Category Archives: Research & Innovation

Event Highlights

← View all articles from February 2019 E-Newsletter

All Welcome! Niagara College Spring Open House March 23

On Saturday, March 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., student researchers and staff with each Innovation Centre at Niagara College will be onsite at both the Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake campuses to demonstrate the state-of-the-art technologies and discuss how the Research & Innovation division contributes to world-readiness for students. This Open House is the perfect opportunity for prospective students to learn more about education and career opportunities, but it is also the best way for the general public to explore the College, pick up a plant from the greenhouse, or an award-winning beer or wine. Learn more here.

 

Save the Date: Breakfast & Learn on Funding Opportunities

On Tuesday, March 26, the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) will host a Breakfast & Learn entitled “Show Me the Money: exploring funding opportunities for SMEs.” The session, to be hosted in the workshop room at the Welland Campus, will feature speakers from the National Research Council of Canada, the Ontario Centres of Excellence, and the Ministry of Economic Development Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT).  Details and registration through Eventbrite.

IoT product development resources

 

Photo: Michael Hanemaayer

The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to open new opportunities, especially in the world of advanced manufacturing, where connectivity and automation play key roles. Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division has been meeting industry demand, through its expertise and leading-edge technologies at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC).

At WAMIC, investments have been made in printed circuit board design and surface mount technology fabrication equipment, as well as an assortment of prototyping microcontrollers, sensors, and interface electronics. 

The research labs are also equipped with Google and Alexa smart speakers to add industry standard voice control. Laser scanning, Computer Aided Design, and CNC machining facilities are available to design enclosures and create custom mechatronic attachments needed for product development success.

As for expertise, Research Leads Gordon Maretzki, PEng, and Allan Spence, PhD, bring decades of related experience to WAMIC.

Maretzki has run his own business for more than 14 years and has held many applied research government contracts in areas of engineering design, automation, manufacturing/fabrication and performance testing/validation. In addition to his research role at WAMIC, Maretzki is a professor in the Industrial Automation Certificate program with the School of Technology and is a curriculum developer and lecturer for courses: “Motors and Variable Speed Drives” and “Programming PLCs and HMI Design.”

Spence first programmed a computer in 1975. He completed the core Bachelor of Mathematics Computer Science program at the University of Waterloo, and has practical experience ranging from IBM mainframes to microcomputers to home lighting and lawn sprinkler automation using the early X10 protocol. He has developed example Arduino projects for motorized photovoltaic panel tracking, and Raspberry Pi MQTT domotic plumbing fixture control.

The two Research Leads are joined by NC graduate and Research Associate Alex Davis, who adds computer programming and media expertise in custom website and cell phone app development. There are also currently six students (Samantha Jemison, Curtis Plante, Brock Husak, Tyler Winger, Dalton Pearson, and Lington (Diego) Maia) involved in IoT projects.

To learn more about how the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre can assist you with IoT manufacturing projects, contact the Centre Manager, Jim Lambert, at jlambert@niagaracollege.ca.

3D printing enters stage left

3D-scan of the original door handle for scaling down

At Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Centre (WAMIC), the technical team’s reach has spread far beyond industrial manufacturing and has entered into the arts – providing 3D printing services for an upcoming production at the Shaw Festival Theatre.

WAMIC’s expert team worked with 30-year veteran of Shaw Festival, Lesslie Tunmer, head of scenic construction, on a creative project for the production of Brigadoon, opening in May on the Festival Theatre stage. The hit musical is a love story set in a magical Scottish village.

Part of the set, explains Tunmer, includes the use of forced perspective to create an illusion of real space and involves 10 houses each decreasing in size on stage, ranging from 18-feet high to 1 ½-feet high. Each house facade is complete with chimneys, roofs, dormers, windows, flower boxes and Dutch doors. The challenge was designing and creating door handles, an item that is proportional to a human hand.

“So when you start dropping the door down to six or eight inches, you can’t have a regular door handle on it,” he says, adding if the handles were not scaled accordingly, it’s “surprising how your eye would catch it.”

In the WAMIC lab, the team of staff and students 3D-scanned the original door handle and then scaled it down to the various sizes with CAD software and then 3D-printed those handles.  

As for the benefit, Tunmer says while it would have been costly to have a carpenter carve the handles, more importantly, he could rely on the “consistency and repeatability.”

While there are live theatre companies which have in-house 3D printers for set creation, such as Stratford Festival Theatre, this was Shaw’s first experiment with 3D printing for the scenic construction (the art department commonly use this method when designing a smaller scale of the entire set).

“There are quite a few applications that I can see that could come down the road,” says Tunmer. “I think 3D printing will be one of those things that will sit in my toolbox and wait for the opportunity to do it again.”

The Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre team specializes in engineering design, 3D technologies, lean manufacturing processes and additive manufacturing. Through the application of technical services, students are provided with real-world learning opportunities and experiences, while industry has access to leading-edge technology, and related services, for the development of products and manufacturing processes. For more information about technical services contact research lab technologist Dave Vuyk: dvuyk@niagaracollege.ca

For more information on the Centre, visit the website.

Making seconds count

 

NC’s prototype of commercial scale strawberry steam-juicer

This coming strawberry season, Meadow Lynn Farms is set to quadruple its strawberry juice concentrate output, thanks in part to getting design expertise on their innovative steam-juicer from NC’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) team.

Based in Simcoe, Ont., Meadow Lynn Farms, has been a family-owned business for 73 years. Besides grain crops, vegetables and purebred jersey cattle, the Judd family operate a 7.5-acre strawberry field, utilizing both pick-your-own and road-side sales.

Co-owner Sharon Judd’s goal was to capture a niche market for the thousands of pounds of wasted seconds (imperfect, under-or over-ripe berries). After experimenting successfully with a stovetop steamer to condense the berries into a juice concentrate, Judd designed a larger unit and had a local fabricator build it.

Besides making several products to sell at the farm, including jelly and syrup, Judd expanded to other markets, selling the seed and pulp-free juice to local wineries for hard cider and micro-breweries, including St. Catharines’ Merchant Ale House, which now includes the aptly named Strawberry Blonde Radler on its regular brew menu.

“Still, the capacity was not enough for the market demand and I was still diverting about 2,000 pounds of strawberry seconds to a neighbouring farm for them to puree,” says Judd. She soon realized the need for a commercial-scale steam juicer, something that didn’t yet exist anywhere, and turned to the WAMIC team for their design know-how.

The research team tackled the mechanical challenges that came along with increasing the volume of the juicer. Utilizing their engineering expertise, the WAMIC team implemented a water make-up system, designed a practical and safe way to handle the hot mash once steamed, and made refinements to the fruit container to improve overall steaming of the berries while increasing efficiency.

WAMIC’s work, and thanks to support received through the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), a Niagara-College-led consortium funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), has allowed Judd to now prepare for four times the output (from 100 pails of frozen juice to 400) and hire more staff.

“This collaboration has been marvellous,” says Judd. “There was no way this was going to move forward without these problems being solved.”

She’s also in talks with co-packers for more specialized product and, after requests from farmers to rent her unit, she is exploring the marketplace for the possibility of mass manufacturing the juicer for commercial use.

To learn more about WAMIC projects, visit the website.

Did You Know?

Photo and text by Michael Hanemaayer

When working on projects, efficiency, accuracy and cost effectiveness are critical. Jigs and fixtures assist in the manufacturing of products, whether for machining, positioning or assembly, and help to increase productivity and predictability in addition to increasing workplace safety. 

Jigs are meant to guide materials during machining process, but are not attached to the cutting tool or the material an individual may be working with. For example, a drill jig will remove human error when drilling into the corner piece of wood.

Fixtures hold an object in place and aid in tasks such as assembly, inspection or 3D scanning for reverse engineering.

Printing a fixture or jig in a 3D printer instead of machining it reduces the cost for and also reduces the amount of waste product to nearly zero in most instances. The 3D printing of jigs and fixtures also reduces the amount of both human labour and error that might occur in the process of machining, since the human involvement with the printing process is minimal.

The materials used in 3D printing in many instances cost a fraction of what the steel or aluminum material would have costed, and, in addition to their cost effectiveness, they are lightweight, which reduces strain on the manufacturer.

The flexibility in use, as well as the low price-point, predictability and high turnaround, makes the 3D printing of jigs and fixtures an excellent option in the manufacturing process.

To learn more about how the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre can assist you with manufacturing projects, contact the Centre Manager, Jim Lambert, at jlambert@niagaracollege.ca.