Category Archives: Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre

WAMIC designs 3D replicas to showcase large equipment

The research team at Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre used CAD-based software to generate small-scale 3D-printed replicas (approximately four times smaller) of two large assembly equipment pieces to be used to showcase the company’s capabilities at tradeshows.

It’s no small matter for a company to pack up and ship thousands of pounds of equipment in order to showcase products at tradeshows – both in terms of transportation cost and carbon footprint.

In fact, for Handling Specialty, much of what they custom build for multiple industries is too large to consider representation outside of photography and video to exhibit their products, says Michael Poeltl, marketing manager for the Grimsby, Ont. Company.

Handling Specialty is a leading provider of custom-engineered material handling systems – such as lifting, tilting, rotating and traversing equipment – to a wide range of industries, including automotive, aerospace and for a variety of advanced manufacturing applications. 

They sought the 3D-engineering and printing capabilities of the experts at Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) for an innovative solution to provide smaller-scale replicas of two products to overcome this challenge.

The company specifically needed to develop two models to use at a major aerospace tradeshow. Such models, says Poeltl, are an effective tool to help promote their capabilities in providing custom-engineered solutions for complex material handling challenges.

“In order to drastically cut costs of crating and shipping many thousands of pounds across the continent while still physically representing our product at tradeshows, 3D printing from our existing engineering drawings and models made perfect sense,” adds Poeltl. “This and the fact that we could limit our carbon footprint by shipping something weighing less than a kilo [2.2 pounds] rather than two or three thousand pounds was a great incentive.”

Handling Specialty wanted to scale down and 3D print replicas of two large pieces; one, an aero engine work station, a custom lifting system used by aero engine manufacturers to safely position engines for final assembly or testing operations. The model sourced from the Research & Innovation team was based upon a design approximately 35 feet long by 30 feet wide and 28 feet tall. The unit offers 40,000-lb capacity, 18 feet of vertical travel with multi-axis positioning capabilities.

The second piece was a manually guided vehicle (MGV), a self-contained, DC powered transporter used by aero engine OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), aircraft manufacturers and MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) companies. The equipment is rated for 40,000 lbs capacity and is approximately 20 feet long by 14 feet wide and designed to transfer engines from various assembly stations to engine test cells.

The WAMIC research team worked to manipulate and modify the existing engineering drawings in order to generate scale models and then printed the prototypes in its Technology Access Centre (TAC) labs at the Welland Campus of Niagara College.

A scale model (1:26.2) was produced of the aero engine work station, bringing the dimensions to approximately 20 inches by 14 inches by 13 inches; and the manually guided vehicle was scaled down 1:11.9 (20 inches by 13 inches by 13 inches), and was also printed again even smaller at 1:20.8 scale (nine inches by six inches by six inches).

“Niagara College gave Handling Specialty the opportunity to see tradeshows in a new perspective,” says Poeltl, “including our large-scale products in miniature which people could still touch and feel their way around, while keeping displays affordable and sustainable.”

This project was made possible through the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) – Interactive Visits, which provides up to 20 hours of access to the equipment, facilities, and expertise of a Technology Access Centre (TAC) to solve a specific business or technical challenge.

“The results of 3D printing our products were inspiring. They were perfectly proportioned and showed very well,” added Poeltl. “When not travelling in tradeshows, the impressive replicas are showcased at our Grimsby offices.”

This is one example of the types of technical services offered by the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at Niagara College. To discover other resources and capabilities, visit the website.

Computer grad “grows” as developer in new career

Michael Gall is a 2019 graduate of Niagara College’s Computer Programmer/Analyst (Co-op) program. He spent a year with the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre, with Research & Innovation, first as a research assistant and then a research associate. Michael started in March 2020 at Rentsync in St. Catharines as a software developer.

Tell us about where you work:

I work at Rentsync (formerly Landlord Web Solutions) in St. Catharines, Ont. They provide a wide variety of services to the housing rental industry, mostly in the form of marketing and data tracking tools. Some examples of these would be creating websites and providing ad syndication for property management companies, to distribute ads out to listing platforms (like Kijiji or PadMapper) without the client needing to individually manage each ad posting.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

My current position is a software developer on the “Feeds & Integrations” team. I work primarily with importing, managing, and exporting property data for clients. I work first-hand with clients and their developers in creating a plan to bring in their property data, and then use available tooling or create custom solutions for formatting. For the most part, I am using website scrapers, direct XML or JSON feeds, and REST API responses to gather this data. The team is a rather new addition to the company, so I really love the freedom I have, to plan and use technologies as I see fit. This has offered me great room to grow as a developer by learning new technologies, while also letting me implement things that I’m already comfortable with, that I learned while I was at Research & Innovation.

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

My experience at R&I, specifically in AETIC, really gave me the ability to pick up new technologies and understand them in a fast-paced environment. When I started at R&I, I went in with very little web development experience, and ended up learning a whole slew of modern technologies. Being comfortable with learning and researching translates well to this current job I have, as it has been all about learning since I started. 

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

I worked on a web portal for farm data [Niagara College Crop Portal], that was used to display point-by-point variables of soil. This project was quite memorable because I learned so much about geographic information systems (GIS mapping specifically) as well as the math and science behind the growth of plants. It was all about learning how to apply a scientific formula, then creating a user interface. Not only was it nice to learn how a data scientist views data and how they calculate it, it also helped imagining how the eventual end user would use that product as well. 

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

I was led to Niagara College after high school as I was undecided if I wanted to pursue Mechanical Engineering or if I wanted to study Computer Science. Niagara College was recommended to me by a friend who was a recent graduate (Matthew Felice) who said it offers a lot of hands-on experience. This led me to taking my Computer Programmer/Analyst program.

Most memorable experience at NC?

The most memorable experience was seeing that a drag-and-drop designer was available in Visual Studio in my first year of programming courses. My mind was blown learning that the websites and applications I use could have been pieced together by someone dragging and dropping buttons, text boxes, and check boxes.

“When I started at Research & Innovation, I went in with very little web development experience, and ended up learning a whole slew of modern technologies.”

A faculty member who influenced you?

There were plenty of faculty members who really influenced me. Peter Vanscoy [professor, Computer Programming] gave a great introduction to programming for me as he was my first-year, first-semester teacher. Marsha Baddeley [professor, Computer Programming] and Dave Kendall [professor, Computer Programming] stick out to me as the professors who probably had the most impact on me due to them working with me through our community sponsored projects. I remember having so many “A-HA!” moments when talking with them where the solutions I was working on finally made sense. Oh! And I do want to toss a shout-out to Melissa Vanderlely [professor, Computer Programming] in there for causing me to draw an interest in getting my Bachelor’s degree with her teaching of advanced programming techniques in my third year.

A mentor at R&I?

During my co-op at R&I, Alex Davis was the senior research associate [AETIC] I worked under, and was incredibly helpful when it came to learning the technologies we used there. Angular (a JavaScript framework) is notoriously difficult to pick up for students, and he helped me turn around to being productive in less than a month. As I progressed more and more, I worked closely with Shubham Kumar [former senior research associate, AETIC] and Sarah Lepp, [former senior research associate, AETIC] who were mentors for the topic of GIS. They took me from zero knowledge about geography, to knowing how to project points onto a map, and calculate if hazelnuts would grow at that point!

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

Software development involves a lot of programming, and it’s important to learn the tools available to you inside of certain languages for you to tackle issues, but this shouldn’t be the only focus. As developers, we’re paid to be problem solvers, not to write the most trendy, or least lines of code solution. We are paid simply to solve the problem as best as we can. Try to focus on broadening your own mental toolkit, and don’t tie yourself down to a language. 

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

I’ve learned that clients will do everything in their power to break something. The code that I write has to be impervious to people cramming numbers into where words should go, deleting random things, using an incredibly old computer, you name it! Work showed me that validation and security are equally as important as writing the code to solve the issue. I used to think “Well, no one’s ever going to put a picture in the box labelled ‘Please don’t put a picture here’” but they definitely will, without fail. 

Proudest achievement since graduating?

In terms of schooling, I was accepted to Brock University for a Bachelor’s of Computer Science program! And in terms of work, at Rentsync I’ve already onboarded my first co-worker to my team and have taken on a “mentor” role for them.

Interests outside of work?

I usually like playing video games, analysing data, cooking, and playing with my new kitten! 

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

We made it to today – we can make it to tomorrow.

Anything else you want to say?

Stay safe during this pandemic everyone, and get used to remote work because I have a funny feeling it’s going to be sticking around!

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, September 30th at 12pm.

To apply, please email your resume, cover letter, class schedule and transcript to re[email protected] and reference posting ‘WAMIC20-04’ in the subject line.

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

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

Computer Programmer Research Assistant, Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre

The successful candidate will work with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre team. The work includes programming, testing and troubleshooting of interface software for product development of advanced manufacturing research projects. The position could involve development of web/cloud/IoT services, and helping to develop cloud technology. You will work with senior team members in Advanced Manufacturing developing new products which require support in programming of Industry 4.0 applications.

Click HERE to see the full job posting. The deadline to apply is Friday, September 25th, 2020 at 12pm.

To apply, please email your resume, cover letter, class schedule and transcript to [email protected], and reference job posting ‘COMPUTER PROGRAMMER RESEARCH ASSISTANT (WAMIC)’ in the subject line.

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

POSITION AVAILABLE: Electrical Engineering Assistant position available with our Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre team

Electrical Engineering Assistant, Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre

The Electrical Engineering Research Assistant will have a comprehensive skill set to work with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre team, Research Leads and Industry Partners on a variety of time-sensitive projects.

Some duties include:
• Develop solutions for specific industry-partnered applied research and technical service activities
• Identify electrical considerations when planning research/technical services activities
Propose design modifications and monitor product to improve on future design
Provide logistic support for electrical engineering projects
Attend planning or project-specific meetings as required and takes and prepares minutes
Represent the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at college activities & external events

Click HERE to see the full job posting. The deadline to apply is Friday, September 25th, 2020 at 12pm.

To apply, please email your resume, cover letter, class schedule and transcript to [email protected], and reference job posting ‘WAMIC20_03’ in the subject line.

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

Niagara College’s ‘heroic efforts’ to keep communities safe

Rafael Almeida is a research assistant with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre and a graduate of Niagara College’s Computer Programming program.

In the battle against the COVID-19 crisis, researchers at the Research & Innovation labs at Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) continue supplying thousands of face shields to essential workers by producing hundreds of the PPE each day. 

Since the start of the effort in March to help front-line healthcare workers, the research team at WAMIC has produced and donated a total of 17,300 face shields – certified by Health Canada with a Medical Device Establishment Licence (MDEL Class 1) – to the local Niagara Health System.

Another 20,000 units are being produced for other essential workers and community members throughout the province. So far, 4,200 face shields have been distributed to seniors’ homes in Dunnville on behalf of the Dunnville Rotary Club, Toronto East Health Network, Thunder Bay Regional Health Science Centre, The Meadows of Dorchester and the Niagara Region. 

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

All seven of SONAMI’s academic partners are taking action to combat the health crisis, including Niagara, Conestoga, Fanshawe, Lambton, Mohawk and Sheridan colleges, and McMaster University.

Since 2016, FedDev Ontario has invested more than $20 million in support of SONAMI’s growth efforts in the manufacturing innovation ecosystem. Thanks to flexibilities introduced by FedDev Ontario in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, SONAMI and its member institutions have been able to harness their expertise and pivot their operations to respond to the COVID-19 crisis by building a supply of essential equipment, products and therapeutics for Canadians.

“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. 

“Niagara College manufactured 17,300 face shields over the course of a few months. I would term their efforts heroic, and they definitely helped Niagara Health keep our patients, staff and visitors safe.”


Brian Klassen is a research associate with the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre and a graduate of Niagara College’s Electronics Engineering Technology program.

The WAMIC research team used computer-aided design to create the face shield prototype and then partnered with a local industry partner for its die-cutting services to accelerate the number of plastic visors pressed. Niagara-based Jay-Line is a trade-only manufacturer and commercial printer of promotional products and marketing materials. 

WAMIC staff are completing the face shields with foam and Velcro and are currently producing upwards of 300 units per day.

Brian Klassen, R&I research associate and a graduate of NC’s Electronics Engineering Technology program, had been working on research projects for the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre prior to the pandemic. Since April, he has been helping in the WAMIC labs to assemble the face shields three days a week.

“It’s nice to know I’m helping to make a difference in a time where Canadians really need help,” he said. “There have also been volunteers from the R&I admin team that have been coming in throughout the week to make shields. It is great to see people stepping up to help, even when they don’t usually work in the labs. We have a great group of people working here.” 

WAMIC research assistant Rafael Almeida has also switched gears from working on IT projects for local industry partners. The NC Computer Programming graduate now divides his time between working on research projects at home and assembling face shields at the R&I labs.

“The experience of working on the face shield assembly line is also valuable as we can watch the whole process closely, find better solutions and apply it to the daily production routine,” said Almeida. “I’m doing my best to be part of the solution here in the Niagara Region, and wishing the best for those who risk their lives to serve Canadians during these unprecedented times.”

“The Foundation has received so much support from generous and creative community members.  The team at Niagara College once again showed their community leadership and care for the residents of Niagara,” said Chris Green, director of Communications, Marketing & Community Engagement, Niagara Health Foundation. “Through the donation of thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment and the innovative way their talented staff were able to develop and create protective face shields showed us that the Niagara Region is well equipped with creative, caring, problem solvers.”

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