Mission accomplished as ACRUX-1 sends signals from Low Earth Orbit
Three years ago, a Hydrix team including electronics engineer Blake Fuller started assisting and mentoring students participating in the Melbourne Space Program (MSP). This education initiative provides students with hands-on experience in space technology & engineering projects, supplementing university studies and expose them to a multi-disciplinary teamwork environment.
When he started assisting at the MSP, Blake found a far more research-focussed environment. “A project to design and launch a physical satellite seemed an almost insurmountable goal back then. My role was to be both a technical and personal mentor: Assist with technical design challenges, and guide students with little to no industry or product development experience. But what we all had was unlimited enthusiasm, energy and drive to go to space!”
The goal of the ACRUX-1 satellite project was to develop, build and launch a student-designed low earth orbit CubeSat. The requirements were to implement and confirm functionality of subsystems and develop the fundamentals for future satellite missions. At the heart of the challenge was a requirement to build and test a Magnetorquer Attitude Control System, a system that uses electromagnets to push off the Earth’s magnetic field and produce a torque which can turn the satellite in any orientation.
A simulation environment was created to model the dynamics of the Earth-satellite interaction, and over a period of two years the team continuously refined the system. As the Engineering Manager of ACRUX-1, Blake was responsible for the overall hardware, electronics and software development including architecting a robust flight computer.
“Having the technical knowledge and experience enabled me to guide the students and members of MSP through the entire development process pushing them in the right direction”.
Three years of development came down to a single moment in time. As the team gathered at mission headquarters, thoughts turned to all that could go wrong. But the launch was seamless.
“Rocket Lab did its job, and now it was down to us, and our engineering efforts. We had expected to hear a signal as soon as the satellite was deployed, but like in the movies, there was nothing but silence. It was a full hour and a half from launch for the next communications window to occur. The atmosphere in the room was incredibly tense. And then it happened, a beacon from the satellite was detected.
Mission accomplished! “The moment we received that signal the whole room erupted, and I was overcome with joy. It was total validation of the team’s efforts, and confirmation in a small way that I’d been able to help guide this team.”
As part of their extended goals, the Melbourne Space Program (MSP) team will keep collecting data from ACRUX-1 and soon begin orientation experiments.
Innovating with confidence in next generation cardiac devices
Insights into an expanding industry
Globally, heart disease continues to grow at alarming rates with risk factors including congenital disease, diabetes, hypertension, myocarditis, poor diet, lack of exercise, and lifestyle choices. Indeed, according to recent World Health Organization data, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one cause of death globally:
An estimated 17.9 million people died from CVDs in 2016, representing 31% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, 85% were due to heart attack and stroke.
Over three-quarters of CVD deaths take place in emerging markets.
A substantial percentage of those with a CVD will reach what is known as Class IV heart failure or end-stage failure. Once this point is reached, the patient prognosis is typically very poor.
Unfortunately, there are more people on heart transplant waiting lists than there are available donor hearts. In the USA, 3400 cardiac transplants were performed in 2018, while the current waiting list is 3760. This waitlist number remains relatively consistent due to a lack of donors.
Cardiac assist devices including Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs) together with Total Artificial Hearts (TAHs) are therefore becoming an increasingly common alternative for many people throughout the world. These devices are implanted mechanical pumps that either assist or completely replace a diseased heart. VADs may be temporary until an injured heart repairs (bridge to recovery), temporary until a donor heart is located (bridge to transplantation) or permanent (destination therapy). VADs typically consist of an implanted ‘pump’ connected to the heart which connects through the chest to an external controller and battery packs via a percutaneous (driveline) cable. Patients have options to carry the external components on belts, in pockets, in specifically tailored garments or bags/backpacks giving them a degree of independence and improved quality of life.
The technology and maturity of cardiac assist devices systems are advancing at a rapid rate, with new and improved systems under constant development. But there remains a significant opportunity to continue to improve the technology, and the experience, for the patient.
Hydrix has gained a reputation in the cardiac technology market over the past decade for its work in helping mature VAD and TAH technology. Our combined engineering, usability, and regulatory guidance offering is delivering a more comprehensive development outcome that provides greater confidence to our clients as they commercialize their core IP, and transition from proof-of-principle concepts to First-In-Human (FIH) trials.
Controller system innovation
The heart is an extraordinarily complex organ, able to adapt its output to rapidly respond to dramatic changes in physiological demands. This includes adapting to biomechanical changes with age and or fitness, accommodating changes in body mass, pumping blood efficiently without causing damage to cells, and doing it without tiring (typically) for many decades. The level of technology required of an electro-mechanical system to replicate these functions is therefore substantial and challenging.
The key challenges for electro-mechanical cardiac assist systems are associated with:
achieving a dynamic response at least capable of supporting patients through normal cardiac output changes; e.g. moving from lying to standing or walking upstairs
avoiding mechanical damage to blood cells and possible thrombosis
over-pumping (suction) induced inlet collapse
providing sufficient battery powered time (walk around time)
delivering a system, particularly a pump, capable of reliably operating for many years
The development of the complex control system algorithms to address these challenges is a specific area of expertise for Hydrix. This level of technology can be required because of the inherent complexity of the device, e.g. fully levitated magnetic bearings, or because of a need to synchronize to physiological signals e.g. adjusting heart rate to match physical exertion, or due to the need to deliver reliable systems capable of being resilient to fault conditions. Architecting and designing for these requirements in the early stages of the development process is essential to delivering a product that is inherently safe and acceptable to market regulators.
The reality of having an implanted mechanical device to either augment or replace the function of a heart results in a substantial upheaval to the life of a patient. It is a very stressful time for the intended patient, and for their broader ecosystem that either supports or is impacted by the VAD including:
VAD coordinators (inpatient and outpatient care and support)
Family and broader social network
Hydrix is applying user experience design methodologies as we work with VAD developers, patients, and patient support networks to innovate and improve on the experience of these devices and the broader VAD ecosystem. Starting from the basis of “How can we improve quality of life and the experience of the patient, their family, and their extended social network?” we are regularly testing novel ideas and design proposals within the VAD community. Activities include visiting cardiac units in the US and Australia, participating in fly-on-the-wall patient consults, gathering insights from the medical services providers, and identifying technologies that can be adapted into new controller devices.
As insights are gathered, we translate these into disruptive concepts for new product architectures, communications protocols, battery arrangements and power densities, maintenance and cleaning protocols, alerts and alarms, and information transfer ideas. Concepts are consolidated and tested again, progressing to more tangible prototypes to trial within the community. Our goal is to create solutions that are flexible, adaptable, and ultimately invisible.
Regulatory insight and guidance to accelerate device development
Achieving FDA and other regulatory body clearance for a medical device can be a major challenge, particularly for start-ups. The time, expense, and resources needed to obtain the necessary certifications can be an overwhelming barrier to successfully launching a new medical product, particularly in the cardiac technologies space.
In recognizing this common challenge for many clients, Hydrix has assembled a regulatory team with past experience including working for regulatory bodies (TGA), notified bodies (TUV Rheinland), as well as private industry with large and small medical device manufacturers. The team works closely with clients to understand their product landscape, maturity and vision to provide real-time guidance and feedback, and which may in perform tasks such as:
Design History File gap analysis
Design History File Remediation
Tailoring a unique regulatory strategy that aligns with client needs and vision
Understanding various regulators expectations of documentation rigor, allowing a streamlined & efficient process
The benefit of an experienced integrated regulatory team available to help implement regulatory strategy is that there is an opportunity to guide, prioritize and streamline key elements of the VAD controller development process. When combined with User Experience design and controller system innovation, we are developing the best solutions in a timely manner, and preventing the need for complex and costly corrective actions later in the development project.
Hydrix and Melbourne Space Program announce MOU
ACRUX-1 cube-shaped nano-satellite planned to launch in June 2019
The Melbourne Space Program (MSP), a charity focussing on developing university students to become Australian space industry leaders, and Hydrix, a leading product design and engineering consulting company, have today announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collaborate on the development of space-related projects.
The MOU will better enable the MSP and Hydrix to jointly explore opportunities to collaborate in space industry related design and engineering, and provide mentoring of MSP student members including:
providing access to Hydrix laboratories and facilities for MSP projects
providing technical expertise and mentorship from Hydrix personnel to MSP
jointly seeking collaborative opportunities and initiatives to help grow the Victorian and Australian space industries
The primary goal of the MSP is to develop an Australian pipeline of job-ready graduates for the technology sectors by providing real-world experience and training through the implementation of space-related project challenges and opportunities to students. University students can join the MSP at the beginning of their degree and are exposed to solving technical and corporate challenges in a best practice environment. This collaborative work environment enables students to manage the end-to-end delivery of complex projects such as the Australian ACRUX-1, a compact, cube-shaped nano-satellite planned to launch in June 2019.
Andrew Wetherell, Managing Director of the Melbourne Space Program said, “this announcement is another significant step forward for MSP as we forge important industry partnerships. With their product design and innovation capabilities, particularly in Critical Systems, Hydrix will provide students with fantastic access to complex equipment, and design and engineering know-how, enabling them to grow their experience, and successfully deliver this first significant satellite project”.
Hydrix Engineer, Blake Fuller performs environmental testing on ACRUX-1
The MOU formalizes an existing informal collaboration between the MSP and Hydrix. As a product development company with proven design, engineering, test and manufacturing capabilities, Hydrix personnel are already collaborating and guiding MSP team members on key elements of the ACRUX-1 development, particularly around engineering design reviews and assessing thermal performance of the satellite.
Peter Lewis, the CEO of Hydrix said “We are incredibly proud to be involved in this exciting initiative. Our team is already committed to helping students develop through this space exploration program which is a great fit with our internal culture of innovation. We are looking forward to the successful deployment of this first modern Australian satellite project, and more broadly in helping to grow experience and capability of young engineers in Australian space exploration”.
The launch window launch for the ACRUX-1 is scheduled to open on Tuesday, 25th June. For more details on ACRUX-1 please click here.
Hydrix joins AusMedtech committee
We are pleased to announce that Richard Stephens, Hydrix Business Development Manager, has been invited to join the AusMedtech committee (Victorian Branch).
AusMedtech, part of AusBiotech, represents the medical devices and diagnostics sector in Australia, helping facilitate the commercial development of medical technologies while supporting those working within the industry.
Richard joins as a long-standing advocate and supporter of Australian MedTech. He brings more than 30 years of medical device innovation experience, having worked on numerous programs from large IVD instrument platforms to disruptive health and wellness products. A vocal supporter of Australian MedTech innovation and R&D capability, Richard is also highly regarded for his successes in being a conduit between Australian medical technologies and large multinational corporations in the US and EU.
“Joining the AusMedtech committee is great way for me to further contribute to the growth and development of the Australian MedTech community”, said Richard recently. “I’ve spent a significant amount of my career in the US and Europe working with large corporations on MedTech innovation. I believe this experience has given me great insights into the technology development market, latest trends, business strategies, opportunities and pitfalls. I believe this experience can help build service offerings from AusMedtech that will add tangible value to Australian MedTech companies.
A passionate innovator, Richard is keen to further explore ways to engage more closely with the Australian Medtech community, to better understand their needs and wants, and through these interactions help companies grow and succeed in the global medical device market.
Raising funds for Movember
For the past month, Movember has been a focus for several of the Hydrix team, and for the remainder of us who have supported and sponsored them on their journey. And while we’ve been exposed to the world of competitive moustache growing, we’ve also heard more sobering stories of (surviving) cancer, the value of starting conversations, and the power of sharing stories and experiences.
Conceived thirteen years ago, Movember is still a cause that remains relevant. For the Hydrix team, it has provided us with the impetus to initiate more discussions around men’s health, cancer, depression and suicide. Men remain notoriously poor when it comes to talking about their health concerns, and many die too young as a result. This month’s discussions have been powerful in awareness-raising, and neatly supportive of our corporate vision of enhancing one billion lives.
So, thank you to Julian, Mark & Mark, Ben and Dee, and Sean in our Adelaide office (not pictured), for raising funds, raising awareness, and their commitment to promoting a great and hairy cause.
Special thanks today to Raka, Aastha, Suneetha, Sumeet and Arjun for introducing us to Diwali, and celebrating with a selection of sweets and savories from all parts of India.
Growing our brand
Hydrix is pleased to announce the appointment of Alan Morris to the role of Marketing Manager.
Alan brings a depth of understanding to the role with more than 25 years’ in new product development innovation, and most recently, 5 years of marketing leadership at Invetech. With a proven track record in driving engagement and growing brand awareness through new and innovative strategies, Alan will be instrumental in conceiving and executing marketing strategy, brand development and delivering increased engagement in our markets.
In announcing Alan’s appointment, Hydrix Managing Director Peter Lewis said “the appointment of Alan comes at a time when we are seeing great opportunity to grow the business. The ability to better communicate Hydrix’s values, experiences and capabilities are paramount to our growth and Alan will play a vital role in delivering these messages.”
Alan, who commenced in the role on August 20th added, “I’m genuinely thrilled to have joined the Hydrix organisation. We have an outstanding team working on some extraordinary, highly innovative projects for clients around the world. The chance to help drive the growth of Hydrix is truly energising”.
Alan holds degrees in both Industrial Design and Fine Arts from RMIT University.
Micro-X takes best in class
Winners are grinners!
Senior Mechanical Engineers, Eng Yeap and Kenneth Ng join the Micro-X team to accept the Best in Class award for the mobile X-ray machine at the 2018 product design at Good Design Awards in Sydney.
Hydrix at ICRA2018, Brisbane.
Andy Atkinson, Business Group Director for Consumer & Industrial, joins Eng Yeap and Earle Jamieson at the 2018 ICRA conference. Showcasing the latest in robotics and automation, the Hydrix team were there to look into what new and innovative technologies are available to support some of our upcoming programs in the Agri and Mining spaces..
Hydrix & Panorama
On Tuesday 5th of September it was announced that Panorama Synergy Limited (ASX: PSY) has entered into an agreement to fully acquire Hydrix through an asset purchase agreement. This is an exciting development for both companies with the Merged Group at the forefront of designing, developing and manufacturing advanced sensor systems and integrated Internet of Things (‘IoT’) communication networks.
Hydrix will continue to service its Australian and International clients – with no changes in the Hydrix team, the way in which we work with clients and operate projects. PSY is committed to supporting Hydrix grow its engineering services business. Engineering services are central to the PSY-Hydrix future strategy.