Running hot – the Australian taking 3D printing from the lab to the factory

Engineer Michael Fuller shows off the 3D printed heat exchanger he has developed for Formula One teams. Photo: Wayne TaylorWhat Michael Fuller pulls from his briefcase looks like a small piece of plumbing – like something that catches hairballs – but it may well represent a levelling of the playing field in manufacturing.
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“Because it costs the same to make here as it does in China,” he says.

Fuller’s gizmo is a heat exchanger – a device that is found in fridges, air-conditioners, power stations and, in this case, cars – and a product of 3D printing. Its internal geometry is so complex it can’t be made any other way. It’s half the weight of similar devices, significantly more efficient – and already has Silicon Valley venture capitalists keen to know more. Why?

Because the heat exchanger industry will be reportedly worth $20 billion within the next five years. So there’s that. Kerching.

For Fuller, 39, an engineer, the heat exchanger is merely “a conduit … to the bigger vision” of taking 3D printing out of the laboratory and into production. “There is this advanced manufacturing utopia we talk about, where we transition from a high labour quotient to a more productive one,” he says.

3D printing, or metal additive manufacturing, will be part of utopia, albeit as a cottage industry. “As we move to producing, say, 2000 of these a year, the price point drops to where the product is competitive.”

Fairfax Media spoke to Fuller on the eve of him leaving for Britain , to talk to former colleagues in the Formula One racing industry. His plan is to have a team bolt his heat exchanger into a high-performance car, create a bit of PR dazzle and move on from there.

The move is no less audacious than how Fuller became an engineer in the first place. He was 12 years old, racing go-karts, and telling everyone who asked that he wanted to build racing cars when he grew up. At that time the Australian Grand Prix was run in Adelaide and the family made an annual pilgrimage to see the race.

“I was a mad fan,” he says.

There were no doubt many young boys being condescended to as they voiced their racing dreams. But Fuller’s father, who was always working on car engines in the home garage – “one of my early memories is him dropping a gearbox on my hand” – took young Michael seriously. He said it was time to write letters to Formula One teams and ask their advice.

“So I write, ‘I’m 13 years old living in Australia. How can I work for you?’ Some of the teams wrote back,” he says. “One in particular laid it out: this is what you need to do.”

He needed to become a mechanic or an engineer and then volunteer to help out with race teams. Fuller found he was “too cerebral” to be a mechanic, and did a mechanical engineering degree. He then spent a year on the hyper-masculine V8 touring circuit. “It was character building,” he says. “There was an anti-engineering bias. They’d call them boffins.”

At the end of that year, 2000, literally on the day of the season’s last race, Fuller flew to Britain to break into European motorsport. At the end of his first week he was juggling three job offers. By 2008, he was working for BMW’s Formula One team in Switzerland, when word came that his father had brain cancer. Fuller returned to Melbourne, spent a terrible 14 months watching his father die, lost his brother soon after in a motorbike accident – and lost too his passion for Formula One.

He turned his focus into starting up Conflux Technology, and last year began work on his heat exchanger. Word of the project has been relatively quiet. But an interview with a technology website was spotted by Marc Andreessen, the US nerd who who coded the first web browser and co-founded Netscape.

Within 12 hours of Andreessen tweeting the link to the story, Fuller was approached by venture capital companies who have invited him to talk at a Silicon Valley conference in October.

Fuller wants to change the world. Already, the boffins – the new world’s true leaders – are wondering if maybe he’s already done it.

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Liverpool Council upsets Orthodox community by leaving pork off the menu for interfaith lunch

Macedonian community member Alex Dzepovski with a plate of traditional grilled meat and pork dish at the Europe Grill Macedonian restaurant in Newtown. Photo: Peter Rae Macedonian community member Alex Dzepovski with a plate of traditional grilled meat and pork dish at the Europe Grill Macedonian restaurant in Newtown. Photo: Peter Rae
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Macedonian community member Alex Dzepovski with a plate of traditional grilled meat and pork dish at the Europe Grill Macedonian restaurant in Newtown. Photo: Peter Rae

Macedonian community member Alex Dzepovski with a plate of traditional grilled meat and pork dish at the Europe Grill Macedonian restaurant in Newtown. Photo: Peter Rae

They were trying to be respectful and cater to all faiths when they decided on the menu for Liverpool Council’s first Christian Orthodox Interfaith lunch.

But instead of a delicious spread that would be palatable to all, a scandal has erupted that has become known locally as “porkgate” and it has the councillors and community members scrambling to defuse the furore.

It was what was not included on the menu’s menu for lunch next Sunday – pork – that has upset members of the Orthodox Macedonian community.

As the luncheon was being hosted on behalf of the Orthodox community, they wanted to eat and share their traditional dishes and that, according to author and musician Alex Dzepovski, includes pork.

Mr Dzepovski said pork is special to the Macedonian community and in historical terms played a large part in their lives under Ottoman rule. To some members of the community it had become a symbol of their survival as pork was their main meat staple for hundreds of years.

So when it was left off the menu for the Liverpool Council lunch it sparked complaints and an article in the online newsite Falanga上海夜网m.au which complained about the “discriminatory policy of the Municipality of Liverpool”.

A translation of the article said that the council was discriminating against Orthodox people (including Macedonian, Serbian, Russian and Greek Orthodox), due to the council’s current Islamic leadership.

But the office of Liverpool mayor Ned Mannoun​ has said he has no problem with pork or alcohol being served at the luncheon.

When questioned why pork was off the menu, a council spokeswoman had said that “to serve pork at such a lunch would mean that none of the Muslims in attendance could eat ANY of the food served from the kitchen where all the food is prepared. Apparently pork contaminates the food area and therefore would be insulting to our Muslim guests (or Jewish) and be completely at odds with the entire point of an interfaith lunch where we are trying to bring together people of different faiths.”

Liverpool councillor Peter Ristevski​ had foreshadowed a motion for a council meeting on Wednesday night pushing for the lunch budget to be increased so the menu can be expanded to include a traditional pork dish as a menu choice.

But a spokeswoman for the council told Fairfax Media they had relented and they would now give guests the options of pork, chicken and beef.

Two options were usually served at council functions and “because Muslims, Hindu and Jewish people don’t eat pork, we don’t normally serve it”, she said.

“This is the protocol at most levels of government for multicultural events … Council holds a large number of functions and events throughout the year and this is the first time we’ve received a complaint about the menu,” she said.

More than 14 different faiths would be represented at the lunch, she said.

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Get out of town: Check out these homes in Merimbula, Bangalow, Newcastle and Thredbo

5 Patrick Court, Merimbula has great views. Photo: Kit Goldsworthy 1 Rifle Range Road, Bangalow has undergone extensive renovations. Photo: domain上海夜网m.au
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41 Corlette Street, Newcastle is at the end of a row of terraces. Photo: Karly Silvello

3 Crackenback Drive, Thredbo is close to the skifields. Photo: domain上海夜网m.au

Merimbula 5 Patrick Court

$950,000

4 bed 2 bath 3 car

Views over Merimbula Lake, Bar Beach and as far south as Pambula Beach are the drawcard of this contemporary, architect-designed house. Glass walls in the living space and master bedroom maximise the water views by day and Merimbula below twinkles at night. Open-plan living, a gourmet kitchen, spotted gum floors and double glazing complete the picture, along with low-maintenance gardens and a 5000L rainwater tank.

Agent Merimbula Realty, 0409 139 546

Bangalow

1 Rifle Range Road

$2.85 million

5 bed 3 bath 2 car

This stylish home has come a long way from its 1903 beginnings and still retains character. A major rebuild has turned it into a light-filled modern house with a multiple-use open living space, large entertaining deck, swimming pool and a self-contained studio. The marble-wrapped kitchen has a walk-in pantry and the main bedroom has a buiIt-in four-poster bed, en suite and dressing room.

Agent Unique Estates, 0411 144 877

Newcastle

41 Corlette Street

$570,000 +

2 bed 1 bath 0 car

Sitting at the end of a row of terraces, this renovated c1900 house is close to cafes, shops and within walking distance of beaches. Set over two levels, the living and dining rooms (both with working fireplaces) are downstairs with the kitchen and a powder room, while the bedrooms and bathroom are upstairs. A rear courtyard has shed and pedestrian access.

Agent PRDnationwide Newcastle, 4926 0600

Auction August 12

Thredbo

3 Crackenback Drive

$1.59 million

3 bed 3 bath 2 car

Lightning is the name of this three-level duplex, and possibly the speed at which you’ll hit the slopes from here. It has a dual-key studio with kitchen, three living areas, a designer kitchen, living room terrace and four covered balconies. All-important drying/laundry space is in the double garage, and it’s a short level walk to the nearest run to the Valley Terminal.

Agent Mountain High RE, 0408 273 958

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GST debate explained: why the Abbott government’s talking about a tax rise no one wants

Where’s the money coming from? Australia faces a growing gulf between revenue and expenditure. Photo: James DaviesWe’ve been told we’re heading for ever-growing deficits. Is the problem with revenue or expenditure?
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Both. As a number of leading economists have said, Australia doesn’t only have a spending problem. It also has a revenue problem.

That’s because revenue that comes mainly from taxes – such as company tax – is falling as the mining boom ends and iron ore prices take a hit.

There’s greater economic uncertainty – both locally in terms of how strongly jobs will grow – and overseas with uncertainty in China and Europe.

At the same time as incoming revenue is falling, government spending on areas such as health, education, welfare and defence is rising.

Leading economist Saul Eslake has said that: “The problem we have is a long-term mismatch between what people expect government to spend on them and what they’re willing to pay in taxes.”

How much will increasing the GST to 15% raise? 

KPMG did economic modelling for CPA Australia that showed increasing the GST rate from 10 to 15 per cent leads to additional GST revenues of more than $20 billion a year.

But how much money is raised depends on whether there’s associated compensation.

Preliminary modelling that NSW Premier Mike Baird presented at this week’s COAG retreat said that lifting the GST – without broadening its base to include food and education – would raise an extra $36 billion by 2020.

And what about compensation for low-income earners?

There’s also been talk of using money that would come from a GST rise to abolish a number of inefficient state taxes, hand down personal income tax cuts, and/or provide compensation.

Mr Baird says if the GST goes up to 15 per cent households on less than $100,000 a year should be compensated.

But NATSEM’s Ben Phillips has said, if compensation’s introduced for households earning up to $100,000, “you would be compensating most households and not getting much in net terms”.

Mr Baird says after households earning below $100,000 are fully compensated for the rise, and those earning between $100,000 and $155,000 receive back half the increase, the revenue boost would be about $18 billion.

This would still fall billions of dollars short of the revenue that modelling suggests is needed to cover escalating national healthcare costs.

Is 15% high on a global scale? 

Australia’s 10 per cent GST rate – which hasn’t changed since its introduction by the Howard government in 2000 – is now half the average of the developed world, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The OECD average rate is 19.5 per cent, and it says there is scope to lift the GST rate and broaden the base to bring Australia into line with other countries.

The New Zealand government in 2010 increased its GST rate from 12.5 per cent to 15 per cent.

Nordic countries, including Denmark, Hungary, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Sweden have some of the highest value-added tax (another term for GST) rates internationally at or near 25 per cent.

Is there a plan to broaden the GST? 

The federal government’s tax white paper is examining an increase to the GST as part of a broader tax reform agenda.

Treasurer Joe Hockey has said that any changes to the GST need to be supported by the states, as they will be the beneficiaries.

While Mr Baird is supportive of increasing the rate, other state premiers – who went to state elections promising no GST change – have said they will not support an increase in the rate or broadening of the base.

Queensland and Victoria are instead advocating a 2 percentage point rise in the Medicare levy (the levy was already increased from 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent last year to pay for the National Disability Insurance Scheme).

This would mean the levy hits 4 per cent, and would push the highest marginal tax rate to 51 per cent.

It seems like the Abbott government is pushing this discussion by removing funding from health and education. Is that correct?

The states face a long-term funding shortfall as our population grows and there’s greater demand for public health and education services.

In last year’s budget the Commonwealth withdrew $80 billion in long-term funding, leaving the states unable to fund the increased demand for such services.

The recent leaders’ retreat was aimed at discussing where they can go to now.

Is there a politically palatable way to raise taxes?

The Abbott government has not yet sold the case for tax reform, and unfortunately what makes economic sense does not always make political sense.

The problem with the GST is it is considered a regressive tax. The lower your income, the higher the percentage of that income that is spent on the goods and services covered by the tax.

That means that any reform needs to be associated with compensation, and or lower personal taxes. But then as stated, there’s less revenue coming in.

Business and community stakeholders in the tax debate have said it is important that the federal government looks at the tax system as a whole, and not cherry-pick.

Rather than just increasing the GST, the government could also look at thesacred cow tax breaks – billions of dollars going to superannuation concessions and negative gearing that primarily benefit the rich. Mr Hockey and Prime Minister Tony Abbott have ruled out doing so.

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Portable and inflatable pools: experts consider the dangers

Peta Ryder of Southgate and her son Hugh enjoy the winter sun in Grafton on Saturday. Photo: Simon Hughes Three-year-old Hugh Ryder enjoys the warm weather in Grafton on Saturday with Eden Hiatt, aged two. Photo: Simon Hughes
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Comment: Carefree attitudes

Inflatable and portable children’s pools may be required to be sold with compulsory fencing to prevent backyard drownings, with some experts even floating the idea of a ban.

A draft paper by a Westmead Children’s Hospital pool safety group warns portable pools are “more dangerous than permanent pools” because many parents perceive them as less risky.

“The injury to young children caused by unfenced portable pools is too great a price to pay,” said a draft report by the swimming pool safety working group.

In addition to fencing and more public education, it also suggested a ban as another way of preventing drownings and near-drownings in the 110,000 portable pools sold annually.

The chair of the group, Professor Danny Cass, ruled out a ban on Saturday.

He described the paper obtained by Fairfax Media as a “draft of a draft”. It was mistakenly circulated to the swimming pool industry last week.

The finished paper will form part of the hospital’s submission to a major review of pool fencing being conducted by former Treasury secretary Michael Lambert.

Professor Cass said his experience was that working with industry on previous safety issues like baby walkers, trampolines and skateboards had avoided the need for regulation.

Professor Cass, who is the director of trauma at the hospital, envisaged the preferred option would be requiring portable pools to be sold with a fence, something similar to the inbuilt fencing that now surrounds trampolines.

“There is nothing that engineering can’t fix,” he said.

The draft discussion paper estimated that there are as many as 10 incidents classified as “non-fatal drownings” in portable pools a year. Health experts in the United States had noted a rise of drownings and near-drownings in unfenced portable pools of as much as 25 per cent.

Because of increased awareness of the risks associated with non-fatal drowning, more parents and ambulances were sending children who had suffered a non-fatal drowning to hospital for treatment.

Professor Cass said only 5 per cent of these children would suffer permanent and serious injury. The hospital was also beginning to track children who appeared to have fully recovered after the incident. In some cases, these children had minor concentration and behavioural problems that the hospital was studying.

Under existing pool guidelines, all pools that are capable of being filled with more than 300 millimetres of water (about the depth of the average ruler) must be surrounded by a four-sided fence, with a height of 1.2 metres above the ground. Yet many parents are unaware that portable pools also need fencing.

Professor Peter Middleton, the chair of the NSW Branch of the  Australian Resuscitation Council, said the problem with many portable and inflatable pools was that they had low sides, making them easy for kids to access.

“These pools are real danger, and we wouldn’t leave kids in a full bath of water by themselves, or even in the same room, but some parents leave them in a bath full of water in the garden.”

He said the fatality statistics hide a problem: the children who don’t die from drowning but who are left with brain damage.

Brian Owler, the president of the Australian Medical Association, said parents often had a false sense of security with portable pools because they were so easy to buy.

“People think it is just a portable pool, kids can’t drown in them, and people don’t pay as much attention as they do to properly installed pools,” said Dr Owler.

The head of the Swimming Pool and Spa Association of NSW, Spiros Dassakis – a member of the working party – declined to comment until his organisation had finalised a response.

Professor Cass said nothing should overshadow the primary safety messages, which was “supervision, supervision and supervision”, the need for a gate and the importance of CPR.

He estimated that of all drownings, including those that were non-fatal, as many as half were caused by a lack of parental supervision.

Professor Cass suggested a slip-and-slide might be a safer and healthier way to cool off next summer.

“Everyone is starting to come on board, and realise that maybe a bit of plastic and a hose, and have the kids slide along, might be a little better than a plastic thing that gets algae and causes middle-ear infections or worse.”

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