Tonsley companies look to expand into 2021

Tonsley-based hi-tech company Micro-X has signed a $1.3 million contract with Saab Australia for its military-grade mobile x-ray units, as construction begins on a new $10 million headquarters in the precinct for outdoor blind manufacturer Ziptrak.

Dec 18, 2020, updated Dec 18, 2020
Ziptrak founder Tony de Maaijer with his son and managing director Marc de Maaijer at their Semaphore manufacturing site. Picture: Supplied

Ziptrak founder Tony de Maaijer with his son and managing director Marc de Maaijer at their Semaphore manufacturing site. Picture: Supplied

The Micro-X contract is part of a $337 million deal Saab signed with the Australian Defence Force in September to provide 550 “deployable medical modules” for use in Australia and overseas.

It follows the final compliance testing of Rover mobile x-ray units in June.

The units are also expected to soon be available for sale in the United States, subject to FDA approval.

Micro-X managing director Peter Rowland said the company had had “enormous interest in Rover from military forces world-wide because no other product offers such high performance in such a lightweight package”.

“It’s important for us that Rover was born here with the ADF backing Australian technology … now, Australian Army medical x-ray technology leads the world and this will greatly help our current sales activities in both the US and UK.

The Micro-X Rover

“We also look forward to supporting Saab’s other international sales efforts with deployable hospitals, now led from Australia.”

Micro-X began developing the Rover in 2015 after the Australian Defence Force’s Joint Health Command found the company’s carbon nanotube technology could provide the world’s first mobile x-ray unit with full hospital-grade performance and also be light enough to be deployed in an army medical facility.

The company launched its flagship lightweight x-ray the DRX Revolution Nano in 2017 and last month announced it would take back sales and distribution control of the product from Carestream Health after sales figures failed to meet expectations.

The change means Micro-X will now be able to sell the machines through a range of distributors as well as directly to customers.

“Over the last 12 months, Micro-X has really transformed itself and strengthened its sales, marketing and production capabilities,” Rowland said in a statement to the ASX.

“This change in the exclusivity for Nano with Carestream will give Micro-X the opportunity to open up new sales channels and imaging partnerships and the potential for additional volumes in production to help our price competitiveness.

“We have seen early success of our direct marketing strategy with our Rover product and intend to replicate this with Nano, particularly while the second wave of COVID-19 is in Europe and USA.”

Micro-X is also developing a mobile backscatter imager for the remote detection of improvised explosive devices and a mobile baggage scanner for airports.

The company relocated from Victoria to South Australia in 2015 to establish a manufacturing hub at the Tonsley Innovation Precinct in Adelaide’s southern suburbs.

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It listed on the ASX in December 2015 and launched the DRX Revolution Nano in 2017 and earlier this year raised more than $10 million to finalise the high-power generator for the Rover.

Meanwhile, Ziptrak has begun construction of a $10 million facility at Tonsley as part of its growth trajectory

The Adelaide company supplies its patented outdoor blinds across the world and is embarking on a move that will see it take on up to 30 new staff in the next four years.

Ziptrak will move to Tonsley Innovation District in mid-2021, following completion of the new 3,000sq m premises.

The move will result in the consolidation of three separate Ziptrak sites, enabling the company to host manufacturing, assembly, distribution, and office spaces for its 35 staff in one place.

Up to seven new staff members will be taken on initially, with more to be sought as part of a longer-term expansion plan incorporating a neighbouring allotment already purchased by the company at Tonsley.

“The move to our new premises at Tonsley Innovation District will allow Ziptrak to focus on our core capabilities of innovation, design, engineering, and manufacturing,” Ziptrak Managing Director Marc de Maaijer said.

“It will transform the way we do business. Beyond that, we believe it will create a wealth of opportunities through proximity to leading university and education institutions and an ability to easily connect and collaborate with other local and international partners.”

Ziptrak products are sold throughout Australia and exported to 14 countries through a network of distributors, authorised fabricators and more than 700 retailers.

Renewal SA General Manager of project delivery and property Todd Perry said Ziptrak was another example of a company seeing the value in Tonsley as a launchpad for further growth.

“We know from experience that the companies choosing to come to Tonsley are those with clear and bold plans for the future,” he said.

“These companies want to grow, and they want to be the best in their field. The environment we have created at Tonsley allows them to do just that while also paving the way for new opportunities through collaboration with other like-minded companies.”

According to Renewal SA, more than 1700 people now work out of Tonsley, which is on the site of the former Mitsubishi car assembly plant, while 8,000 students take classes there.

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