Category Archives: Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre

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.

Current Opportunities

Manufacturing Sector Industry Survey:
Gauging Industry 4.0 Readiness


Niagara College Research & Innovation is conducting a survey to understand the readiness level of the manufacturing sector in Niagara to adopt digital technology and practices.
The findings from this survey will help the manufacturing sector in Niagara by identifying key areas for leadership/management to focus on their competencies to gain traction in the new practices of today’s manufacturing industry.  This information will be used to help advocate for resources to support manufacturing companies in Niagara.  
Please consider taking the time to complete this survey.  Responses are anonymous. The results will be presented at the May 23 Membership Meeting of the Niagara Industrial Association (NIA), with opportunity for discussion.
If you are a manufacturing business in Niagara, click here to access the survey.

Profile: Anusha Qureshi

Profile: Anusha Qureshi

Coming from a family comprised mostly of doctors, Anusha Qureshi grew up assuming that she, too, would enter the medical field. That destiny would change course the more her passion for mathematics grew and eventually shift to engineering, thanks to the sway of her brother.

Anusha’s decision to leave Pakistan at age 17 and enrol in the Mechanical Engineering Technology program at Niagara College was a combination of her natural love and ability for math (as demonstrated by a 96 percent grade average) and inspiration from her brother Behram Shah, a recent graduate of the same NC program and now employed at Fleet Industries.

“My brother would talk about his AutoCAD assignments, 3D printing and also his co-ops in the aerospace industry and it was really fascinating,” says the second-year student and Research Assistant with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre.

Considering the major move to this country, having the chance within her co-op to work on real-world projects has helped Anusha, both personally and professionally, she explains. “My communication skills are really good now, compared to what they were before, when I first started my co-op, because English is not my first language.”

One industry partnership in which she was able to learn essential skills was an innovative project involving a Canadian manufacturer of polymer-based materials who was seeking help with 3D molding options for its patented gel formula that helps relieve patients with pressure wounds.

“This company is helping patients with a common problem for people who are wheelchair bound or bedridden, so I’m working on something so meaningful,” she says.

“That’s the beauty of engineering; it evolves with the needs of people and for the betterment of the world.”

She says her time so far at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre has provided her the opportunity to work with updated design software and the latest 3D printing and scanning technologies.

“With all these experiences I’ve had with Research & Innovation, I have learned that if you have the will, nothing can stop you.”

That “will” can be traced back to her family of professionals who stressed the importance of education. “My family taught me that being a youth of the society, the world looks up to us with the hope that we’ll make it a better place to live.”

She seems to be doing just that.


Improving the sewer guardian

Project Highlights: Improving the sewer guardian

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.

Learn more about WAMIC’s project successes here.

Efficient trimming

Project Highlights: Efficient trimming

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.

Learn more about WAMIC’s project successes here.

Digital landscape meets manufacturing world

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.