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San Diego’s 5th Axis puts best foot forward with StepHandle to help us safely open doors

The new foot-operated door opener StepHandle creates a safe, hands-free alternative to knobs and handles in the era of COVID-19.


San Diego is well known as a world leader in biomedical research and telecommunications. What is less well known is that it is also a leader in the production and manufacturing of the components used in these and other high-tech enterprises.

While the creation of these components relies on some of the most sophisticated machinery in existence, sometimes the part itself can be as simple as can be.

Take the StepHandle, for example, a new foot-operated door opener that mounts in minutes to the bottom of interior and exterior doors, creating a safe, hands-free alternative to knobs and handles in the era of COVID-19.


Developed by San Diego’s 5th Axis, a local manufacturer of medical, aerospace, and other precision parts, StepHandle is likely to change the way we think of opening doors forevermore.

Deemed an essential business, 5th Axis needed to find ways to remain operational during the lockdown while safeguarding its people.

“I’ve always kind of hated touching door handles, even before coronavirus, and I asked one of our employees if there was anything we could do,” explains Steve Grangetto, co-founder and co-CEO of 5th Axis.

Within a month, the company had developed a prototype, applied for a patent, and is now producing more than 1,000 StepHandles a day.

“There are actually a few similar products on the market, but when we installed them, none were both easy enough to use and sturdy enough for our purposes,” says Chris Taylor, 5th Axis’ other co-founder and co-CEO.

Both Taylor and Grangetto are mechanical engineers, and graduates of UC San Diego and San Diego State, respectively. Together they formed 5th Axis in 2004, recognizing the importance of precision manufacturing.

Now, seeing the need for an easy, sanitary way to open doors, the company has invested nearly $250,000 in process and machinery to develop production efficiency that enables StepHandle to be competitive on the world market.

“That way we don’t have to make it in Asia,” says Taylor, referring to recent shortages related to international supply chains.

Crafted from aircraft grade aluminum supplied by a mill just up the I-15 in Corona (interestingly enough), Grangetto and Taylor believe StepHandle is the finest product on the market and they take great pride in the fact that, unlike most of its competitors, StepHandle is sourced and crafted entirely in the United States.

Featuring a unique 20-degree angle and precision teeth that grab without getting caught, the current product works on latch-less doors, but a product for latched doors is in development. Available in red, silver, and orange, there is little doubt we will soon be seeing them on buildings throughout the region and likely the world.

As Grangetto says, “People quickly get used to them. We have more than two dozen installed at 5th Axis and our people tell us they find themselves looking for them when they go to the store.” stephandle.com  



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