Category Archives: Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre

IoT solution lights up e-candle mobile app

It’s a traditional sight in Roman Catholic institutions: a table or altar lined with rows of candles. Parishioners or the public will light votive candles as a symbol of a prayer intention – and donations for “votive offerings” are customary.   

Yet, while the candle lighting itself remains an established practice, there has been a slow progression these past several decades to replace the wax or paraffin candles with electric or battery-powered candles, complete with a flickering flame. In recent times, many parishes have incorporated a thin, metal wand used to switch the candle “on” to mimic the lighting of the flame. 

For some churches, the change has been driven by fire safety reasons or cost-saving measures. Still, others want a “green” alternative – to reduce harmful carbon dioxide emitted from the candles. 

For more than 40 years, Niagara-based Vendalite Enterprises has manufactured and distributed electronic candles to Catholic churches, shrines, mausoleums, hospitals and school chapels throughout North America.  

“Our market is a very complex entity, steeped in 2,000 years of tradition,” says Vendalite president Derek Insley.  

Over the years, the company has continued to upgrade their electronic-candle technology, and they’ve brought their latest innovative idea for redeveloping its system to the research team at Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) to help with the Internet of Things (IoT) development of a smartphone application. 

The app, called “Gabriel,” will allow an individual to make a donation and light a votive candle remotely anywhere in the world using their smartphone.  

“We contend there exists a burning need to light votive candles for an individual’s intentions. Gabriel is fantastic for someone who cannot get to a church or mausoleum because of the weather, an illness – or pandemic – to light a weekly votive candle to remember a loved one,” explains Insley. 

“The team at the College has adapted to our introduction of new ideas to enhance the presentation of our product immeasurably.  This shows how a small dedicated team supports the innovation of the product to our marketing program.”
~ Derek Insley, Vendalite president 

Research assistants in the Computer Programming & Analysis program and the Electronics Engineering Technology program are working alongside engineers at Research & Innovation’s WAMIC labs to design the system architecture, engineer connectivity solutions and develop the defined software packages.  

Similar to lighting the candle in person, an individual will be able to choose the number of candles and the location that will interface with Vendalite’s existing master system. The candle will remain lit for five days and a reminder will be sent to re-light their candle if one chooses. A further innovation, adds Insley, will see a drop-down page to provide a list of available locations with Vendalite’s electronic candle systems. 

“We are entrepreneurs who rely on the expertise of others to engineer our ideas into completed products,” says Insley. “We do the work of marketing the products in a very complex marketplace during a debilitating time in our history. We finance everything ourselves, so the assistance of the College is greatly appreciated.” 

He says the new e-candle system will also be used to complement crowdfunded efforts for various fundraising events for things such as natural disasters or an international crisis.  

“For crowdfunding, a candle can be symbolic of helping others, as the current pandemic exemplifies. Gabriel could also be applied to fundraising for charities, such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation, local or global catastrophes and special needs.” 

Insley points out that mobile app-based technology to connect more people worldwide is nothing new for the Catholic church. The Vatican got on board the technology train in 2016 in releasing its smartphone app “The Catholic App,” an interactive GPS-powered application allowing the user to find the nearest church offering confessions. And in 2019, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network launched “Click To Pray eRosary.”  

“The team at the College has adapted to our introduction of new ideas to enhance the presentation of our product immeasurably. This shows how a small dedicated team supports the innovation of the product to our marketing program. 

“The Niagara College team has displayed a varied knowledge related to the myriad of regulations pertaining to privacy laws,” adds Insley. “There are substantive requirements for the Google and Apple stores that the team is constantly trying to satisfy.” 

“As a research assistant, this project is the best experience I could have gotten during my co-op. I have expanded my programming skills and interests, which indeed will assist me in my career.” ~ WAMIC research assistant Elzo Honorato 

For WAMIC research assistant Elzo Honorato – a student in the Computer Programming and Analysis (Co-op) program – a certain challenge presented itself at the beginning of the project. While he had already learned about web development, database designing and mobile application development, either in class or on his own, the essential IoT was completely new to him. 

IoT is a description for connecting any device or gadget to the internet, such as smartphones, self-driving cars, smart speakers, or smart house devices used to control lights and heating systems, for example. 

“I had to learn how IoT works and how to program a device like that. Learning a totally new subject, new programming languages and concepts – which are different from developing a web application – were the challenges for me,” explains Honorato. 

But he did learn the new technology and is appreciative for the opportunity: “As a research assistant, this project is the best experience I could have gotten during my co-op. I have expanded my programming skills and interests, which indeed will assist me in my career.” 

This project received funding through the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI),a Niagara College-led consortium of seven academic institutions and backed by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev). 

For more information about the applied research and technical services offered at R&I’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, visit the website. 

A rapid pandemic response to keep communities safe

The onset of the global health crisis in the spring of 2020 — with ongoing shortages in critical medical and protective equipment — has underscored the need for innovative solutions.  

Soon after the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, Niagara’s local health system faced a startling shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and reached out to Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division for a rapid response for the essential health equipment. 

Researchers at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) promptly engineered a face shield prototype using computer-aided design and received certification by Health Canada for a Medical Device Establishment Licence (MDEL Class1).  

The team at WAMIC, and with help from R&I’s administrative staff, spent long hours assembling hundreds of face shields each day, and delivering them to frontline workers at Niagara Health. 

In all, the team produced 37,300 face shields for essential healthcare staff locally and other community members throughout the province. 

“The Research & Innovation division at Niagara College provided invaluable services at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when PPE inventories were running low, and the supply chains were disrupted,” said Amir Gill, director of Capital Planning, Engineering Services, and Biomedical Engineering for Niagara Health. “I would term their efforts heroic, and they definitely helped Niagara Health keep our patients, staff, and visitors safe.”

The face shield project was funded by the Niagara College-led Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI)  through Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) contributions. In fact, all seven of SONAMI’s academic partners took action to combat the health crisis, working on dozens of COVID-19-related research projects, including PPE, manufacturing of a medical device prototype, a ventilator prototype, a portable air filtration system and exciting research in the treatment for SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. 


At the forefront of innovative technologies 

The global pandemic has highlighted the need for rapid, inclusive response to public health emergencies. As a result, following the initial PPE project, the WAMIC team went on to partner with industry partners to help in the fight against the coronavirus. 

During a collaboration with McMaster University, researchers at WAMIC reverse-engineered and created a parametric CAD model of a video laryngoscope sheath to prepare for potential supply-chain interruptions at Hamilton Health Sciences. Laryngoscopes are needed for the intubation procedure for patients requiring assisted ventilation.  

“We can see how we’ve all joined forces to tackle the challenges of the day,” said Marc Nantel, PhD, vice president, Research & External Relations at Niagara College. Innovative technologies to address the coronavirus arrived in record time, and more locally, we’ve seen our community, stakeholders and industry partners, come together to help each other.”  

One industry partner in particular engaged with the Research & Innovation division during in order to advance its technology of utilizing ultra-violet (UV)-C radiation as industrial disinfection to help kill viruses like SARS-Cov-2. Brilliant Photonics sought the expert help from WAMIC engineers to help reduce manufacturing costs and complexity. 

The College was also awarded a grant of close to $50,000 for the purchase of a biomedically compatible 3D printer for the WAMIC labs in the R&I division to continue COVID-19-related research. 

Previously, WAMIC’s lab capability in this area has been limited to Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) 3D printers, which are not intended for biomedical material. With this specific equipment, research and development projects pertaining to the coronavirus could proceed with the necessary biocompatible and liquid-tight parameters. 

“The research infrastructure funded by CFI will expand Niagara College’s capacity to serve a wider array of people in need of specialized protection, testing and life-saving medical assistance,” said Nantel at the time.  

Research & Innovation’s activities are in addition to a college-wide effort. In early April, NC donated 30,000 personal protective items, collected from a number of different program areas, to the Niagara Health Foundation. 

As well, the NC Teaching Distillery – with help from NC’s Teaching Winery and Teaching Brewery –utilized its stills to produce 1,700 bottles of hand sanitizer (instead of spirits) to help frontline workers and for distribution to local and province-wide charitable organizations.

R&I efforts to protect healthcare workers recognized

With files from InsideNC 

Niagara College has received commendation from the Niagara Region for its role in assisting the community this past year during the pandemic. Award of Merit certificates were recently presented to the College in honour of Research & Innovation’s exemplary support of healthcare workers through the manufacturing and donation of face shields, and for the Canadian Food & Wine Institute’s Feed the Community initiative. 

The recognition is part of the Region’s Niagara Impact Awards, which recognize individuals, non-profit organizations and private sector businesses for their efforts in improving the quality of life of those living in Niagara. Learn more about how College students, staff and faculty are making a difference. 


An Award of Merit recognized Research & Innovation’s support of healthcare workers over the past year through the manufacturing and donation of more than 17,300 face shields to Niagara Health. 

“Your ability to pivot, design and manufacture these much-needed shields as well as your generosity in donating those to most in need is outstanding,” states the Award of Merit signed by Niagara Region chair Jim Bradley. 

In 2020, research at the College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) produced 37,300 face shields, certified by Health Canada with a Medical Device Establishment Licence (MDEL Class 1). WAMIC distributed 17,300 face shields to the local Niagara Health System for front-line workers, and the rest were donated to other essential workers and community members throughout the province. 

The WAMIC research team used computer-aided design to create the face shield prototype and then partnered with a local industry partner, Niagara-based Jay-Line, for its die-cutting services to accelerate the number of plastic visors pressed. 

“It’s a priority for us at Niagara College to respond to the needs of our community,” said Marc Nantel, PhD, vice president, Research and External Relations. “We are proud to leverage our spirit of innovation to help support those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Niagara Health expressed its gratitude for the College’s efforts. 

“The Research & Innovation division at Niagara College provided invaluable services at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when PPE inventories were running low, and the supply chains were disrupted,” said Amir Gill, director, Capital Planning, Engineering Services, and Biomedical Engineering, Niagara Health, “The Niagara College team stepped in and started to locally manufacture and supply us with face shields. They continued to send us a daily supply until the supply chains were re-established.” 

The project was funded by the Niagara College-led Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) through Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) contributions. 



At the College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute (CFWI), the Feed the Community program was launched during the Winter 2021 term. The initiative aimed to address food insecurity and to support health and wellness in the community and within the College’s student population.  

Each week, 300 fresh healthy meals were prepared at the CFWI and transported to different shelters on a rotating basis. Some meals were also provided to students living in on-campus residences. 

The meals were prepared, cooked and packaged by participating chefs and student volunteers from the Culinary Management program who used top quality products from supplies in the kitchen labs. The team then connected with shelters to transport all the meals each week to those who needed them. 

The initiative was spearheaded by chef professor Olaf Mertens with leadership from the CFWI’s former associate dean Gary Torraville (director, International). Chefs Dan Leblanc and Tom Liu joined the effort along with four second-year Culinary Management students who volunteered to get involved. Full health and safety measures were followed, noted CFWI dean Craig Youdale. 

“I am immensely proud of our team and their continued support of the Niagara community,” said Youdale. “The Niagara Impact Award of Merit is really special to our staff because it will bring some light to the important issue of food insecurity and also inspire more of our team to join the effort.” 

NOW HIRING: Mechanical Engineering Research Assistant (Sr. Co-op) position available with our WAMIC team

Mechanical Engineering Research Assistant (Co-op)

The Mechanical Engineering Research Assistant will have a comprehensive skill set to work with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre team, Faculty Leads and Industry Partners on a variety of time-sensitive projects. The successful candidate may work on research projects or technical services in Additive manufacturing, Product Design & Development, Product Testing, Reality/Spatial Capture, Reverse Engineering and Lean Manufacturing Assessment. Hours completed during this work term may be used toward your co-operative placement hours.

Click HERE to see the full job posting. To apply, please email your resume, cover letter, transcript and school schedule to [email protected] and reference ‘Mechanical Engineering Research Assistant SR Co-op’ in the subject line.

The deadline to apply is Wednesday, August 18th, 2021 at 12pm.

We thank all applicants; however, only those qualifying for an interview will be contacted.

NOW HIRING: Research Laboratory Technician position available with our Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre team

Research Laboratory Technician

Applications are invited for the position of Research Laboratory Technician in the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) at Niagara College, located at our Welland Campus. This position is part of the Research and Innovation Division.

Reporting to the Centre Manager – Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, the Research Laboratory Technician position is critical to all laboratory and research activities. The successful candidate will support research activities related to producing and testing prototypes, evaluating new technologies, and developing new or improved products or processes for small- and medium-sized businesses.  

Click HERE to see the full job posting. The deadline to apply is Friday, July 23, 2021.

We thank all applicants; however, only those qualifying for an interview will be contacted.

Digitizing complex geometries to problem solve

For a company that fabricates glass structures for the high-rise residential and commercial construction industry, having tools and machinery on its production floor up to the task, is critical.

This is certainly the case for BVGlazing Systems Ltd., a major player in this industry. The company was created in 2016 through the merger of Allan Windows Group and Global Architectural metals Group, two dominant forces in the design, manufacture and installation of commercial and residential glazing, cladding, railing, skylight and entry systems in Canada and the United States for the past 60 years.

BVGlazing’s facilities in Niagara Falls and Concord, Ont., produce curtain wall, window wall, doors and railing systems.

When the company had two corner crimping machines in their Concord plant in need of repair, they sought the assistance of the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) at Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division.

“The parts that came off of the machine were originally cast iron and were cracked and in bad shape,” says Jeremy Pasma, manufacturing engineering manager at BVGlazing. “There were attempts to repair the parts by trying to weld them and bolt extra pieces on, but this was not successful.”

In the fabrication process, crimping machines are used in conjunction with a corner key to crimp the corners on vents and doors to mechanically hold the corners together.

“Normally, I would be able to use CAD software, along with measuring tools to reverse engineer the part, but this top plate was more complex, with a lot of holes and angled faces.”
~ Jeremy Pasma, BVGlazing Systems

The only fix, explains Pasma, was to remake the parts. However, as is often the case with many companies, the company did not have any drawings or 3D models of the part, and therefore did not have a starting point.

“Normally, I would be able to use CAD software, along with measuring tools to reverse engineer the part, but this top plate was more complex, with a lot of holes and angled faces. I decided that a 3D scan would be the best way to produce a 3D file that I would be able to use.”

Pasma is no stranger to the expertise at WAMIC: He employed the technical services of the research engineering team when he needed to rebuild a set of dies for a punch, but again, there were no drawings or 3D files available.

“I was happy with the previous results, so I got them to do my most recent project. They have the right equipment in the Centre to handle this type of work,” notes Pasma.

That equipment is WAMIC’s laser scanning arm, a portable coordinate measuring machine (PCMM) that captures precise measurements with reverse engineering capabilities. The technology is able to digitize complex geometries and create 3D models as future design files.

The research team scanned the cracked part and provided BVGlazing the 3D model, who is now using the 3D file in conjunction with their CAM software to CNC machine a new part.

“Working with the team at the Innovation Centre was excellent. Given that we are currently in a COVID lockdown, the team was still very accommodating,” added Pasma. “If more projects come up in the future that require 3D scanning, the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre will be my go-to for this type of work.”

This is one example of the types of technical services offered by WAMIC’s Technology Access Centre (TAC). Funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and housed at colleges or cégeps across Canada, TACs provide access to specialized technology, equipment, and expertise to local industry – particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises – with the goal of enhancing their productivity and innovation.

Through its TAC, the research team at WAMIC provides small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) access to needed facilities, equipment, funding and technical expertise – including 3D technologies, such as Computer-Aided Design (3D scanning) of objects as small as a dime and as large as a whole factory – and serves to assist them in product development, technology adoption, expansion into new markets and commercialization.

For more information on the array of solutions offered by the technical services at WAMIC, visit the website.