Residential sewer systems require backflow prevention devices to protect the home from sewage entering into the home. The current technology of backflow preventers poses a problem in that there is no way to determine if the backflow prevention device is operational. Failures of the backflow prevention device can be catastrophic. Rock Bar Construction developed a solution to this problem using electronics to communicate to a remote device alerting the homeowners if the backflow preventer has failed or is having problems. The WAMIC team then worked with Rock Bar to miniaturize the electronics and design a watertight enclosure housing the electronics, which are then retrofitted on existing design backflow preventers.
A number of design considerations were taken into account while creating a new working prototype for Rock Bar, including improvements to the backflow valve transmitter, custom printed circuit board and PLC programming, and custom enclosure design and 3D print. The final prototype brings Rock Bar Construction one step closer to having a market-ready product.
The WAMIC team recently worked with Airbus Helicopters in Fort Erie, Ont., to develop 3D-printed plastic vacuum fixtures to hold composite helicopter parts, so that a robotic trimming system can be used. Enabling the vacuum, the operator was able to quickly and repeatedly locate the part on the fixture and with full vacuum applied, the part held very securely, particularly near the trim edges.
The fixture pose was constant with respect to the robot coordinate system, while after trimming, the procedure to release the part from the vacuum was equally ergonomic. The fixture was as lightweight as possible, yet stiff enough to not be displaced during the trimming process. The success of this research project included all technologies currently available in our labs, combined with investment in software recently acquired in early 2018. Similar technologies will be applied to Airbus’s painting cell, while a continuation of this project to introduce the robotics and visons systems is scheduled for early 2019, pending additional provincial and federal funding.
Project Highlights: Digital landscape meets manufacturing world
MTech Hub, a network created by a Burlington-based software development company Seradex, represents small- and medium-sized manufacturers devoted to exploring and introducing the digital landscape into their businesses. They came to Research & Innovation last May to develop an Internet of Things (IoT) sensor solution that would measure equipment voltage in an attempt to mitigate long-term repair costs and reduce energy consumption.
Seradex is a Burlington-based software development company focused on the development of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that is geared economically towards SME manufacturers. Commonly, this kind of software is created and costed out for large enterprises. Working against the grain, Seradex has developed a platform that offers the opportunity for the SME manufacturing market to make use of large enterprise ERP tools at a fraction of the cost. To extend this, Seradex created the MTech (Manufacturing Technology) Hub. MTech consists of a network of SME manufacturers that seek to overcome common industry business challenges through the use and adoption of digital technologies. The latest challenge identified was in monitoring manufacturing equipment activity in an attempt to mitigate repair costs and high energy consumption.
For this project, Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) and the Digital Media & Web Solutions teams were able to identify wireless voltage sensors already in the market that could be retrofitted to existing equipment. For testing purposes, WAMIC’s 3D printers were outfitted with numerous sensors to get an idea of what voltage levels would look like. A comparison was also conducted to determine the accuracy and setup ease for different brands of sensors.
Ksenia Daich, a co-op student from the college’s Computer Programmer Analyst program and member of the Digital Media and Web Solutions team, developed a database for storing sensor readings, along with an internal real-time dashboard for the WAMIC team to use as a monitoring tool. As a result, the team was given an immensely valuable overview of the equipment’s daily activity.
With the results in hand, Seradex and Research & Innovation were both able to better understand how IoT sensors could mitigate high-energy consumption and equipment repair costs. Furthermore, this was a stepping stone in understanding how sensors can improve everyday processes without spending a lot of money, because each sensor that was found could be retrofitted to existing machinery with ease. Based on the research team’s sensor recommendations, the next step for Seradex is to build out monitoring software that can then be commercially distributed through the MTech Hub network of SME manufacturers.
Niagara College’s role in driving innovation, creating jobs and training students, was featured in the House on Tuesday.
As part of its parliamentary business, St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle promoted the College’s applied research efforts and success: “Colleges play an essential role in training Canadians with the skills they need to succeed in today’s economy and in helping local businesses innovate and create new jobs,” he said.
“In the Niagara region, through the Community & College Innovation Program, small businesses partner with Niagara College’s Technology Access Centres on innovative research to help them stay competitive—expand their businesses. They also provide young Canadians with the opportunity to gain hands-on training and job experience.”
His remarks were endorsed by Hon. Kirsty Duncan (Minister of Science, Min. of Sport & Persons with Disabilities): “Our government knows that colleges are essential in driving innovation in Canada,” she said. “When I visited the Niagara region with the member from St. Catharines I heard directly from local businesses about how this investment will train students. It will also help businesses solve pressing challenges, allowing them to stay competitive, grow their businesses and create jobs.”
Last July Minister Duncan and MP Vance Badawey toured the two Tech Access Centres (TACs) at Niagara College: The Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre and the Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre.
They met with a number of industry partners who have worked with both Innovation Centres and who spoke to the assistance they received by the student-staff research teams in helping their businesses innovate and grow.
Research & Innovation came equipped with some of their scanners that students demonstrated to industry professionals
Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division (R&I) showcased its state-of-the-art scanning technology at the 2018 Niagara Industrial Association (NIA) Tradeshow on February 23.
The event, held at the Fallsview Casino Resort, attracted more than 60 vendors across Niagara’s industry sector. R&I impressed guests with its FARO Edge ScanArm from the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre and a spatial scanner to promote how local industry can improve efficiency and leverage the College’s technology to offer industry solutions.
One of the ways R&I helps industry is through research projects, often times product development where the College takes an idea and creates a working prototype that the client can manufacture and mass produce.
“Our scanner can do reverse engineering projects or with our spatial scanner we can capture the as-built data of a construction site,” said David Vuyk, research laboratory technologist at Research & Innovation. “Our goal is to help local industry innovate, give them access to new technologies and help them de-risk that technology so they can get a taste for how it works and benefits them before they make the initial investment.”
Vuyk was on-hand to demonstrate to industry professionals the various core competencies that NC’s technology can provide. “Another technology vertical is additive manufacturing (3D printing) which is really helpful for creating jigs and fixtures for measuring, prototype development and, in some cases, tooling for different manufacturers,” he added. “We also do design and simulation, whether that’s FEA (finite element analysis) of CFD (computational fluid dynamics) analysis – analyzing fluids and gases in different applications.”
The event also featured the Southern Ontario Network of Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), a grant funded network that aims to increase the quality and quantity of applied research projects available for students and to support the Golden Horseshoe’s manufacturing with top-level facilities and equipment. Niagara College is one of four institutions that make up the partnership, working in association with the manufacturing centres at McMaster University, Mohawk and Sheridan College.
As a member of the NIA, NC participates in many of the functions to demonstrate the College’s resources and capabilities. The affiliation also provides additional opportunities to recruit industry partners to engage to solve R&D challenges.
B.I.S.E.P. creates new technologies and devices to enhance human performance in sport, exercise & rehabilitation. As a Kinesiologist, the President/CEO Daniel Bordenave has practiced mobility and ambulation training across a variety of different facilities. He noticed in all facilities that training, specifically with individuals who were learning to walk again, was conducted in a relatively unsafe and inefficient manner. As a result, Dan designed a prototype that aims to improve this situation. The accessory prototype bridges wheelchairs to walkers making the transition to walking safer and more efficient. In an earlier project, BISEP Inc. has sought the help of the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre to improve upon its design and manufacturability for alpha testing with patients. As a result of these tests, some observations regarding the robustness and strength of the frame, as well as the adjusting means, have been recorded. B.I.S.E.P. has now approached the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre to address these observations with further design improvements.
In particular, it has been observed that although the existing aluminum prototype is a valuable therapeutic device, in service the aluminum frame and fastening areas are becoming damaged, and the telescopic adjustment method is not lasting. Accordingly, in this project, Walker A will comprehensively assess the best choice of frame materials (aluminum vs. welded and painted steel), with particular attention to in service strength, manufacturing cost, and compatible fastener and telescopic adjustment methods. Keeping in mind the patient environment, smooth surfaces that are easy to clean will be preferred.
Click HERE to learn more about SONAMI: Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation.