How the company started & the COVID-19 impact: The TechMed 3D story
July 13th – 2020
In this episode of the TechMed 3D Podcast, we talked with Michel Babin, Founder, and director of our company TechMed 3D.
Here is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Kate Stern: Welcome to TechMed talks, the only podcast that brings you the stories and the people behind digital transformation in the orthotics and prosthetics market.
I’m sitting down with Mike Babin, founder, and CEO of TechMed 3D, to talk about TechMed’s new COVID-19 initiative. Mike is speaking to us from TechMed’s headquarters in Quebec City where he lives in works. Great to have you here, Mike.
Michel Babin: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.
Kate Stern: So Mike, can you tell us what is TechMed 3D?
Michel Babin: TechMed 3D is a company that develops software to digitize the human body part basically for the orthotic and prosthetic market but also for custom bespoke products such as shoes or helmet.
Kate Stern: And how did you get into this line of work?
Michel Babin: Oh my God, this started in 2007 when I jumped into the 3D world by a company called Creaform. And after two years, I had that idea to develop a software to make it more user friendly for those people because even though the scanner there was good, it was a very user friendly was not as user friendly for the people who would like to do orthotics and prosthetics so either I had that idea to develop the software. So in 2009, after a discussion with the owners of Creaform, well I decided to start the TechMed out of my basement and we’ve never signed a write a line of code in my life. But with the idea that they have that vision to make it really user friendly, and be able to scan the most difficult thing, just kind of which is human body part.
Kate Stern: So basically, you saw that there was a need for this kind of service, something easy.
Michel Babin: Yes. Let’s say that 3D scanning for the human body has been there for the early 90s. But the user-friendliness was always a problem and the cost as well. So the cost of the scanner has dropped quite a bit in the last 20 years. But user-friendliness was still an issue. So what we decided, what I decided to do is to develop that software just to for that application, per se. Yes.
Kate Stern: Right. And how long have you been working in this industry?
Michel Babin: For now is since 2007, so almost 14 years now.
Kate Stern: Right. And I think you started TechMed 3D in 2009.
Michel Babin: Exactly two years after. I’ve been to Creaform and I started TechMed in 2009. Since we are about 20 employees, we are in 55 countries and we have over 3500 users around the world
Kate Stern: And how did you get into your current field of work?
Michel Babin: Oh my God just by kind of accident because it’s I was working in the plastic industry if at least 24, 20 years after that I get to the coffee industry. And then I had that somebody asked me to come over to look at that OEM job for the 3D, so interesting. And you know, that 3D world fits me like a glove. And I just basically found the passion to work on that. And this is how I start so I worked for almost two years at Creaform and after that, I started TechMed 3D that and I’m in the 3D environment sense.
Kate Stern: So of course, we have to talk about the event that’s turned everything upside down which is the COVID-19 pandemic, what impact have you seen on your industry?
Michel Babin: Since that, we are like on pause and we decided to not lay off anybody. We decided to just see how can we work this out so all of our people try to find new features on our software, the salespeople are trying to look around. And one of the things that we do very well is we scan human body parts. And we find out by looking at the news all over the world that the mask was a real problem. So to get a good mask, of course, the KN 95 and all those things so whereas was a mask for that but for the professionals are generally going to wear like that mask for at least something like eight to 10 hours a day is going to be quite tough in that has to be comfortable and secure at the same time. So we found out at TechMed since 2009, that to get the best fit could be very good for shoes, for hands, for knees, but also faces and this is the thing that we’re very good at. So we decided to develop that feature called mask which is you just have to do use a scanner let’s say the actual scanner and the iPad and scan is going to take like 15 seconds. And our software is going to be able to align fill the holes and provide a watertight file ready to go to present the person. And then from there is going to be able to make a custom mask for professional or best fit based on the library of masks currently using so that’s how we start that idea to work on COVID-19.
Kate Stern: That’s really cool. Do you already have this available? Like can people buy the mask now?
Michel Babin: Yes, we launched that two weeks ago. But the thing is, with the mask, we have like three phases, you have to scan first after that to best fit or get the data. And after that found a mask supplier. So for us, we decided to focus on the first step and make the software make the file available to everybody. So, and this is how we launched that. And now we have a few responses so far.
Kate Stern: So right now people can download the iPad app and scan their face and then they will receive a downloadable scan?
Michel Babin: They will receive. If they get the little scanner with the iPad. They’re going to be able to get the 3D data they’re going to see it they see the result of this okay, after that if they would like to have the file we charged like $2 and then they’re going to have that file be able to export that to mask manufacturers and they are able to make the mask for them.
Kate Stern: Cool and what sort of mask manufacturers like have you found while you’re working with already?
Michel Babin: You know, on the production side you have very ways many ways to make it right now the more popular is the 3D printing, which is that there’s a company here in Canada that they’re going to provide this with the domestic going to make like a 3D printing mask for basically for professional also you can go to thermoform so do you will with these, the files that will generate, going to take the files and that doing CNC machine and then be able to thermoform with the plastic that face and put the filter on and then you’re going to have a custom made the mask for you as well. And there’s another company in the US that provides that as well, ActivArmor.
Kate Stern: So are these mass always made of plastic, or is it a special kind of plastic?
Michel Babin: It’s so plastic, it’s regular plastic based on the fact that you’re going to put your face on to it. So you have to be like an FDA approval or something like that but all those plastics are available. So all the people making the mask, they thinking of that but also you’re going to use like some gasket to make it more comfortable. Also, they which is going according to the FDA to-avoid any problem with the mask.
Kate Stern: So have you had people already printing these masks?
Michel Babin: Yes, yes, they start now. I think they receive a few orders something like three or 400. And now you see the big companies right now. They look for this because they’re looking for to get the mask a little bit like a product to protect their employees. They’re going to scan all of their employees, and we’re going to provide the mask a little bit like steel boots.
Kate Stern: That’s really important. And how much does it cost? So you said it was about $2 for the scan file, how much does it cost to buy the scanner itself?
Michel Babin: The scanner, said that you’re looking forward to the Occipital new, actually, you can do two things, you can buy the scanner, the scanner costs about $500. Okay, if you already had the iPad, they’re going to run out a bracket with this. So you’re going to have a solution to scan like $1,000 something like that. But you have already something like 3000 people in our field that already have a scanner, and those people will be happy to scan your face for you. So right now when we do we try to do a kind of a marketplace which is in our website to, to make sure that the people would like to scan and people like to get scan get at our place and then going to be able to provide a sort of a meaning point which is going to be able to scan and that the price will vary. So the person who will do the scan going to it will be charged $2 if you charge 5, 10, or $15 depends on the customer then you got to have the files ready to send to that to the company to make the mask.
Kate Stern: Right. So you would go online to your website, find a what do you call them service provider?
Michel Babin: Yes, you’re going to have a landing page and the landing page you’re going to have like three-phase I would like to get a scan or be I would like to scan or see I’m a mass manufacturers and I would like to be involved in that. And they’re going to be able to gather people based on the geography of course, but you don’t have to do you will see people that will go by they’re going to buy the scanner and they’re going to scan to people to generate some money. Because there’s a lot of people would like to get scanned and don’t want to buy the scanner so it will become a service I’m pretty sure that
“They look for this because they’re looking for to get the mask a little bit like a product to protect their employees. They’re going to scan all of their employees, and we’re going to provide the mask a little bit like steel boots. “
Kate Stern: Right, so if I wanted to go get my face scan to get a mask. How long do you think it would take me and how much would it cost?
Michel Babin: It will vary so let’s say that if you meet the person to scan, to scan is going to take like no more than that five minutes of the scan process scan is going to take about 15 seconds. And all the transformation and make the order type is going to take another 15 seconds just time to write your name and then start to get ready is going to take like and present the result. So we’re going to take like the most five minutes. So and after that and then after that, if it said the files, okay and you already found the supplier. You will vary from one week to three weeks to get to, at the moment like one to three weeks. But all those good people that were there looking to manufacturer mask, they already gear up from production. So eventually it’s going to come down to one week one to 10. One week to 10 days. Once we have this.
Kate Stern: And then it has to be shipped to me. So how much do you think it would cost for my customer.
Michel Babin: That will vary between $70 to $200. Right now based on our, it seems that the price point will be around $70 to $200. When you’re going to go to full-fledged manufacturing.
Kate Stern: I guess my reaction is that it sounds quite expensive for a single isn’t a single-use mask or is it?
Michel Babin: This is not a single-use, it’s you’re going to be able to reuse it anytime there’s going to be one-shot scan, one-shot mask and then you just have to change a filter after that.
Kate Stern: Okay, got it. And how much do the filters cast?
Michel Babin: The filter, I think is something like $2 to $3. And it’s going to be good for at least a week, something like that. So overall, that’s why we saying that that mask thing is more for professionals. We got information from management mask manufacturers, he said that for one operation, a surgeon could take like something like between 10 to 14 mask on KN 95 per surgery. So just buy this the N 95 is what $3 a mask something like that. And there’s just for this and for one, the mask will be paid. And also you will have is going to be perfectly fit for your face.
Kate Stern: Wow. That’s a huge improvement, and especially good for the environment
Michel Babin: Exactly.
Kate Stern: So that’s it really, I really hope this works out. This whole innovation I would love to see more people wearing these masks.
“This is not a single-use, it’s you’re going to be able to reuse it anytime there’s going to be one-shot scan, one-shot mask and then you just have to change a filter after that.”
Michel Babin: Absolutely because most of the people, you have two types of customers or customers that would like to protect themselves and protect the other people and you know like the stores and the people who are going to work day in day out with the mask. I understand that the people that go into stores you know want to buy this kind of a very high price for the mask. Well for a surgeon for air dresser for all those people that working with people with customers and day in day out, they would like to add to sure security and comfort at the same time. And this is just I like to buy steel boots for security. It’s just another individual protection device that they’re going to need.
Kate Stern: And it’s probably more of a bespoke solution as well.
Michel Babin: Yes, exactly. So bespoke solution for sure. Yes.
Kate Stern: So how do you picture becoming yours for TechMed 3D?
Michel Babin: Well, we’re going to continue what we do to make it as simple as fast as cheap as the possible human body, a treaty acquisition for people in the prosthetics and orthotics market as well as the retail market. So to make sure that everything will be fine. So for us, we see this scanner as a commodity, we believe that the scanner will go down eventually to zero. And for us, we just want to make sure that we provide the solution for everybody is going to be to scan and be able to scan right is going to be able to use that file because the value is on the file to do any what would you like to do which is produces a bespoke mask a bespoke custom shoe, whatever. This is what we do.
Kate Stern: So that’s a really important point, right. I think scanners used to be more expensive and now they’re a lot cheaper but they’re still not free.
Michel Babin: Exactly. Eventually going to be able to scan with the phone, you already have a few customers, a few people who are doing this. But it’s not that user friendly. It’s not that easy to do. So we want to make sure that the thing we’re going to be as possible is going to be plug and play and not plug and pray.
Kate Stern: I think you were saying scanner, how expensive did scanners used to be?
Michel Babin: Oh my god. 10 years ago when we started the scanners was $25,000.
Kate Stern: And now they’re how much?
Michel Babin: $500.
Kate Stern: $500.
So to get this custom made mask, I need to find a service provider who has one of these scanners and get them to scan my face.
Michel Babin: Yes, yes, if you come to our website, you will have a landing page and then you’re going to have like three categories. I would like to get a scan I would like to scan so all and we’re going to send out to all of our 2500 customers that say they would like to scan people. And then they’re going to provide their name and they’re going to be able to link the people would like to be scanned and people who like to scan. So we’re going to work on that the length and size are already available at techmed3d.com.
Kate Stern: So if you like I want to do scanning, this could be a great way for orthotics and prosthetics providers to add a new service.
Michel Babin: Bingo, you got it.
Kate Stern: So what advice would you give to someone wanting to switch to digitalization?
Michel Babin: To try it you know, don’t be scared. I know that it would say in the 10 years ago was a big investment to go into this but if you look at all the costs related to the plaster cast at the time, do read you thing based on the poor acquisition, you will see there was a lot of benefits the return on investment will be great but and also the fact that the investment is really low right now. You see If you buy a scanner if you buy a high pass, it’s going to cost $1,000, which is it’s a good amount of money, but you’re going to be able to the return investment will be really fast. And also, with our system, you don’t have to pay for the, you don’t have to pay for the software, you’re going to just have to pay for the file. So that’s going to minimize the cost to try. Because you will see that that will change your life in a good way.
Kate Stern: So you don’t have to pay for the software, just the scanner, and the iPad or iPhone, and then the app is free and then you pay to download your custom file?
Michel Babin: Yes, exactly. It’s just if let’s say that you scan a face. In this case, we’ll get the scan, the software is free. And when you would like to have the file, we’re going to charge you $2.
Kate Stern: Right, and then you can use that as many times for mask.
Michel Babin: Absolutely. And that includes support maintenance, and we have a great team here and the R&D team. That’s going to be a provide future and that future will be including that as well.
Kate Stern: I hope I can get my hands on one of these masks
Michel Babin: For sure. I’d love to just have to come to a website and you’re going to find somebody I know. And then in your area, they’re going to have people who scan and you’re going to be able to provide that service as well.
Kate Stern: Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Mike, for joining us.
Michel Babin: Hey, thank you very much for having me.
Kate Stern: Check back soon for more stories on digital transformation in the orthotics and prosthetics world right here on TechMed talks.