Prototype Nanofibre Production Machine

An innovative State Government funding model has enabled local biotechnology company Cytomatrix, Deakin University and Geelong based engineers and manufacturing company Austeng to collaborate to create a new manufacturing capability and employment opportunity in the region, building on Geelong’s long history of innovation in the fibre and textile field.

Local biotechnology company, Cytomatrix and Deakin University have together developed a world-leading new method for making short nanofibres – that is, fibres with diameters in the nanometre range, and length in the micron range.  These new fibres open up a wide range of new possibilities for the application of nanotechnology  in materials science, biotechnology and other fields.

Austeng, Cytomatrix and Deakin University collaborated to design and build a simple prototype nano fibre production machine to use these ‘short’ nano fibres to promote the growth of stem cells.

Austeng’s latest role is to design and manufacture a pilot scale manufacturing plant to produce nanofibres for use in the medical filtration industry.  Nanofunctionalisation of filters is an established process for high end filters.

Cytomatrix is essentially a “translation company” whose core focus is the development and commercialisation of technologies developed by academics.  Cytomatrix CEO Mark Kirkland commented that “Austeng was chosen as its industry partner due to its proven track record in the area of developing and commercialising technologies and due to its ability to cover all engineering aspects of the project from design, manufacture through to installation/commissioning and ongoing modifications and servicing.  The design process has consisted of a fruitful and ultimately successful sharing and inter-change of ideas and concepts from experts from quite different disciplines in academia and industry.

A key goal of the pilot plant will be to demonstrate in-line deposition of nanofibres onto filter membranes in a rapid and reliable way.

Manufacturing challenges include:

  • Improved process control – automation of valves and control systems, linkage to computer for process control and monitoring
  • Temperature monitoring systems – temperature is a critical variable in the manufacturing process, so the new system will operate over a wide range of temperatures from -50° to +30°C
  • Improved access to key components of the system for cleaning and maintenance
  • Increased use of 3D printed components
  • Improved fluid handling to enable a full range of dispersants to be utilised including flammable fluids
  • Scalability – larger fluid handling systems, larger hydrofoils for polymer injection.