3D.
There was a brilliance to work with anything that we wanted to update and some of the modifications were required and in the app itself to suit our production. They were very very good to work with and still are and they’re actually developing some further modifications and updates for us as we speak.
Kate Stern: That’s great. So, what did you do exactly to go from what you had before to the 3D scanning method?
Artur Maliszewski: It all came together with logic scanning technology but also manufactured technology. As I mentioned earlier, we were doing everything by hand and in 2008 we decided to invest in software, developed our own software. Where the positive model will actually be designed on a computer and then machined out of a plaster model itself. So, we actually use plaster blocks to be able to machine So, we no longer had to use plaster by hand, so everything was a machine and then we would save back on the price. So, as the technology evolved with software, the scanning campaigned in hand, because we no longer needed the positive models to pour and modify by hand.
Then back in present, it was all digital not just from scanning but also its roots in manufacturing. And now over the last two years would actually be shifted from Polypropylene and CNC machining, which is called removable or technology where the products actually been machined out of a block of plastic or subtractive technology is what I’m trying to think of through 3D printing. Which is additive manufacturing where it’s literally using the material that you need for the product itself. So, we’ll do our production, we’ve gone from a wastage of around 90 to 95 % to totally reverse where our wastage is now less than 5%. Again, 3D scanning allows us to use those models to be then put into our software and design the products that we have.
Kate Stern: That’s an incredible reduction in wastage, just from this one switch.
Artur Maliszewski: It is. It’s phenomenal, our plan is to reduce our carbon footprint and greenhouse effect by 90 % over the next two or three years. That’s just from being able to use a different methodology in manufacturing, but as well as then being more careful with the types of materials that we’ll use. So, even the 3D print material that we use is actually plant-based. So, it’s an R1 PA-11 which is plant-based as opposed to utilizing Polypropylene or plastic, which is oil petrochemical-based. So, the claim is for the planet and using a resource that is renewable rather than actually getting oil out of the ground. So, digital technology has allowed us to move into that platform much easier.
Kate Stern: Were there any resources that you use to help use with 3D scanning?
Artur Maliszewski: The biggest resource is actually come being able to communicate with the people that you’re dealing with, and again people that TechMed have been brilliant when we came to that. I mean we’ve had a number of visits from them they flew over from Canada down to Australia and face to face meeting. I’m a really strong believer in being able to have a relationship and a close working in a personal relationship with the people we rely on the most in our business. Well, they’d be major suppliers or clients, and the people that segment’s really have been brilliant in that space.
Kate Stern: That’s great to hear. What advice would you give to someone who’s wanting to switch to 3D scanning?
Artur Maliszewski: Do your research. Don’t go for the cheapest product and by all means, TechMed 3D isn’t the cheapest on the market. But just like us, we’re not the cheapest out there but you do pay for what you get. It’s, do your research make sure you know what you want, and make sure you are getting what you want, and if you do not keep looking around you know we would in stumble across TechMed 3D. We tried a lot of other platforms in the past and we simply weren’t happy with it, and with TechMed 3D with were. And be open-minded you know if you’re not getting what you want, make sure you speak to the people involved, there may be a reason that there’s some sort of miscommunication.
As technology changes, you really need to be open-minded that what’s happening and keep up to date with it and again they’ve been really brilliant with it. I mean now we are using a platform such as iOS from iPad from Apple. So, they have to be really on the ball to be able to keep up with the changes that Apple and iOS are making to make sure that there are no miss calibration issues and that their app is always up to date with whatever Apple is putting out.
There are always you know times where our clients are struggling with it because they’re not updating their app. So, the iOS refreshments an update, so that’s the challenge for us to be able to communicate with our clients.
But TechMed is now putting out videos that help with that as well which really goes a long way in helping us to communicate with their clients how important and critical the updates are and to be able to, you know, keep up to date. Make sure that we’ve got the latest, so there are no problems with my collaborations and the scans not being quite right.
Kate Stern: I think that if I supply to so many situations, like know what you want to do your research and you get what you pay for.
“So, we’ll do our production, we’ve gone from a wastage of around 90 to 95 % to totally reverse where our wastage is now less than 5%. Again, 3D scanning allows us to use those models to be then put into our software and design the products that we have. “
Artur Maliszewski: 100%, 100%!
Kate Stern: Good to know. Can you tell me a bit more about which of TechMed 3D’s Solutions you’re actually using?
Artur Maliszewski: So, we’re using the TechMed 3D scanning app, which comes with what’s called MSoft software. This then allows us to download this game clean it upconvert it to we actually use STL files in our production. So, we use their proprietary MSoft software to convert their files and then align them if we have to clean them up modifying, compare left and right scans which makes it quite easy to do. Again, they’re working on a number of projects for us in the background. Which will help to automate a lot of the manual things that we are currently doing. Which will again improve efficiency and speed in our production.
Kate Stern: Oh, that’s really interesting. You talked a bit about how much research you did. How did you find out about TechMed 3D?
Artur Maliszewski: Literally Dr. Google you know. Just researching on the internet and see what’s out there and just came across them as we are researching on different apps and the communication from them was pretty straightforward. Like I said they from day one when we contact them and they were really responsive and quick, which is really important to us. So, there is an issue we know that they will respond to us pretty much immediately. You know the Podiatrists rely on us to get their Orthotics to them on Psalms of the patient skin can actually start wearing them and solve whatever issues there have. And if we have a downtime a day or two so we cannot afford that.
So, a company like TechMed quite often will know we’ll be making phone calls and love the night from our room to make sure that any problems that may pop up are resolved. There’s always going to be problems in business and especially when you’re advancing technology. There’s always going to be hiccups and issues that pop up. It’s that is having that understanding with your supplier that you know they’re on the ball and they’re available and whatever issue, we have will get resolved. It’s critical for us.
Kate Stern: Definitely. You talked a bit about the reduction in wastage. Can you tell me more about other results you’ve seen from digitalizing?
Artur Maliszewski: From digitalizing, it speeds up our production. So, it makes it much more efficient and looks being a manufacturer in a country like Australia where labor is not the cheapest in the world, there are other places in the world where obviously you know in Asia and so forth where we can get labor much cheaper without competition as we go global. We obviously have competition in most places as well. So, being able to digitize and automate manufacturing as much as possible to make sure that remove as much as you know labor-intensive processes out of our manufacturing and add that into our automation and digitalization really allows us to be you know a competitive in the marketplace or the product that we produce.
We aim to be the best at what we do and our aim is to have technology do for us as much as we can and then humans just you know process it and make it look pretty. So, technology and digitization are critical for us to be able to do. Without it, I would not be doing this right now. I’d probably be back in the clinic working because there is no way with the cost of labor would be able to compete in the global market the way we are at the moment.
Kate Stern: Very interesting. Can you tell me what sort of results you’ve seen from the tech med 3D solutions? Like could you maybe put a number on what those results have been worth to you?
Artur Maliszewski: Well, since we started using the TechMed scanners or TechMed app with the iPad scanner, that made it much more affordable for our podiatrists to use. So, what we found is that in a period of since we switched to what made the iPad scanner or Structure Scanner available for our clients, our Podiatrists using the TechMed 3D app. You know before we started using it there was probably about 30% of a podiatrist would be scanning with the previous scanners that we had and mainly because they were really expensive but we’re talking you know around $500 for the iPad buy scanner plus the iPad, as opposed to you know 10 to $12,000 for a big bulky scanner.
So, the price was you know one-tenth of the iPad into it. But the outside now is that era too close to 95% of our orders come from scans. So, it’s made an interesting difference in the last probably three to four years. So, again that meant that we no longer have to rely on post to get the cast to us. We would get instantaneously. So, wherever the podiatrist is in the world whether they’re in Auckland, New Zealand or there is Singapore or London or Copenhagen we get them straight off. Which makes it really easy and all across all those countries, the podiatrists are using the Orthotics based scanner with the TechMed 3D app.
“Since we started using the TechMed scanners or TechMed app with the iPad scanner, that made it much more affordable for our podiatrists to use. So, what we found is that in a period of since we switched to what made the iPad scanner or Structure Scanner available for our clients, our Podiatrists using the TechMed 3D app.”
Kate Stern: Hmm, so in before 2009 you would have had none of your orders from scans and now you have 95% of them?
Artur Maliszewski: Correct. Yes, it took about 10 years to switch totally, and now at that time even since using the iPad-based scanners and TechMed technology businesses more than doubled. Because we’ve been able to you know attract Podiatrists to use us from much further away because of the speed of the delivery system. So, we still have to post the Orthotics at and but whether we send them you know across Australia from Melbourne to Perth. I’d say that might take a day or two it takes us the same time to send it anywhere else in the world.
Currently, we are actually utilizing technology in 3D printing we are partnering with different labs around the world we’ve just partnered up with that New Zealand’s biggest lab. Where we are printing and designing for a laboratory called ‘Cami Orthotics’ in New Zealand and eventually we will actually be printing on-site in New Zealand. So, Podiatrists in New Zealand will scan the patient will design it in Melbourne, send that fouled back to New Zealand and we’ll be printing in New Zealand instantaneously.
So, all of a sudden, we are taking a lot of the international freight costs which will make us a lot more competitive game. Again, it goes back to being able to create a grade scale and that’s utilizing technology to be able to produce the product.
Kate Stern: So, that’s one exciting thing you have looking forward is opening in New Zealand. Do you have any other plans for the future?
Artur Maliszewski: We are negotiations with labs in the UK and Europe at the moment. So, but with the current COVID 19 situation, everything’s been put on hold, and looking at those people in Europe, UK, North America especially in the US are getting smashed. So, our thoughts go out to all of them and hopefully we all get through this. Luckily in Australia and New Zealand, we’ve been largely spared with the devastation that they’ve seen in other parts of the world. Maybe because we are so removed from anybody else and it’s simplicity and what the government’s done to be able to help us and the measures have put in place early.
But look the world’s new pie’s there’s going to be a different place and again utilizing technology because we will not be able to travel you know just like doing the video with you now. We’re running webinars and so forth, so we’ve got a much better reach much bigger reach globally to podiatry so to be able to communicate with them saying, no hang on you’ve got a scan so regardless where they you send us time to elaborate in kilometers away or 15,000 kilometers away, doesn’t matter we get them to send time
Again, utilizing technology, we can deliver our product to the other side of the world in most cases a lot faster than the local rise can. That’s only-, you know thanks to the great technology that we use.
Kate Stern: It’s definitely a sad occasion but it’ll be a big adjustment to everyone.
Artur Maliszewski: It is and locks anything you know I think of it that there’s a lot of changes that are being made. We’ve made a lot of changes in our business and at the end of it I think will come out much stronger than what we would have about it. It realigns you’re thinking it changes your thinking you’ve got to be able to change and adapt and make the most of the situation that you can.
Kate Stern: I’m glad to hear that. Going back to the beginning, how did you get started in this industry?
Artur Maliszewski: In this industry, ok. I am at University, well as a high school student I was always involved in sport and use to play soccer and did some cross-country running then started cycling. I always wanted to work within sports medicine with athletes and so forth and looking at doing Physiotherapy. A friend of a family who was a physiotherapist is looking at every Physiotherapist who wants to work in sports medicine. But the reality is most of them working private practice and fixing with people with bad backs and so forth and you know have a look at Podiatry because it was just those late eighties.
It was just starting to come out with biomechanics and assessments and running. I went and spent some time visit a number of Podiatrists and I was lucky enough to spend some time with a great sports podiatrist in Melbourne and he’s that really inspired me to pursue that so. I also enjoyed working with my hands, so that manufacturing of Orthotics and being able to make my own Orthotics really appealed to me. On June school holiday so University holidays, I’d go to the local hospital in Melbourne who had a Podiatric department had an on-site lab which was all handmade. I actually used to make their Orthotics for them in my own personal time for free because I want to get better at it.
That’s how it all started so you know it’s been going on for geez 35 years now. It’s I tell everyone it’s a 35-year overnight success and with all the changes that we’ve made and this is something probably allowed to both a little bit take a bit of time out is we actually won Melbourne business of the year in the manufacturing sector last year because of the all the technological changes and how we revolutionized our manufacturing.
Kate Stern: Congratulations.
Artur Maliszewski: Thank you.
Kate Stern: One last question. Where do you wish you’d known when you were first starting out?
Artur Maliszewski: Oh wow. Surround yourself with others. Surround yourself and don’t take anything on. Surround yourself with people that think like you and trust them to make the decisions. You know everybody starting in business will tell you that you know no one can do it like you said you can. Everyone’s got the same situation. I’ll do it myself but being able to rely on other people take that advice on board and allow other people to take some work off you and sort of release that this triangle holds you’ve God and think that you’ve got to do everything yourself.
I think once I realize that and you know it just because somebody else does it’s slightly different than you, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. They might actually be a better outcome in the end and then surround yourself with great people and make sure you look after them. It is probably the greatest thing. You know we’ve got close enough to 30 staff now working with us full-time and we employ five Podiatrists full-time in our lab. So, we actually employ a podiatrist because of their thinking that we have behind our products.
But we now started to employ engineers. So, we’ve got a design engineer, we’ve got a software engineer, we’ve got a 3D printing engineer, all full-time on our staff. So, we’ve gone from laboratory technicians to making and this is again through the advancement of technology and using technology. So, employing people that are smarter than me who can implement my ideas and my thoughts and we can actually produce what we can. And over the last two years, that’s been probably the greatest shift in our business.
Kate Stern: That’s awesome. Congratulations again.
Artur Maliszewski: Thank you Kate.
Kate Stern: Yeah, that’s all my questions for you today. Thank You, Artur.