Sir William Hudson Awards

The HP-OCT takes out Engineering Australia’s highest honour

A world-first ocular instrument, the Cylite HP-OCT has won the 2020 Sir William Hudson Award; the highest accolade an engineering project can receive from Engineers Australia.  The award was announced at the recent national Pinnacles Award Ceremony, where finalist projects, including major infrastructure, mining and transport projects from across Australia were judged.

Designed, engineered, and manufactured in Australia, the HP-OCT is a cutting-edge ophthalmological instrument that overcomes issues of motion artefacts or data error resulting from patient eye movement during OCT imaging. Cobalt’s development team worked closely with Cylite to characterise the typical product usage and to develop a deep understanding of both the user’s (patient) and operator’s (clinician) needs. According to Cobalt’s project leader for this project, Kynan Taylor “ from our initial user and industrial design direction, Cobalt then engineered the device exterior through prototyping and tooling support stages, to ensure all the instrument’s touch points delivered a consistent, user-focused experience”.

Cylite’s CEO Dr Steve Frisken was excited Cylite had been awarded the national prize against a field of strong engineering projects. “I would like to personally thank each of our extraordinary team for their creativity and dedication in delivering excellence in engineering across so many fields. We are also grateful to Cobalt Design for their industrial design support and the wonderful look and feel of this innovative clinical diagnostic instrument,” he said. “These innovations will, I believe, truly have a lasting impact on global eye health, which is a legacy that will provide ongoing pride to all those involved.”

The Engineering Australia judges also praised the HP-OCT as a “remarkable piece of equipment [that] demonstrates the profound impact biomedical engineering can have on society. The equipment streamlines the screening process that currently requires several individual diagnostic devices to build a clinical picture of the patient. This enables more health professionals to routinely screen more patients across the five areas of eye conditions effecting Australians which allows for earlier diagnosis.”

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Cobalt and GoProto perform under pressure

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to strain global hospital resources, the spectre of a second wave hangs over our health system. Despite our success flattening the curve in Australia, there is still a growing global concern that an abundance of ventilators is not dramatically changing the mortality rate. So in March, Cobalt led a consortium with a rapid response to aid hospital demands for alternative and innovative medical equipment that could simultaneously improve patient recovery and keep medical staff safe. The lack of available life-saving ventilators and respirators at the time was the immediate concern – driving the need for a quick turnaround and a non-mechanical solution.

Cobalt and GoProto intensively applied their resources to finding a solution for the layers of 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. The converted CPAP masks can be used by hospital teams to treat sub-acute COVID-19 patients prior to them needing ICU ventilator treatment. This solution frees up ICU beds, limited ventilators and requires less medical staff to monitor them.

The converted CPAP masks with the 3D printed adapters’ features an oxygen feed line, so the patient receives pressurised oxygen-enriched air to their lungs whilst their exhaled air (that may contain aerosolized virus) is filtered out to protect medical staff. This type of system when applied to a sub-acute patient helps prevent the collapse of alveoli (lung air sacs needed for the intake of oxygen into the body) and aids recovery, improving the chances of avoiding incubation.

The 3D printed adapter kits are manufactured from biocompatible PA12 on HP Multi Jet Fusion printers which enables the components to be made at low cost and delivered quickly for immediate use in hospitals.  The material can be washed and sterilised.

Long-term applications for these kits can be for use as patient transfer masks or by aged care facilities here in Australia.  Our data will be made available to other countries whose hospitals are still under enormous strain or face a second wave and may need alternative recovery and treatment plans.

Cobalt was proud to have the opportunity to lead this humanitarian initiative, inspired by all the other designers, engineers and medics working under the pressure of rising patient deaths in Italy & Belgium.  The bravery and innovative thinkers of the doctors & ICU teams at the COVID Hub at Sunshine Hospital and all hospital staff across the Australia continues to energise our passion to help.

Particular thanks to the proactive support of AMTIL and the Advance Manufacturing Hub for the assistance on the project.  Their urgency and commitment to make available a Build it Better voucher fuelled a concentrated effort. We are also grateful for the liaison and knowledge sharing  of Dr Carl Le from Supercars headquarters and Barry Ryan from Erebus Medical who are also refining a number of medical products to help fill the void of PPE to protect medical staff from the virus.

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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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Dermapen 4 featured on 10

Dermapen 4 design featured on Channel 10 – Australia by Design: Innovations

Winner of a 2018 Good Design Award and a finalist in the Premiers Design Awards, the Dermapen 4 (DP4) has set an outstanding new benchmark in dermatology. As the only digital, vertical micro-needling device in the world it was fitting to be featured in the ‘Australia By Design – Innovations’ television series on Channel 10.

In the segment, Dermapenworld CEO Stene Marshall demonstrates that the DP4 is a leader in med-tech innovation. Oscillating its 16 needles at 120 times per second, the device improves the efficacy of skin treatments and resolves traditional handling and calibration limitations faced by other devices. Its increased effectiveness in drawing collagen to the skin surface means a wider range of skin issues can be treated, including scars. It can be used for both cosmetic and plastic surgery treatments.

Cobalt designed the DP4’s form to be truly ergonomic. Its large graphic user interface (GUI), angled head and cordless operation ensure balanced and secure handling. The world-first dual seal cartridge also prevents fluid entering the pen internally and externally, strongly reducing the risk of cross contamination.

Uniquely, the DP4 speed and depth is adjusted electronically via buttons and it’s the first micro-needling device with automatic calibration. This ensures optimal and accurate needle depth for each patient, skin surface and type of treatment. Additionally, the buttons allow for greater interaction through gloves or hygiene sleeves. Other micro-needling devices on the market require manual operation for depth adjustment, usually by turning a dial. This alone is problematic, as incorrectly set needles can cause unwanted damage to the skin.

Dermapen wanted more than simply a ‘new iteration’ of their market leading products. With rising pressure from their competitors, they wanted to raise the bar for micro-needling tech, positioning themselves ahead of the crowded market they created — and with a little help from Cobalt, the DP4 has become the new industry standard.

Watch a snippet of the Dermapen segment below or see the full episode here.

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GDA Gold 2019

eShepherd takes home Gold at the 2019 Sydney GDA’s

We were thrilled that eShepherd was nominated for a Good Design Award. However we could not contain our excitement when eShepherd took home Gold at the GDA’s on the 11th of July at The Star Sydney. The GDA’s are the design world’s night of nights, bringing together top Australian and international design talent to celebrate world leading designs. The event showcases successful projects across fields such as architecture, communication, digital, engineering and many more. The Gold accolade is awarded to products, services or projects that have not only met the criteria for a Good Design “tick”, but exceed them.

The eShepherd virtual animal herding solution, designed by Cobalt for Agersens is an IoT driven platform encompassing a GPS enabled neckband and cloud-based application controlled by farmers which is used to fence, move and monitor livestock. The intelligent neckband system trains livestock to recognise and stay within virtual boundaries, via the use of sensors that detect and respond to animal behaviour. Audio cues and gentle pulse stimuli guide the animals to remain within the virtual boundaries. Farmers use a cloud-based web application to create virtual paddock boundaries and check on livestock activity, all of which are updated dynamically to ensure accurate data. This design solution is reliable and functional in the harshest conditions, combining a durable form with long lasting battery life that has a positive impact on animal welfare.

The award for the eShepherd neckband is an exciting recognition, due to the superior level of critical design thinking, product engineering and testing the Cobalt team put into the project. Cobalt was approached for the project with an already detailed concept to work with. However there were fundamental aspects of the design (including the position of the solar panel) that needed to be re-designed. In conjunction with this, a strict set of user needs had to be abided by, to ensure the utmost safety for both livestock and farmers.

The unique nature of this project brought with it equally as unique challenges. According to project leader Libby Christmas, the biggest challenge revolved around the lack of pre-existing biometrics on bovine necks/heads. “One of our quirkiest tasks was creating ‘Angus,’ our very own anatomically-correct bovine mannequin to test early concepts.” Using CAD design and our own bovine neck-circumference research data (thanks to Cobalt product design engineer Davis Tolley), we were successfully able to test prototype concepts, particularly to do with how the counterweight functioned and how to maximise the solar harvesting aspect.

This project also brought the Cobalt team some of its best moments, pushing us to use lean production techniques and knowledge-based decision making. It was a different strategy that Cobalt had not used previously, but the act of consciously filling knowledge gaps heightened risk mitigation and team collaboration.

With this project demanding distinctive requirements, Cobalt’s plethora of expertise areas were drawn upon. This included our in depth understanding of user needs, and most importantly our experience with engineering, prototyping and design for adaptability.

Since the completion of the project, the eShepherd device has undergone prototype runs and field trials, with the Agersens team growing substantially. The design has been gradually modified for scalability and cost reduction, and has received wide-spread public attention in the market.

Cobalt associate principal Libby Christmas and product design engineer Thao Nguyen represented our team. It was a wonderful night full of celebration, networking and admiration of our fellow designers.

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GDA Nomination 19

eShepherd nominated for a Good Design Award 2019

We are overjoyed to announce that the eShepherd virtual animal herding solution, designed by Cobalt for Agersens has been nominated for a Good Design Award this year. The Good Design Awards are a prestigious accolade for Australian designers, recognised by the World Design Organization as Australia’s peak international design program. GDA awards are a unique point of difference for design agencies in a crowded market, thanks to the rigorous judging process of actual products rather than images or concepts.

In recent years, Cobalt has received a Good Design Award for our designs on the Victoria Police ADT vehicle, the Dermapen 4, the Maton Guitar Case, the Concave Boot and various Agilent scientific instruments.

The design challenge for this project revolved around creating a viable, modern replacement system for traditional fencing (where traditional fencing is impractical for inhospitable terrain). The solution was eShepherd – an IoT driven platform encompassing a GPS enabled neckband and cloud-based application controlled by farmers which is used to fence, move and monitor livestock. The intelligent neckband system trains livestock to recognise and stay within virtual boundaries, via the use of sensors that detect and respond to animal behaviour. Audio cues and gentle pulse stimuli guide the animals to remain within the virtual boundaries. Farmers use a cloud-based web application to create virtual paddock boundaries and check on livestock activity, all of which are updated dynamically to ensure accurate data. This design solution is reliable and functional in the harshest conditions, combining a durable form with long lasting battery life that has a positive impact on animal welfare.

This nomination for the eShepherd neckband is an exciting recognition, due to the superior level of critical design thinking, product engineering and testing the Cobalt team put into the project. When designing the neckband, Cobalt collaborated with Agersens and electronics development firm LX Group, to design the robust “wearable” device to suit all breeds of livestock.

It was crucial for the design to boast a truly ergonomic form, intelligent technology and a high quality finish to ensure the utmost safety and functionality for both the livestock and the farmers.

Key design elements include:

  • Wireless, IoT and GPS integration
  • Use of sensors, audio cues and gentle pulse stimuli
  • Farmer controlled through a cloud-based web application for accurate data
  • Instant virtual boundary updating from any location
  • Ergonomic and light weight for “end user” comfort
  • Morphometric fitment for self-correcting positioning
  • Solar powered with optimally positioned panels
  • RSPCA, CSIRO and animal ethic committee approved
  • Real-time animal monitoring
  • Fully waterproof unit able to withstand impacts, interactions with other animals and infrastructure, and harsh environmental conditions
  • Tough UV stabilised plastics and fabrics to ensure suitable longevity

Cobalt was involved from discovery and early concept development, through to detail design of the assembly and mouldings. After several engineering prototypes and refinements, Cobalt also undertook pilot assembly of 50-off Alpha prototypes. These involved tooling and several in-house processes to waterproof the enclosure around the PV array.

The prestigious awards ceremony will be held on the 11th of July at the iconic Sydney Opera House, where the winners will be announced. We look forward to seeing how the eShepherd entry performs.

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boost your business

Boost Your Business 2019

Round 3 Boost Your Business Vouchers Now Open!

Cobalt is pleased to yet again be named as a Registered Service Provider within the Boost Your Business initiative for 2019.

‘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 aids small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) that are on a growth trajectory and wish to implement a project that has the potential to deliver long term benefits such as improved productivity, jobs growth and/or increased exports. ‘Vouchers’ or blocks of funding provided 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 third round of the voucher offers ends on Sunday the 12th of May 2019. 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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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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Cobalt: By The Numbers

Cobalt: By The Numbers

Since founding Cobalt, we’ve worked on a huge number and variety of amazing design projects.

So along the way we’ve also amassed a heap of metrics which, in their own way, give an insight into the design process and our approach to product development.

At Cobalt believe that knowledge is vital for excellence and evaluation is critical to improvement. The backbone and central-nervous system of Cobalt’s project and company information resides within our custom database system, Lynx. Within Lynx every number, fact and byte of operational information is stored, and each bit of these can be accessed and analysed in moments.

So what started off as a proper analysis a couple of months ago, has been added to by pulling together some of the more quirky statistics we’ve collected over our first 22 years of design practice. So, if you’re into numbers here are many to enjoy! And for the rest, we hope you have a giggle at some of the more amusing facts we’ve pulled out.


  • Number of Principals: 3
  • Principal/Director changes since foundation: 0
  • Period that Cobalt’s Principals studied Industrial Design together at RMIT University: 1983 to 1987

Project Experience

  • Projects since 1996: 1200+
  • Years of combined product development experience across all staff: 218
  • Number of individual moulded, tooled or manufactured parts designed by Cobalt that were commissioned for production last calendar year: 294
  • Average number of proposed stages per year: 392
  • Average number of client projects actively operating at any one time: 29
  • Total number of clients since 1996: 476

Records & Recognition

  • Design awards and industry prizes won or awarded: 30+
  • Net Promoter Score (2012 survey): 65
  • Highest production volume design: 8,000,000+ KeepCups
  • Cobalt designed the product which has been in longest continuous production – the Icon (Nylex) 35L Slide Top Bin): 1996

Serious Processes & Facilities

  • Individual timesheet records across all staff last calendar year: 9565
  • Typical ratio of tasks in a full new product development (NPD) project:
    • Design and Insights: 26%
    • Engineering and CDP+Alpha prototypes: 46%
    • Resolution: 17%
    • Transfer to Production and Beta prototypes: 7%
    • Marketing Support (Animation): 5%
  • Dollars invested in Cobalt’s prototyping workshop since 2016: $200,000
  • Metres of 3D-Printing filament used inhouse annually: 5000+
  • Hours spent on staff training last calendar year: 2035

Global Focus

  • Proportion of international clients versus Australian clients: 30:70 approx
  • Average number of countries Cobalt crew have lived or travelled in: 12
  • Days Cobalt staff were on site with global suppliers in Asia, 2017: 53

Connected Teamwork

  • Average age of Cobalt’s team members: 34
  • Percent of tertiary educated consulting staff: 100%
  • Languages in addition to English, spoken by Cobalt team members: 6
  • Percent of Cobalt staff who regularly walk, ride or public-transport to work: 63%
  • Total annual meals enjoyed by Cobalt crew at Friday pub lunches: 411
  • Careers supported through internships with Swinburne/other universities: 15

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10 years of keepcup

10 Years of KeepCup

10 Years of KeepCup

For the last decade, the Cobalt-designed KeepCup has changed the way people drink coffee around the world.

Abigail & Jamie Forsyth first approached Cobalt in 2008 looking to develop a new reusable coffee cup. The brother and sister team had a decade of coffee-related insights running their café ‘Bluebag’ in Melbourne, and sought to reduce the use of the thousands of disposable cups they were giving away to customers every week. Reusable cups already existed, but none had captured the hearts and minds of consumers.

Armed with insight, Abigail & Jamie engaged Cobalt to develop what would become the iconic KeepCup. Originally titled Project ‘Infinit’ (given the re-usable nature of the cup), Cobalt finished refining the cup in July 2008. Ten years later, over 8 million KeepCups had been sold, diverting potential billions of disposable cups from landfill across the globe.

Watching the success of the KeepCup over the last 10 years has been professionally satisfying for us at Cobalt. From the Original KeepCup has stemmed further design variants, including the KeepCup Brew, with a tempered soda-lime glass body and sustainable cork band, or the KeepCup LongPlay which features a removable Tritan booster to increase durability, retain temperature and protect the user’s hand from heat.

Here at Cobalt we’ve been proud to share this journey with KeepCup as their design partners for every detail; from the cup’s iconic silhouette to giving technical support through all production steps.

KeepCup has surpassed milestone after milestone in the last ten years, such as being named Melbourne’s Business of the Year in the City of Melbourne’s Business 3000 awards in 2009. Other awards have included the USA Gourmet Product Award, the Australian Eco Buy Award, Most Innovative Product Award from the International Autumn Fair in the UK, as well as a suite of other international victories, commendations, and finalist places. The worldwide success of the KeepCup brand has also opened them up to partnerships with leading brands, like their partnership with Sea Shepherd or the exclusive Star Wars KeepCups.

Something worth far more than the accolades, however, is the way that KeepCup normalised the perception of reusable coffee cups. The proliferation of knock-off & imitations is evidence of the real behavioural change Keepcup’s design has fostered.

We look forward to applying our creativity for another decade to keep KeepCup as an exemplar, sustainable product.

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