Amtil Buld it better

Build It Better Round 4

Build It Better Round 4 Now Open

The latest round of the AMHub ‘Build it Better’ voucher program is now open! The ‘Build It Better’ voucher program involves a grant for small to medium manufacturing businesses in Victoria looking to increase their integration of additive manufacturing. The grant provides up to $20,000 in matched funding for businesses looking to either redesign or re-engineer an existing product or for new product development that uses additive manufacturing within the process.

Cobalt is a Registered Service Provider (RSP) under the ‘Build It Better’ Voucher program. Successful applicants can use the funding for Cobalt’s development services which include design and engineering support, business case development, materials selection and/or prototyping support.

A recent project that took advantage of the Build It Better grant was development of Advatek Lighting’s PixLite LED Controllers. These new devices provide pixel-based LED control to create visually stunning pixel-mapped images and text. Partnering with Cobalt under the program enabled us to rapidly embody their unique electronics technology in a rugged, configurable and compact enclosure.

Cobalt developed the industrial design and production engineering of the range in an accelerated 4-month timeline to market entry. Additive manufacturing was used during prototyping to allow extended product testing and evaluation before the design was finalised for tooling for mass production.

Additionally, a more recent project completed under the Build It Better program was the Cobalt and GoProto developed additive adapter kits for sub-acute COVID patients. These kits convert existing and approved CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) masks and N99 filters into positive lung pressure devices – a solution for COVID patients waiting in hospital beds for ventilators. The accelerated development process as a result of the assistance and commitment from the Build it Better program to make the vouchers available fueled a concentrated effort.

Round 4 is currently open for applications, closing on Friday 16th December 2020. For more information or to confidentially discuss your idea please contact us at Cobalt on + 61 9320 2200 or email For more information on the grant or the AM hub, see here.

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Lockdown 2.0

Latest COVID-19 News

NOTE: We are regularly updating this page to keep you updated as to our status. Last updated 23 Sep 2020.

At a glance:

Cobalt is fully operational with staff mainly working-from-home (WFH) or from the office and workshop where required.

  • The Victorian government has assessed Cobalt as a ‘permitted’ business based on a number of essential projects. This allows staff to work at our office as required under COVID-Safe protocols.
  • Client work is being completed in near normal timing with all staff fully connected via virtual channels and networks.
  • All Cobalt staff have remained engaged since the start of COVID (March 2020)
  • With positive progress and COVID infection rates falling, Melbourne’s Level 4 restrictions are in the process of being wound back toward ‘COVID-Normal’.

In Detail:

Last week the Victorian Government unveiled its roadmap to returning Melbourne to ‘COVID-Normal’. After 8 weeks of tough ‘Level 4’ lockdown restrictions, the positive health statistics are a relief to many Melburnians, as well as local business and national businesses.

Fortunately for Cobalt and the nature of our design and engineering work, we have been able to successfully transition our people, processes and key equipment to a WFH arrangement. Though it took some logistics and getting used to, Cobalt is immensely proud of our team for being resilient, adaptable and discovering new ways to complete normally office-centred tasks remotely. We believe this is attributable to the team’s strong culture of clear communications, established practices and supportive teamwork. Collectively this has allowed Cobalt to continue providing exceptional work outcomes for our clients throughout this pandemic.

It’s been heartening to see the human resilience in practice through the record numbers of new enquiries we’ve had from people and businesses interested in developing new product ideas. We encourage anyone interested in new product development to get in touch with us to discuss how Cobalt can help transform your idea into reality.

We’d also like to thank our interstate and overseas clients for their good wishes and understanding, and we join with all our local community, clients and suppliers in supporting each other. Together we can, and together we will, get through this.

Related Initiatives

Following on from this, Cobalt was proud to recently launch an initiative to help boost local manufacturing. The #ManufactureAus initiative aims to strengthen and support local manufacturing capabilities against the unpredictable nature of the COVID pandemic, whereby Cobalt will give discounted design rates of 15% to approved new clients seeking to manufacture in Australia.

In particular, this includes one of our most recent projects that saw Cobalt and GoProto intensively apply their resources to find a solution for COVID patients waiting in hospital beds for ventilators. The accelerated development process included collaboration with senior ICU doctors to create specialised 3D printed adapter kits that could convert existing and approved CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) masks and N99 filters into positive lung pressure devices.

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Advatek - Build It Better

Building it Better with Advatek Lighting and AM Hub

Lighting company Advatek wanted a new generation of their PixLite controller, and partnered with Cobalt to rapidly embody their unique technology in a rugged, configurable and compact body. Cobalt developed the industrial design and production engineering of the range working in close collaboration resulting in an accelerated 4-month timeline to market entry.

The DfAM (Design for Additive Manufacturing) process fast tracked the engineering stages due to product testing and functional reviews being able to be applied to additive manufactured assemblies.  This accelerated program was made possible by Advatek contracting Cobalt as a registered Service provider under the ‘Build It Better’ Voucher program, established by the AMTIL AM Hub.

The ‘Build It Better’ voucher program involves a grant for small to medium manufacturing businesses in Victoria looking to increase their integration of additive manufacturing. The grant provides up to $20,000 in matched funding for these businesses looking to redesign or re-engineer an existing product or create a new one. The funding can be applied toward design expertise, engineering support, business case development, materials selection and/or prototyping support.

In any fast-paced product development, rapid prototyping and iterative sketching are critical validation tools. The exceptionally compressed time frame demands of our project for Advatek were made possible by Cobalt utilising a Design for Additive Manufacture (DfAM) workflow throughout our engineering programme, while facilitating standard injection moulding constraints, such as draft and wall thickness. The Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) process was used for product trials and pilot volume market entry, and seamlessly transitioned to injection moulding for high volume production.

The result significantly upgrades Advatek Lighting’s product design presence and will underpin its global expansion within this specialised, but growing field of large-format LED lighting installation. View our case study here.

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Cobalt Fire Initiative

The Cobalt Fire Initiative

Cobalt stands with Australia. Cobalt stands for innovation.

Like people everywhere, we’ve been watching in dismay as Australian communities, lives and wildlife have been consumed by the on going fires. We extend our sympathy and thoughts to all those personally affected. And we want to help.

Coming together as a team after our Christmas leave, we’ve thought of how we can best contribute to rebuilding what we can, and better protecting ourselves from future fire emergencies. Our team agreed that we could offer more than a purely financial contribution; we wanted to help by doing what we do best. So here’s our response; the Cobalt Fire Initiative.


Cobalt and our staff will contribute up to $50,000 in pro bono fees on a dollar-for-dollar basis of an agreed new product development project/s related to:

  • Bushfire detection
  • Fire fighting
  • Rural community rebuilding

So we are calling for innovative companies, be they established or start-ups (local or multinational), to partner with us and combine their technology with our user centred design and production engineering know how to create tangible products that will make a real difference to people. We have no pre-conceptions about the technologies or product idea as our only measure will be the project’s ability to make a positive difference.

Therefore, the idea could be low or high tech; conceptual or near-production ready. The following are just some examples, and we remain open to all suitable ideas from genuine clients:

  • IoT deployable smoke sensing pods
  • Adaptions to fire vehicles or fittings that improve operational effectiveness or safety
  • Products or systems that increase the ability of homes or buildings to withstand fire

We’d love to hear more ideas. For more information or to confidentially discuss your idea, please contact us at Cobalt on +61 3 9320 2200, or email

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Cobalt Design Boost Your Business

Boost Your Business

Boost Your Business with Cobalt Design

Cobalt is pleased to announce that we’ve been selected as a Registered Service Provider within the Boost Your Business initiative.

‘Boost Your Business’ is a Victorian Government program supporting Victorian businesses to become more productive, employ more people, improve market access and profitability.

The initiative provides Victorian small to medium sized businesses with  ‘vouchers’ or blocks of funding which can be put towards specialised services from registered providers in the areas of marketing, intellectual property management, research & development, business processing – and most excitingly product development.

This means that if your business is eligible to receive a Voucher from the Victorian Government, you can put that funding towards accessing Cobalt’s 20+ years of industry expertise in product development.

Using the funding you can work towards:

  • Progressing the commercialisation of a product
  • Funding product design activities
  • Small volume production
  • Product testing, validation, prototyping and verification
  • Conduct research and development activities

The program is open to Victorian-based businesses with a registered ABN, and have either 20-200 staff OR an annual turnover greater than $1.5M. The vouchers can range up to $50,000, on a dollar for dollar basis – a considerable boost for a business on the rise.

Naturally, as with any government program, terms, conditions and criteria apply, which you can read more about on their website here. In summary; if you’re a small business looking for product design excellence, Cobalt can help (along with a boost courtesy of the Victorian Government).

Interested? Then be quick! The second round of voucher offers ends on Friday the 13th of June. Get started with LaunchPad, or give us a call on (03) 9320 2230 so we can help give you the boost you need.

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Crowdfunding new product development

Crowdfunding NPD

Online collaborative product development funding

Social product development is an emerging web based method of attracting funding and interest for new product ideas. Also referred to as crowd funding, social product development (SPD) allows individuals to ‘invest’ small amounts in return for some reward (usually a sample of the finished product).

For product developers, SPD provides seed-funding to pay for development, tooling etc. Almost as importantly it can also gauge interest, secure initial sales and help attract distribution deals.

The idea of crowd funding through social media and online communities was originally pioneered in the late 1990s by fringe artists looking to fund low-cost recordings, films or tours. Fans of a particular band or genre benefited by going to the concert, film etc and being publicly acknowledged (i.e. in album notes or on the artist’s website).

The shift to use this crowd funding model for product development was more recent and has been facilitated by web-based agencies such as KickStarter (US), Pozible (Australia) and CrowdCube (UK) with more sites still emerging. A notable KickStarter product success is the PadPivot, a portable and ingenious stand for iPad and other tablet devices. After setting a goal of US$10,000 in January 2011, the idea raised almost US$200,000 by mid-March, with about 5000 people pledging an average of US$40 each to support the product. For PadPivot’s inventors, this enabled them to complete the design, produce complex injection moulding tools and ship final manufacturing products by June the same year.

Why contribute?

The buzz of investing in an interesting product idea will never have the emotive pull of supporting an emerging band or artist. So if it’s not ‘social cred’ what’s in it for SPD investors?

On purely pragmatic terms, contributors receive rewards matching their contribution. For example a $5 contribution gets them acknowledged on a website, $15 gets a T-shirt and a $50 contribution earns the supporter one of the very first products produced by the venture.

Beyond these tangible rewards, SPD also taps into people’s altruistic side, as well as offering bragging rights to being a co-partner in the latest ‘must have’ product. Understanding who contributors are and what they want gives some clues to the types of products that are best suited to social product development.


SPD is not risk or cost free. Before being ready to list onto a SPD site, a product developer (inventor, designer, entrepreneur etc.) needs to put in a fair amount of effort and investment themselves. This includes protecting the intellectual property (IP) of the idea, and then undertaking initial design development to a level that clearly demonstrates and communicates the idea.

Both of these steps should involve professionals; patent attorneys for IP protection and product designers for industrial design and product engineering. Each of these steps can involve some time and cost, and need to be co-ordinated. For example, CAD mechanical drawings produced by design engineers are needed for patent applications.

Lastly, a compelling presentation needs to be produced, ‘selling’ the idea to potential contributors. This presentation usually takes the form of a YouTube-type clip featuring CG (computer generated) animations of the product, and video of a prototype in-use as well as the developer describing the product background and business case.
Generally the better this preparation is done, the better it will do on SPD sites.

Going live

Most agencies operate along similar lines although details vary slightly between each of the different SPD sites.
To list a project, developers are required to submit a video description of the idea, and define their funding goal ($) and a rewards schedule based on tiered contributions from a couple of dollars through to larger amounts (sometimes up to a thousand dollars).

All going well, the project attracts enough interest to reach and surpass the set goal, and the funds, less the agency’s fees, are transferred to the developer. If a listed project doesn’t reach its goal within the timeframe, funds are returned to the contributors. This latter scenario ensures that the system only supports projects with sufficient funds to reach an objective.

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The pitfalls

For all the apparent benefits, SPD has at least as many pitfalls. For contributors, the obvious one is that they may be getting mixed up in a shonky deal, and the product never eventuates. There are, although admittedly few, cases of this occurring in the US. It is important to note that contributors have no share in the business they are ‘investing’ in, and effectively no tax position in relation to amounts contributed.
For developers, the biggest issue is the brazen exposure of their idea. This is a two-edged sword; publicity attracts interest and contributions, but also alerts potential competitors to the idea. Even with water-tight IP protection, competitors can use their stronger market position or potentially work around patents and designs if they get an advance preview of the idea.


Based on the above, we believe SPD could be a very useful model if the following can be achieved. Therefore BEFORE listing, potential social product developers should:
  • Already have plentiful supplies of entrepreneurial spirit (chutzpah). SPD is not for shrinking violets as you’ll need to sell your idea and yourself online to a whole wide world of backers.
  • Ensure the idea appeals to the kinds of people that trawl SPD sites. That is, quirky technology, lifestyle or homeware products are good. Worthy but obscure products are not. Alternatively, truly altruistic products, i.e. products that help third-world communities, could also do well.
  • Also ensure the product is of a value that suits being provided (given away) as a reward for contributions.
  • Have strong IP protection in place. IP protection, especially across multiple countries, requires good legal advice, which we all know is never cheap.
  • Get professional industrial design done on the idea to turn it into a feasible and desirable product. As a minimum the product idea needs to be represented by still CG images. Better yet are CG animations and a working prototype.

As getting to this point requires much of the design development to be done, developers should be prepared to have invested a significant amount before ‘putting it out there’ for remaining funds to pay for things like electronics design, tooling, packaging, marketing and initial production. Developers should also be ready to act quickly if the project reaches its funding goal so that they can beat any competitors to the market.

SPD isn’t for all and has some real drawbacks. It’s yet to be seen if it becomes a viable community-driven alternative to new product development, or ends up as an interesting curio of the web 2.0 age. But for the moment, it is emerging as an exciting and liberating alternative of bringing about new products and designs. And that can’t be a bad thing.