Category Archives: Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre

POSITION AVAILABLE: Electronics Research Assistant position available with our Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre team

Electronics Engineering Research Assistant, Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre

The Electronics Engineering Technology Research Assistant will have a comprehensive skill set to work with Research Leads, Research Project Manager, and Industry Partners in the development of electronic systems. The Research Assistant will report to the Research Project Manager. Some duties will include assisting in the design, building and testing of electronics systems, troubleshooting and improving the developed circuits and systems and implementing robotic-based platforms (i.e. Arduino and Raspberry Pi) and related software.

Click HERE for the full job posting. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, November 17th at 12pm.

To apply, please email your resume, cover letter, class schedule and transcript to [email protected] and reference posting ‘WAMIC21-02’ in the subject line.

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

Machinist credits WAMIC for essential knowledge

Brock Husak is a 2019 graduate of Niagara College’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program. He did his co-op with the Research & Innovation Centre in 2017, followed by a contract as research associate until September 2020, when he assumed the role of interim research laboratory technologist. Brock is employed with GS Machine and Tool in St. Anne’s Ont., as a manufacturing technician. 

Tell us about where you work:

GS Machine and Tool is a small machine shop in St. Anne’s, Ont., with four full-time employees and one part-time. GS Machine might be considered a job shop, as we do one-off parts for companies as well as small batches of parts 100-500-ish.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

I’m a manufacturing technician (machinist). Similar to the College, I cannot disclose any names of the companies we do work for, but there are some pretty neat partners. A typical day for me involves running multiple machines and programming occasionally.

How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?

R&I has given me the fundamental skills and knowledge to embark on a job like this. I am considered a machinist, but I do a bit of everything, from programming the Mastercam tool paths all the way to final inspection.

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?

Brilliant Photonics really shed some light (pun intended) on the machining world for me. I was the only WAMIC employee running the mill at the time and had no idea how to go about machining that project until I dove into it and did my homework! Am I ever grateful I took that project on.

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

Niagara College is local for me and is known for their mechanical engineering technology program, so it was a win-win for me.

Most memorable experience at NC?

Meeting the people I was able to work alongside for the years I was there.

Is there a particular mentor who influenced you?

Al Spence, Gord Maretzki, Dave McKechnie, Brian Klassen and Tyler Winger all played a huge role in my development, both personally and professionally. They are all extremely smart folks and were a pleasure to work alongside. They have all taught me skills I can hold onto throughout my career.

 

“Be a sponge. Learn everything you can. People do not realize the gift they are being given when hired to work at WAMIC.”

 

What advice would you impart to current research students or future alumni?

Be a sponge. Learn everything you can. People do not realize the gift they are being given when hired to work at WAMIC. The research lab has cutting-edge technology and the consequences for making mistakes as a new employee or student are quite low. Learn the tech and work-flow and get good at it and you’ll end up with a very nice resume!

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

I have learned that the work force is extremely fast paced. It is intense.

Proudest achievement since graduating?

I have multiple:

  • • Producing thousands of face shields for our local front-line health-care heroes.
  • • Not having to collect any CERB because I remained employed throughout the pandemic. And I now have a job in industry.
  • • Custom painting the helmets for Canadian Paralympic medalist Shelley Gautier and also X Games multi-medalist Jesse Kirchmeyer.

What are you passionate about at the moment?

Custom paint work.

Interests outside of work?

Family, friends, my girlfriend, custom paint work, motocross, RC Cars, cycling.

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?

Work at WAMIC if you want to get paid to learn. You read that right: PAID TO LEARN.

Anything else you want to say?

I miss WAMIC and will be forever grateful to have spent so many years there.

Read Brock Husak’s full profile story here.

Grad returns to NC for his ‘dream job’

Besides a long-held interest in electronics, Brian Klassen’s career path was decided one cold January day while working for his parents’ company, installing residential windows and doors.

“I had been shovelling through almost four feet of snow to get to the install area,” he recalls. “And there was the moment I knew this job wasn’t for me.”

During his next break, he called Niagara College and made an appointment for a tour the following day, and ultimately enrolled.

Klassen went on to graduate in 2018 from the Electronics Engineering Technology (Co-op) program with an impressive 97 percent grade point average.

Today, he has landed his “dream job” as the newest member of the Research & Innovation team; his role: research laboratory technician with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) at the Welland campus. He supports all research and technical service activities related to producing and testing prototypes, evaluating new technologies, and developing new or improved products or processes for small- and medium-sized businesses.

As it happens, Klassen is well acquainted with the research labs at WAMIC – and those in R&I’s Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (AETIC) – after being hired by both for co-op and post-graduate contracts.

In the final term of his studies, Klassen spent his co-op as a research assistant with AETIC, where he gained experience designing electronics and programming microcontrollers for precision agriculture technologies.

Brian Klassen working on a custom circuit at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre.
Brian working on a custom circuit board for the Ferrero Canada project to engineer a time-lapse camera to take photos of a hazelnut tree to track its growth.

Among the varied research in which he was involved, for Klassen, his stand-out project was the engineering lab and fieldwork on hazelnut tree growth for international confectioners Ferrero Canada.

The makers of the popular Ferrero Rocher chocolates and Nutella spread were looking to grow their company and hazelnut production in Ontario. They required assistance in collecting growth tracking data of hazelnut orchards to help decision-making processes.

On his first day at AETIC, Klassen developed a proof-of-concept prototype that could sit out in a field to measure environmental conditions above and below the soil surface. On his second day, he wrote the program to activate the device’s measurement capabilities. He and his team put the prototype out in the field on the third day, and it worked. (He later developed an actual circuit board and replaced the prototype in the field.)

“It was out there for a few months gathering data and wirelessly sending it back to our servers,” he explains. “The prototyping process usually isn’t that fast, but everything seemed to just work first try.”

“For me, the main draw to STEM is that things either work, or they don’t. And if they don’t work, I really enjoy trying to fix them or design a new solution.”

Two time-lapse cameras were then installed to monitor the growth of a single hazelnut tree, with Klassen engineering the devices to take a photograph at noon each day. Along with data gathered by the initial surrounding ground sensors, researchers were able to analyze how weather affects the growth of the trees and crop yield.

“This was a very interesting project because it was months of hard work, and when it was done, it was very satisfying to see images popping up on the server that were taken by a little device sitting out in a field.”

So impressive was his work on the project that Klassen was invited to Ottawa in February 2020 to meet with key government officials and research stakeholders at the annual Colleges & Institutes Canada (CICan) “On the Hill + Student Showcase” event.

During his post-graduate contract with AETIC, Klassen was offered the opportunity to teach a class at the College – a rare privilege for a research associate. The subject matter was programmable logic controllers (PLCs), electronics designed to control motors and robots. He later taught a class in electronic fabrication skills and will return as a partial-load professor this coming January to teach this class again.

“I really did enjoy teaching, and I’m very excited to start again this winter.”

Klassen also spent a good part of 2020 as a research associate with WAMIC, where he was called upon for his expertise in the Centre’s IoT (Internet of Things) and Industry 4.0 projects.

During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was key in helping with WAMIC’s rapid response for personal protective equipment (PPE) when Niagara Health System faced a critical shortage. Researchers at WAMIC engineered a face shield prototype and worked long hours assembling hundreds of shields each day. In all, the team produced 37,300 face shields for essential health-care staff locally and for other community organizations throughout the province.

Brian was part of the research team that produced thousands of face shields for essential health-care staff in Niagara and other community members throughout Ontario.
Brian was part of the research team that produced thousands of face shields for essential health-care staff in Niagara and other community members throughout Ontario.

Since moving into his new role at WAMIC in September, Klassen is becoming proficient in the myriad state-of-the-art metrology and additive manufacturing equipment at the research labs. Given that he has been a 3D-print hobbyist for many years, the lab’s commercial-size professional 3D printers are especially close to his heart.

“I had purchased an Ender 3, a very entry-level 3D printer made by a company called Creality, and I’ve modified it very heavily,” he says. “I think the only original parts are the frame, a few of the motors and a of couple wires. I have plans to turn it into a Voron Switchwire (an open-source 3D printer design).”

While customizing his printer, he also taught himself the mechanics of computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D modelling software. And as a personal project, he started designing a robot that can balance on two wheels and navigate through a building without user input.

Klassen says even before his college days, he was fascinated by topics within the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

“I wasn’t very artistic, and I didn’t enjoy literature or history. I’ve grown more appreciative to the latter fields, but my passion is still STEM,” he adds. “For me, the main draw to STEM is that things either work, or they don’t. And if they don’t work, I really enjoy trying to fix them or design a new solution.”

A life-long Niagara resident, Klassen is still not keen on the winter or snow, but during the warmer months, he can be found on the golf course with his father.

Manufacturers’ R&D needs met by SONAMI

SONAMI_DidYouKnow

Did you know October is Manufacturing Month in Canada?

Here in southern Ontario, manufacturing is a major economic driver and is a leading sector in terms of investment in R&D. SONAMI (the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing,) supports innovative R&D by collaborating with manufacturers across southern Ontario – especially small- to medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

SONAMI is a Niagara College-led network of eight post-secondary institutions across southern Ontario with the expertise, equipment and workforce in place and ready to collaborate and problem solve with manufacturers. Partners have a range of expertise and capabilities to support innovation in product automation, 3D technologies, testing/validation, Internet of Things (IoT), process optimization and simulation & modelling, to name just a few.

Did you know that…

The Top 4 Reasons our SME partners work with SONAMI are:

  1. Available funding (SONAMI covers up to 50 per cent of project costs)
  2. Access to expertise
  3. Access to specialized equipment
  4. Past Success Working with SONAMI
    • • SONAMI serves as a single-window or one-stop-shop for R&D. Areas of focus include the integration and use of disruptive technologies (e.g., plastics and metals-based additive manufacturing), tooling adoption for use with new advanced materials, and flexible manufacturing.
    •  
    • • SONAMI has the expertise to work with companies on shorter, closer-to-market product-development projects, saving companies time and money.
    •  
    • • SONAMI has supported more than 135 different industry projects since 2019, including 32 devoted to supporting COVID-19 response and recovery.
    •  
    • • 67% of surveyed SME manufacturers say they spent money on R&D last year. Their top tier focus: developing or improving technology, products or services and developing prototypes. These are SONAMI specialties.
    •  
    • • SONAMI supports projects across southern Ontario: from Essex to Prescott and Russell and in between.
    •  
    • • After learning more about SONAMI and the funding available, 88% of manufacturers say they’re interested in the services of the network partners.

 

The Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), is a Niagara College-led consortium of eight academic institutions (soon to be nine) and backed by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev). Partner members include: Centennial College, Conestoga College, Fanshawe College, Lambton College, McMaster University, Mohawk College, Niagara College, and Sheridan College.

 

Recalibrating a precision robot onsite

I-Cubed Industry Innovators is a manufacturer of a broad range of industrial automation tools and custom-designed robotic machinery. But the Stoney Creek-based company faced a time-sensitive challenge they couldn’t solve alone.

Recalibration of precise machinery

Technicians with WAMIC transported their leading-edge FARO® Vantage Laser Tracker (left) to a client’s onsite location to recalibrate the company’s water-jet cutting robot. The robot was out of spec and at risk of costly manual re-work and/or scrap.

The firm had a client that manufactures stone countertops and the pieces need to match up tightly, requiring accurate cutting. However, their water-jet cutting robot was out of spec and needed recalibration immediately – otherwise, it meant risking costly manual re-work and/or scrap.

Most precision machinery requires calibration, and for robots, FARO® laser tracking technology is typically employed. However, the specialized equipment is not something in I-Cubed’s arsenal.

“The FARO® Vantage Laser Tracker is an expensive piece of equipment that most places if they’re not utilized every day, won’t have access to,” says Kevin Hesch, business development manager at I-Cubed.

“Initially, I didn’t know where I could find the laser tracker so I reached out to FARO® directly, and they recommended the services of WAMIC [Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre] at Niagara College.”

A secondary challenge for I-Cubed was needing the service done in an extremely tight turnaround. The WAMIC team pulled its resources and a technician brought the high-tech equipment onsite to assist in the recalibration of the water-jet robot.

“The WAMIC team was phenomenal and we are thrilled with the results,” notes Hesch, adding those results involved the robot going from a 5mm to a .4mm positional accuracy after calibration.

“I’ve already recommended this service to multiple robot integrators and we will continue to use this service now that we know it’s available.”

Research & Innovation’s FARO® Vantage Laser Tracker is a portable coordinate measuring machine (CMM) that can be used on a shop floor in any location for recalibration of precision machinery that has alignment issues after repeated functions.

“The WAMIC team was phenomenal and we are thrilled with the results… I’ve already recommended this service to multiple robot integrators and we will continue to use this service now that we know it’s available.”

I-Cubed is no stranger to working with WAMIC on collaborative applied research projects. In 2020, the company teamed up with WAMIC engineers for a project with Hamill Machine Co., when the Niagara Falls company decided to switch to Robotic Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) and needed a prototype for an industrial fixture/jig to pneumatically hold parts.

The research team at WAMIC designed a fixture that interfaces with both the robotic cell and the robot welder itself and I-Cubed connected the robot to the welder and created a simulation of the robot path.

“I think it really helps to give the students some real-world project exposure and at the same time, allows for some grant money when companies work with educational facilities.”

Recalibrating large machinery and robots is just one of many of the technical services with state-of-the-market equipment at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre. To see more capabilities and equipment available for industry partner needs, visit the 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.