Category Archives: Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre

Race car measurement device drives out guesswork

Research Assistant and Mechanical Engineering Technologies (Co-op) student Cedric Malangis-Valdes (bottom left) demonstrates the digital measurement device he helped develop for industry partner Speed Composites. The measurement data is transmitted wirelessly to a tablet or smart phone app (right).

Speed Composites, manufacturers of composite panels for race cars competing at tracks in Canada and the United States, were looking to expand their product line to give an extra edge to competition vehicles, when they landed on an innovative idea. An idea that would help provide precise measurements of a vehicle’s chassis prior to a race.

Competitive racing requires the measurement of the car’s chassis frame to determine optimum adjustment for varying track conditions. So important is it, the chassis set up can mean the difference between winning and losing the race, says Charlie King, president of the Dunnville-based Speed Composites. However, accurate digital measurement equipment is expensive and beyond the budget for most small racing teams, which is why typically a team member would lay on the ground with a tape measure and a flashlight, taking their best guess at frame heights.

With limited experience in electronics or programming of the software/firmware required to bring the product to market, Speed Composites approached Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre for their expertise to create a wireless laser device that could be adapted for accurate and economical measurement of the chassis frame.

 “Every time a team prepares its cars for an upcoming competition there are a series of adjustments and final checks that they perform, including weight distribution, tire size and pressure, spring compressions, fuel level and chassis height,” explains King, adding each one of these checks is critical and if any measurement is out of range, it would dramatically affect the vehicle’s performance.

“Our proposed solution was a laser sensor that would eliminate incorrect frame height readings,” he says. “Using our device will eliminate this guesswork.”

The project utilized the expertise from student and staff researchers in Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering Design, and Computer Programming to develop a device that can be positioned under the car and the required points of measurement could transmit data wirelessly to a mobile phone app to report the readings.

The research team utilized lasers plus a micro-laser sensor in order to determine the chassis measurements at different specified locations on the car. The device is controlled by a user interface installed on a tablet or a smart phone via a custom app and Bluetooth communications. The app allows display of the recorded data from the sensor as well as being able to save and relay the data to other devices for further use.

The project was made possible 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).

“The College put together a very enthusiastic team to work on this project and produced a working proof of concept that we are continuing to refine before final production,” adds King.

Flourishing success for local agri-food innovator

Pictured with the Hamill’s Microgreens Harvester Dryer: Lucas Howe, Mechanical Engineering student and former Research Assistant with NC’s Research & Innovation division and Al Spence, PhD, Research Lead at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre.

No longer just a tiny garnish, microgreens — the edible delicacies grown from the seeds of vegetables and herbs — are now a flourishing market in North America. To save farmers’ time and money harvesting this specialty crop, Niagara’s Hamill Agricultural Processing Solutions added manufacturing to the mix, with its automated industrial system, the MicroGreens Harvester line.

Without the resources or capabilities for in-house R&D, Hamill sought the applied research expertise at Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) to help develop a new product line of agri-food equipment that automates the harvesting (cutting, washing and drying) of microgreens, sprouts and wheatgrass. The three “Harvester” machines can be used separately or conjointly.

The Research & Innovation team collaborated with Hamill to experiment, testing the various air knife positions, blowers and mechanical/electrical systems, to design the optimum microgreen conveyer dryer. The stainless steel machine will work alone or conjointly with both the Harvester cut and wash machines, which are capable of harvesting 2,200 trays a day of microgreens, results that are more than 50 times faster than manual harvesting.

“We’ve reduced the time needed for processing a tray from 2 minutes by hand to three seconds with the harvester,” says Hamill owner Bob Benner.

This innovative trio is already saving farmers thousands of dollars daily and is receiving interest from across the globe — a success now requiring Hamill to expand both its facilities and workforce. Since collaborating with Niagara College, Hamill has hired 10 more permanent employees, including welders, machinists and mechanical engineers.

After commercializing its microgreens product line, Benner has forecasted total sales to rise after two years from $750,000 to $2 million.

“With the help of the research team we’ve been able to fine-tune the equipment, of which we are now selling in Canada, the U.S., and most recently New Zealand,” says Benner, whose business received funding help 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).

“We’re thankful that we have an R&D partner like the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at Niagara College,” says Benner. “It has been integral to our innovation success, demonstrated through our collaborations both in tech services and applied research projects.”

POSITION AVAILABLE: Centre Manager, Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre with Research & Innovation team

Centre Manager, WAMIC

The Centre Manager, WAMIC for the Technology Access Centre (TAC) in Advanced Manufacturing, is responsible for the day-to-day performance of the Centre to ensure successful outreach, development, implementation, and dissemination of advanced manufacturing technical services. Reporting to the Associate Director, Research and Innovation, this role involves managing the TAC team including the Applications Specialist and the Research Laboratory Technologist.

For more details, click HERE. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, June 25.

Position Available: SONAMI Network Manager

SONAMI Network Manager

The Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) is a Niagara College led consortium of seven post-secondary institutions supporting manufacturers’ research and development needs through applied research projects.

Reporting to the Manager, Business Development & Strategic Partnerships, the SONAMI Network Manager is responsible for managing a range of strategic initiatives and partnership activities in an effort to grow and sustain the operations of SONAMI and for ensuring the performance of all partner institutions in their delivery of successful project outcomes as committed to funders. These activities will be led through outreach to business and liaison with partner institutions for project development, funding generation, financial and human resources management, quality assurance, project management and client and supplier relationship management.

This role requires extensive travel within Southern Ontario to institutional and industry partner premises as well as working occasional weekend and evening hours.

Click HERE for the full job posting. The deadline to apply is Monday, June 24th.

While we appreciate all applications, only those selected for an interview will be contacted.

57th Annual Advanced Technology Think Tank (ATTT) Conference

The 57th Annual Advanced Technology Think Tank (ATTT) will be held at Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre on June 6 & 7. The conference, with the theme, “Smart Manufacturing – Using Tomorrow’s Technology Today,” provides a forum for leading experts and specialists in productivity-enhancing technologies to meet and share. The conference will conclude with a tour of the Research & Innovation advanced manufacturing lab facilities.

The public is welcome to attend a special Advanced Technology Tabletop Trade Show on the evening of June 6. Advanced registration and tickets are needed for the full conference.

Co-founded in 1962 by renowned author, publisher and educator Steve Krar, the ATTT is an annual opportunity to share concepts and new technologies among fellow visionaries “to meet tomorrow’s challenges.” The focus has been on advanced manufacturing, advanced technology, advanced thinking, and education.

The ATTT Foundation is a non-profit educational board to help run ATTT and advance its educational principles. This year provides a special deal for students. As well, some students can attend the conference for free if they agree to work as interns at or before the conference.

The cost of the conference is $150 CDN per person, which includes the venue, equipment and conference meals, payable in advance. Participation in the trade show is an extra $150, but attendance is free and open to the public.

For more information or questions, contact Tom Gaasenbeek, ATTT Executive Director – tomg@attt.ca.
For tickets, click here.

New advanced manufacturing Project Manager thrives on innovative ideas

If you happen to find her sitting quietly, deep in thought, there’s a good chance Amal Driouich is either mulling over a complex mathematical equation or contemplating a steady stream of creative ideas and inventions. And she’d be savouring every minute of it.

As it happens, it’s her favourite way to spend any free time: A deliberate free flow of thinking that combines conventional reasoning with creative intuition. She describes it as her form of meditation, all with the purpose to drive innovation and bring real change to the world. For someone whose second nature is to solve problems, Amal is in her element in her new role as Research Project Manager for the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) at Niagara College.

“I always have new ideas … I thrive on it,” she says. “I love when reality meets innovation and when I see research resulting in something people can benefit from.”

With expertise in project management, this mechanical and industrial engineer comes to NC with a successful history in leading all phases of diverse technology, engineering, and applied research projects. As a result, she has developed innovative advanced manufacturing solutions within industries in Ontario and across Canada.

Most recently, as Project Manager for Oakville-based Promation, an automation manufacturing company with nuclear, automotive, and industrial divisions, Amal led teams across broad technical fields in researching ideas for the advanced manufacturing industry and the development of 3D metal printing systems to serve the nuclear industry, as well as other markets.

While the nuclear field remains heavily male dominated, Amal says it’s also an industry that encourages female engineers. “I like the way they fight for women,” she says, adding, it’s also the reason why she joined Women in Nuclear Canada (Golden Horseshoe chapter), a non-profit that aims to promote the role of women in nuclear and radiation-related industries by providing mentoring, networking, and personal development initiatives.

After a number of years conducting challenging engineering research in the nuclear industry, it was the applied research framework that drew her away from the private sector and to Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division earlier this spring.

 “I am amazed by the variety and the number of applied innovations already developed within WAMIC, and by the skilled students being trained in new technologies.”

Amal is responsible for the oversight and development of all applied research projects in WAMIC’s labs, specializing in 3D technologies, engineering design, and additive manufacturing, all to help key industries with innovative prototype development or process improvement. She will bring together faculty, staff, students, and industry partners.

“As part of the WAMIC team, I am excited about helping small- and medium-sized companies develop and adopt innovative technologies to create new products and enhance existing processes,” she says. “And I will be delighted to see them grow, expand into new markets, and build their competitiveness both nationally and internationally.”

“I love when reality meets innovation and when I see research resulting in something people can benefit from.”

The beginnings of Amal’s engineering mind date back to her younger years when she would dismantle all of her toys to discover the inner workings. (Interestingly, a mother of three, she finds her middle son doing the same thing with his toys.) Once in school, she stood out amongst her peers in academics, and specifically in mathematics – though she continues to love the arts as well, philosophy and creative writing in particular.

But it was her special relationship to and mastery of mathematics that drew notice from her professors who would ask her to demonstrate to her classmates how she would arrive at a particular solution.

“I always had my own ways to solve the problems,” she explains. “I just followed my intuition and would sit and think and think and think.”

Amal’s formal engineering schooling began in her home country of Morocco, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and worked as a Project Manager for another university. When she arrived in Canada (Quebec) in 2010, she discovered a new set of engineering regulations and decided to attend Laval University to work as a Research Associate while completing her Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, with a focus on Project Management and Systems Optimization.

The thing about project management, she says, is that it fits perfectly with her nature. She would much rather leave the minutia to those who focus on such details, in order for her to mediate over the big picture.

“It’s what drives me. I like those complex problems that involve many disciplines. I enjoy working with all of these people,” says Amal, adding that she often is mistaken for being “quiet” in nature, when in fact she loves interacting with others and considers herself extroverted. She’s also fluent in Arabic, French, and English.

Together with getting up to date on the many applied research projects at the advanced manufacturing labs, Amal is in the final stages of receiving both her Project Management Professional (PMP) certification as well as her Professional Engineering (PEng) designation.

In addition to her volunteer duties at the Women in Nuclear organization, Amal is the Chair-Elect for the Toronto chapter of SME – the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, an association of professionals, educators, and students to help manufacturers innovate and develop a skilled workforce.

In her free time, she and her husband and children enjoy camping trips and family-time watching movies, preparing cakes, and playing board games or fun sports.