Interview with Diana Hall: ActivArmor TM

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Diana Hall graduated from Colorado School of Mines in 1997 with a degree in Chemical Engineering, and has worked in process engineering and software for Fortune 500 companies across the country. She completed her MBA at Colorado State University in Fort Collins in 2007, worked as a Business Development Director for nonprofits, and founded a mentoring program for children in poverty. Diana holds patents on 3D-printed exoskeletons and founded ActivArmor TM in 2014. Diana has established partnerships with professional athletes, medical specialists, research hospitals, and business leaders to develop custom medical and sports products. Diana was named Colorado Manufacturing Woman of the Year in 2022 and has won many business awards including the Small Business of the Year award, the Southern Colorado Entrepreneurship Competition’s Social Entrepreneurship award, the regional InnovateHER competition, Nationwide Insurance’s national $100,000 Pitch To Win competition, and is listed as Top 100 Colorado Manufacturers. She has spoken at several venues on the topic of 3D design and printing, small business owners and start-ups, economic development, and entrepreneurship, and has given a TEDx talk on the future of mass customization in design and manufacturing in 2015.

ActivArmorTM is now a global biomedical company, with 5 international contracts and more than $2.2M in investment. It is the first Pueblo company to be awarded the Colorado Office of Economic Development’s Advanced Industries Grant, bringing more than $250,000 in state funding to Pueblo for primary job creation in the areas of bio-science and advanced manufacturing. ActivArmorTM casts are being worn by professional athletes, including NFL players, and hold contracts with leading orthopedic clinics across the country, including Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute (the official sports medicine provider for the Jaguars, Sharks, Blue Wave, and Armada), St. Lukes Hospital Network, and Children’s Hospital Colorado. ActivArmor is now available in 10 countries. A full list can be found on their website at www.ActivArmor.com. Diana will be speaking at the upcoming 3DHEALS virtual event focusing on 3D printing O&P.

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When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like? What were you thinking at that moment?

Diana: I am an engineer, so was familiar with additive manufacturing in my undergrad degree, and then was exposed more to it through my career, but really only utilized its potential fully when I started my own business.  I remember thinking how amazing it was to be able to imagine a device and then make it a physical reality!

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What inspired you to start your journey?

Diana: I was running a mentoring program for children in poverty who would often have fiberglass or plaster casts that would get filthy, and smelly, and the kids couldn’t even wash their hands to have a snack.  I knew that we could provide a better alternative to sanitizable plastics, so I developed ActivArmor to improve people’s quality of life while they heal 

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Who inspired you the most along this journey in 3D printing?

Diana: Definitely the patients!  Their stories and testimonials and photos of how it saved their summer/beach vacations or allowed them to keep their job, or saved their professional athletic careers/seasons.  Those folks make it all worthwhile!

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What motivates you the most for your work? 

Diana: Again, it’s definitely the patients.  People with injuries or conditions require immobilization, but the traditional options restrict them from their basic activities and basic hygiene.  I’m motivated to change the standard of care for the better!

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What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions? 

Diana: Where do I start?  Regulatory, liability/legal, old-school mindsets, health insurance/prices, large corporate hospital bureaucracy, big-pharma competitors… the only way to conquer them is to take risks, try new things, and don’t be afraid to fail and pivot frequently. 

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What do you think is (are) the biggest challenge(s) in 3D Printing/bio-printing? What do you think the potential solution(s) is (are)?

 Diana: Scalability.  I believe automation and tech improvements are the only solutions, and then we’ll have to change our customers’ mindsets by focusing on solving problems in a consistent, quick, and affordable way.

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If you are granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be?

Diana:

  • That the advancement of medicine and healing would not be restricted by the money and power in the incestuous and corrupt regulatory/political/big-corporation healthcare and insurance system.  (You shouldn’t have asked me this, lol.)
  • That we would all do our part, as individuals, to ensure that every human on earth would have access to basic needs and hygiene
  • That we would each know and live out our purpose
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What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advice you heard should they ignore? 

Diana: I would say to take the leap when the opportunity arises, don’t hesitate – into entrepreneurship, take those risks! it’s easier before you have family commitments to invest your time and money in your dream, but whenever it appears, DO IT.  Keep your eye out for problems that you are uniquely equipped to solve and then go in 100%. 

Definitely ignore people who tell you to have a work-life balance, or be well-rounded.  If you find what you love to do, live for it – that’s the only way you’ll be happy and fulfilled!  Do what you were meant to do.  And if you don’t know what that is yet, keep adding tools to your tool belt while you keep your eyes open for it, and be ready!

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