health symposium


Monash University Health Collab Design+ Health and Medical Innovation Symposium

Presented by Monash University Health Collab, the 2019 Design+ Health and Medical Innovation Symposium brought together researchers from different disciplines to spark design collaboration and envision a new future for healthcare. Held on March 12 at the Monash Art Design and Architecture (MADA) Centre in Kunshan China, Cobalt’s designs for the Dermapen 4 and Cylite OCT instrument were featured.

The Monash University Health Collab is an interdisciplinary team of researchers, designers and clinicians who employ a people-centred design approach to understand and provide significant high-impact healthcare. MADA Practice Professors Daphne Flynn and Mark Armstrong, along with Centre Director Ian Wong and Centre Creative Director Bernie Walsh run the symposium as a catalyst for innovation and to celebrate design achievements in the health space.

The 2019 March symposium drew academics and business people from both within and outside the health space, facilitating fresh collaboration and inspiring deeper conversations about the future of health care. In a video presented by Health Collab directors Professor Daphne Flynn and Professor Mark Armstrong, they spoke about the importance of utilising design as vehicle to increase traction for health outcomes, and understanding that design is the common thread connecting us all.

The result of the symposium was a success, enabling academics from all over the world to engage with high tech medical companies in Kunshan and to celebrate outcomes already achieved, including Cobalt’s designs.

Wining a Good Design award in 2018, the Dermapen 4­ sets a new benchmark for improving the effectiveness of treatments and resolving traditional limitations, such as power-cord handling issues, calibration difficulties and potential cross-contamination prevention. The DP4 is also the first micro-needling tool capable of performing scar-treatments. The patent-pending 16 needle cartridge has unparalleled needling depth, allowing practitioners to access the Scar Treatment market, expanding the horizons of their practice’s offering.

Similarly, aimed for use in a variety of clinical settings (including both research laboratories and patient-serving clinics) the Cylite HP-OCT ophthalmic device was designed to integrate a high technology core within an ergonomic, user friendly exterior. The revolutionary ocular imaging and measurement technique overcomes issues of motion artefacts or data error from patient eye movement during OCT imaging, and offers a unique proposition to clinicians with its ability to replace four different instruments. The fully automated volumetric acquisition reduces patient chair time and improves the reliability of the results, eliminating guesswork during analysis and diagnosis.

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The Women of Cobalt – International Women’s Day 2019

This year’s International Women’s Day has inspired us to acknowledge the wonderful women at Cobalt. 2019 marks Cobalt’s highest female participation-level ever, with women making up almost 50% of Cobalt’s staff.  While this is a feat in itself for the industry, what should be celebrated most is the strong work ethic, positive attitude and multi-disciplinary skills that have led them to the positions they’re in today.

According to recent statistics, only 15% of engineering-based graduates are female in Australia. While these numbers are increasing, a large disparity remains between women who graduate from these qualifications and those that make a career of it. Consequently, when it comes to senior roles in product design and mechanical R&D engineering there is a deep lack of female representation.

Comparing these figures to Cobalt’s team dynamics, our balance is a rarity. From admin to engineering, our women are kicking goals not only in their projects, but for female representation and leadership within our industry. Their roles span across project leadership, product engineering, design, admin, finance, marketing and UX strategy.

Cobalt was founded on a culture of teamwork and respect. Our unique strength is the collective of every one of our people; so Cobalt’s diversity and inclusion makes sense in producing outstanding design results. Our shared vision, passion and cohesion creates an environment that invites our team to be their best.

When asked what drives them, the women of Cobalt said that the “sense of achievement when seeing a physical outcome succeed” and “achieving things other people couldn’t” is the motivational force behind their work. But ultimately, what inspires them is the “energy, motivation and passion” of the team and knowing that “the world is better for someone, somewhere because of what we do”.

This ‘can-do’ supportive attitude has been the key to our past successes and current capabilities, building upon the achievements future teams will aspire toward. And there’s no doubt that the women of Cobalt have stepped up as role models for those within the field and those entering it, contributing to a stronger female representation within the industry. We look forward to what heights they will reach next, confident they can do anything they put their mind to.

(Mary and Victoria absent from main picture).

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Eco Upgrade

Cobalt Powers On

Recently Cobalt completed a major energy efficiency upgrade to our North Melbourne offices.

The works so far include a 12kw, 39 panel array of solar panels, an ultra-efficient HVAC system, extensive sealing and insulation works and new LED lighting throughout the building.  These works have already effectively reduced our daily energy consumption by up to 45%. And once stage 2 (energy efficient appliances) is fully complete we are on track to exceed our original target of being 50% self-sufficient in power.


Since 1996 we’ve believed that design should be socially responsible. So we’ve long wanted our building to have as small an environmental footprint as possible.  But at various points we’d been told that our site didn’t suit PV panels due to a taller neighbouring building immediately on our north boundary.

Despite this, Cobalt Director Jack Magree continued to believe a design workaround could be found, if only we could find the right supplier and a means of making it happen.

Solutions Align

In 2018 two key circumstances aligned enabling us to realise our dream; a financial solution which allowed us to fund the investment, and an engineering solution that could work.

In terms of funding we learnt of MCC’s innovative approach to creating smarter more efficient buildings through the Sustainable Australia Fund (SAF).  SAF was established by the City of Melbourne Council in 2002 to help businesses to invest in their buildings and operations to achieve better sustainable outcomes.  In brief, SAF provides the upfront funding for the works, and the repayments for this loan are based on the resultant savings in energy costs.  Once the investment is repaid, the environmental and cost benefits continue indefinitely for a win-win outcome.

The second alignment came via SAF who introduced us to GenesisNow, an energy engineering and implementation services group. GenesisNow immediately felt like kindred spirits to us, as they had a refreshingly can-do culture combined with a highly technical and professional skill set. Genesis’ founder, Geoff Andrews and his Engineering Manager Jon Fettes took the limitations of our site as a challenge that they wanted to solve. Their first step was a full shading analysis and simulation. This proved that shadowing could be managed to negligible levels through a cantilevered installation combined with new technology PV panels each with its own micro inverter.

Comfort and Efficiency

Producing energy is one side of the equation. Using less of it is the other. An initial power and building audit identified our existing HVAC (heating ventilation and air-conditioning unit) and lighting as the biggest and best items to change.

For HVAC GenesisNow again took a less conventional approach. They relied on the experience of HVAC  specialists EcoServices who according to Jack “specified a revolutionary  German-engineered smart system that moves air silently using the theory of Brownian motion of particles to transfer heat and cold air”.  The systems software continuously monitors  the  outside and inside temperatures,  humidity, CO2 levels, and the pressure of the building, to run far more efficiently than conventional systems.  As an example, said Jack, “On a recent 42oC (108oF) day our new HVAC system’s compressor was only running at 50% capacity. The system is smart enough to learn how quickly or slowly it achieves the target ‘comfort’ values so it can perform optimally in future.”

A central aspect to this system was to significantly upgrade the seals in the building; no mean feat given the fact that our office was built as a basic warehouse in the 1950’s. Another measure of how well the system performs is that despite the studio’s industrial height ceilings the multiple sensors show minimal temperature stratification, keeping the temperature within 1-2 deg throughout the building.

Capping off the HVAC’s smarts, is complete IoT monitoring and control. This allows offsite, expert system diagnostics and onsite adjustment through a web-based portal.  According to Jack, “watching the system’s dashboard certainly helps motivate us to use energy wisely, albeit can be mildly addictive!”

Let There Be Light

The last major piece of the upgrade was to replace our 150W metal halide ‘high bay’ studio lights. Designers are very demanding about their light; needing ample levels of even, natural tone to minimise shadows, render colours accurately and avoid over bright or dull areas.

The studio level’s 20 ‘high bay’ halide lights were originally selected 15 years ago as the premium choice of evenly  illuminating the studio by reflecting some of their light off the high pitched ceiling. And the light fittings themselves looked great as well.

In comparison, LED have a comparatively narrow focus so a low-power alternative that equalled the status quo was always going to be difficult.  The solution involves a triple LED bulb custom designed to fit into the existing housing to reflect light up and down, as well as additional skylight-style LED panel lights to create close to uniform 270 lux lighting at desk level throughout the studio.

The Result

Apart from lower environmental impact and power bills, the result of our eco upgrade is greater comfort, better lighting with the consensus from our team being overwhelmingly positive.

  • “It just feels pleasant, and quiet all the time”
  • “Transformative”
  • “Not sure how we put up with the old system for so long”
  • “Great that we are reducing our CO2 and fossil fuel use”
  • “We’ve literally breezed through the hottest summer on record without noticing”

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Smart custom vehicle for one of Victoria’s biggest projects

The West Gate Tunnel Project (WGTP) is a major road project that will relieve traffic congestion in Melbourne’s inner west.

To keep the public updated on the latest news during the construction, Cobalt worked with the WGTP construction companies building the project, CPB Contractors and John Holland Joint Venture, to design and supply their Mobile Info Hub – an innovative community engagement solution that reaches communities across the project’s footprint.

The WGTP Mobile Info Hub is geared toward simplicity and mobility, building off Cobalt’s experience with automotive projects like the Innovito van, which won the 2016 Mercedes Benz ‘Hack My Van’ competition. Applying our Design Thinking process, Cobalt converted a Mercedes-Benz Vito van into a mobile code teaching environment, complete with lightweight fold-out desks and 3D printers.

Similar to our winning concept, the WGTP Mobile Info Hub is a self-contained ‘pop-up’ installation that can be driven between community events and provides people with an important hands-on experience to facilitate their knowledge of the project. It positively draws people and families into the space, creating a great first impression and making the Mobile Info Hub a destination rather than an obstacle.

The WGTP Mobile Info Hub is designed to be easily set up by two people in a matter of minutes. It does this by cleverly containing everything required to set up the full display, including:

  • In-built interactive LCD screens
  • Trestle tables including a map of the project
  • A self-supporting canopy for increased interaction space, sun and rain protection
  • An easy-access fridge
  • Hidden material and equipment storage space

Vibrant graphics were chosen to wrap around the Mobile Info Hub’s exterior panels, showcasing key elements of the project and to capture the interest of passers-by. The decals also compliment the overall design of Mobile Info Hub to ensure it is seen by the community as an approachable, credible and aesthetically-pleasing source of information.

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