YORK LINK TECHNOLOGY INTERVIEW SERIES
In 2019, York Link is starting a new interview series with different technology companies in the Region where they discuss the innovation behind their technology to future trends across their industry sector.
To kick off this series, we spoke with Marc Cohen, President of LEO Lab; a custom orthotics company in Vaughan, York Region that is utilizing state-of-the-art 3D printing technology to advance their business and assist other companies looking to do small run manufacturing of other products unrelated to the orthotic industry.
What was the motivating factors or story behind how the acquisition of this one-of-a-kind 3D Printing asset came to be with you?
We have always prided ourselves on being at the Leading Edge, hence the name LEO Lab (Leading Edge Orthotics Laboratories). Even when we started the business 6 years ago, we took the time to research the latest, most state-of-the-art technologies available in the market. This led us to adopt 3D laser scanning, aeronautical based CAD engineering software and CNC milling as part of our manufacturing process.
Despite the introduction of these high-tech technologies into the orthotic industry, custom orthotics themselves have not evolved much over the past few decades. What we produce is truly custom, meaning no two pairs are alike, since every patient’s feet are unique. To achieve this, there has always had to be an element of labor-intensive craftsmanship involved in the fabrication process, and as a result, accuracy and repeatability can be an issue. This, coupled with the limitation of the materials used in the traditional manufacturing process means that labs are not providing the optimal device to their customers.
We wanted to find a technology that could address these issues and enable innovation and development that that could deliver a far superior product to our customers and their patients. After two years of research and testing, we found Additive Manufacturing (AM) to be the solution, and our exploration of the various AM technologies led us to the HP Multi Jet Fusion Printer. Having experienced its performance, and understood its potential, we decided to be the very first in Canada to buy one.
How does 3D printing impact the direction of the orthotics business?
3D printing is a powerful technology. Unlike more mainstream manufacturing technologies and equipment, 3D Printing is not bound by the same limitations in geometries and design. This means that we can rethink the way orthotics are made and how we go about achieving the desired biomechanical results.
We have shown the technology, product and possibilities to customers and they have been blown away. We believe we will see a significant increase in our business as more and more practitioners learn of the innovations we are bringing to market and experience the benefits that the technology delivers.
With 3D-printing being a relatively young technology, what future trends or innovations do you see happening as a result of the technology?
3D Printing itself is actually not a young technology, the first commercial 3D printer was invented in 1984. However, 3D printing has traditionally been a technology that was expensive and slow, meaning it was great for prototyping but not for production. More recently we have seen significant developments within the 3D printing industry, with great advancements in the speed and performance.
The HP Multi Jet Fusion is one such technology that offers the speed, accuracy and performance required for mass customization. These advancements are ongoing. Companies have put in place significant research and development teams allocating substantial resources to further development of these technologies and the materials that can be used within them.
I believe that in the near term, with the introduction of new materials, we are likely to see 3D printing being combined with other technologies such as scanners to bring to market custom products in industries in which it has been unfeasible before, like the footwear and clothing industries. Hopefully this would enable us to keep more of the manufacturing at home rather than it being sent abroad.
These really are exciting times, we are entering an era in which custom is becoming a reality, and who doesn’t prefer custom?
What are the future goals for LEO Lab?
We have big plans for the application of this technology, both within the orthotic industry and beyond. The orthotic industry hasn’t seen much in the way of significant development of new products and processes. We plan to be at the forefront of bringing new products to the orthotic industry that deliver real benefits to patients.
Beyond the business of custom orthotics, through a division called IDEATE 3D, we will be providing print services to other companies in need of prototyping and small volume production runs. Our focus will be on various industries ranging from Medical to Automotive and Consumer. We will also be collaborating with strategic partners to bring new products to market.
We encourage individuals and companies with the skills and designs or concepts to reach out to us to see how we can work together in giving life to their ideas.
As a Vaughan-based technology company, what value have you found in having the business in Toronto area’s York Region?
Vaughan is a special city. We share the Mayor’s vision for the city and feel that it is befitting the status of the city that the implementation of this state-of-the-art technology, the first of its kind in Canada, be in Vaughan.
Our interactions with various individuals at Municipal and Regional levels have demonstrated a similar entrepreneurial spirit within these organizations to that which we have in LEO Lab and IDEATE 3D. They understand the longer term benefits of supporting entrepreneurs within the region and the positive impact it can have from both an economic development and employment perspective.
We look forward to working closely with the City of Vaughan and York Region to continue shaping Vaughan to be a technology and product development leader.