Category Archives: Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre

Construction humming at Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre

The future home of the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at the Welland Campus recently received a special sign indicating what’s to come.

Thanks to the work of the College’s Marketing and Communications department, a new hoarding sign displays the resources and capabilities for the Centre.

The construction project, made possible by a $4.2 million investment from the Province of Ontario, is expected to be complete next spring. The addition to the Rankin Technology Centre will house the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, as well as the administrative offices of Research & Innovation.

To keep up-to-date on the progress, bookmark our Research & Innovation Facebook page, and album.

Grad begins career at Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre

New Mechanical Engineering Technology grad Ben Laurence has been hired as full-time research laboratory technologist for the College’s Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre.

On his convocation day, Ben Laurence didn’t bid farewell to his days at Niagara College; for him, it was just the beginning of an exciting new career.

The 33-year-old who graduated from the Mechanical Engineering Technology (Co-op) program on June 17 has been hired as a full-time as research laboratory technologist for the new College’s new Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre. His new job consists of designing new products and machinery, managing a small fleet of leading-edge 3D-printing and spatial imaging technologies, and working with local companies and inventors to help them realize their goals.

“Essentially, I have never been so happy to get to work before and this is due, in no small part, to the dedicated professors here at the College,” said Laurence.

Laurence came to Niagara College after completing a BA in the political sciences as well as a certificate in aeronautics and commercial aviation training. While he initially aimed for a career in the aerospace industry, he realized during his time at Niagara College that he would be much happier working in research and development. He began working for the College’s Research and Innovation department in January 2012 during his first semester. In September 2014, he was promoted to senior research associate.

Working for Research and Innovation, Laurence had the opportunity to gain experience working on several interesting projects. He developed a vibrating settling machine for developing bio-columns used to test DNA/RNA. He developed a novel dispensing machine for a new-to-industry packaging material. He also created a virtual factory design for a multimillion dollar concrete plant expansion project.

Laurence also valued the experience he gained through the program’s co-op components. As part of a junior co-op at Aquatic Sciences Inc., Laurence developed a system to monitor unmanned submarines and relay information to its pilot. He was also part of a a 12-person team which set a world record for longest underwater tunnel inspection, over 10 km through the Andes Mountain range in San Fernando, Chile.

During a senior co-op experience at Magellan Aerospace in Winnipeg, Laurence created and implemented a laser positioning system used to build the composite wing structures for the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet.

“The program was exceptional and the training was world class,” said Laurence. “Small class sizes and dedicated teachers proved very effective in teaching the core engineering principles and much more.”

Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre welcomes new manager

Jim Lambert takes the “advanced” part of advanced manufacturing seriously. The new Centre Manager with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre has spent much of his 33-year career ensuring what he does is, in fact, progressive enough to be considered cutting-edge. Lambert joined Niagara College at the beginning of April, after a successful run as Design Engineering Manager with Bosch Rexroth Canada.

Rather than embarking on a new career, the Wainfleet resident sees it more as a coming home.

A graduate of what used to be a two-year mechanical engineering program here at Niagara College, Lambert was already working for a local manufacturing company before he graduated.

Until this year, Lambert stayed with that Welland company – which today operates under the banner of Bosch Rexroth Canada – taking on increasing responsibility with the engineering department as the company expanded.

Initially working as a designer-draftsman, doing traditional mechanical design and drawings at drafting tables, he took on additional training at Niagara College and encouraged his boss to enter the world of computer technology; what was then the infancy of computer-aided design (CAD).

He was promoted to CAD administrator and worked for the next three years to replace drafting boards with workstations. By 1991, Lambert was put in charge of the design portion of the engineering department. In 2003, he oversaw the implementation and evolution from 2D to 3D design software at Bosch in time for a multi-million-dollar project with the St. Lawrence Seaway, resulting in several global industrial awards which brought further recognition to his design team.

A big supporter of the College – serving on both the Mechanical PAC and the alumni boards, always hiring co-op students and graduates, and more recently, serving on the advisory committee for the manufacturing centre – the capability of the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre hit home for him when his company was involved in an innovation project.

When he saw first-hand the ability of the centre to solve his company’s challenges using leading-edge 3D technologies, he knew the College had found a fit with the regional economy, and he wanted to have a role in its development.

“I really connected with what the College is doing. I understand the challenges that exist with smaller companies in the region, wanting to have a competitive edge, but being too small or not having the resources to gain the needed traction.”

As Centre Manager, Lambert is responsible for the overall operations of the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, shaping its strategic direction, including outreach to industry, as well as determining new or untapped sectors of industry that could benefit from the Centre’s offerings.

He says he sees future opportunity in the medical sector, as well as with addressing the aging infrastructure of Niagara.

The married father of two adult children spends his spare time dabbling in car restoration, playing stringed instruments (guitar, banjo and mandolin), and volunteering his time and expertise in the world of audio-visual production.

More information on the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre is available here.

College breaks ground on new Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre

Just days before spring, shovels digging into the ground at the College’s Welland Campus marked an official beginning for the construction of the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre.

Finance minister Charles Sousa visited the College for the groundbreaking ceremony on March 18, 2015.

“The manufacturing sector is critical to our prosperity and that’s why we are investing in the sector’s future by helping to build the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre. We are also investing in these Niagara College students, who will go on to be highly skilled workers and contribute to Ontario’s success,” said Sousa. “Smart investments like these are part of our economic plan to make Ontario a better place to live, work and invest.”

With support from a $4.2 million provincial investment, the new, permanent, high-tech manufacturing centre will provide students with more than 15,000 square feet of lab space for hands-on applied learning, innovation space for companies to work onsite and office space for Niagara students and industry staff.

The centre will also help Ontario’s small and medium-sized manufacturers – more than 850 are in the Niagara region alone – save on production costs and reduce production time by providing them access to leading-edge equipment and state-of-the-art research facilities as well as the expertise and business services of faculty and students.

“Supporting business innovation and postsecondary education is a key part of the government’s economic plan for Ontario,” said college president Dan Patterson. “The four-point plan is building Ontario up by investing in people’s talents and skills, building new public infrastructure like roads and transit, creating a dynamic and supportive environment where business thrives and building a secure savings plan so everyone can afford to retire.”

Advanced manufacturing innovation programs began in May 2013, led by Niagara College Research and Innovation.

“Ontario’s people are its greatest asset and our government remains committed to investing in their talent and skills,” said Reza Moridi, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.

This Centre’s collaborative focus helps give students important real-world experience and connects them with area manufacturers, and this permanent home will connect everyone with world-class equipment and an innovative spirit that will benefit the entire region for decades to come.”

Tech student hooked on 3D possibilities

While a career in automotive might have looked good to Dave McKechnie a few years ago, he says his heart now belongs to additive manufacturing.

The third-year Mechanical Engineering Technology student has seen this appreciation grow while working with the College’s Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre.

“After I joined the Research & Innovation division, I dropped the car thing. I’ve been completely saturated with 3D technologies. Nothing else matters to me right now.”

The Ottawa native first came to Niagara College to learn about welding, as a way of building on the knowledge gained as a graduate of a private career college outside of Toronto, in the dual fields of mobile electronics, and home and commercial electronics programs.

“I finished the (welding) program here and I learned an awful lot about joining metals, but not enough about designing, so that led me to the mechanical program.”

The beginning seemed daunting, he recalls, with a lot of number crunching and hard work, but once he started working part-time on applied research projects, everything clicked.

“When you start to see things come together you get to see your work and how it is affecting the entire business. It’s rewarding like crazy.”

Recent projects he has worked on include developing an improved device for donning compression stockings for one client – an independent Welland inventor – and helping design a 10-tonne aluminum crane for a Fort Erie-based manufacturer of davit and gantry cranes.

McKechnie is also heavily involved in the recently expanded technical services of the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, which involves 3D scanning, 3D design and 3D printing. You might say he wears his enthusiasm for 3D on his sleeve; you would be close, but wrong. McKechnie actually wears it in his ties – ties he has created using a 3D printer he built in his spare time for his own use.

“When I decided to build my printer I spent more time trying to figure out what to make with it than in building the printer. I wanted to make something that I could show people, without necessarily flaunting and bothering people with it. I also wanted it to be classy and subtle, so I felt like the black tie is as good as it gets.”

At the time of this interview, his spare time was consumed with designing and printing chess pieces from wood.

“I’m really excited by what innovations have come along in such a short time – and they are multiplying exponentially – there are new materials being developed all the time. If I can be involved with the development of new materials, I will be in research and development forever!”

In the meantime, there are always new projects and challenges to take on with the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre. Building his own 3D printer has helped McKechnie better manipulate the college’s equipment to get the best possible results.

“If you’re curious about additive manufacturing and 3D technologies, this is the place to be. It is so much better than going online and reading up on something like the Faro (Focus, a 3D scanner). Here, you are using them.”

Any spare time left over could be used for what he calls his baby – a turbo-charged Mazda Miata named ‘Roxy’ – but he says that at the moment he just doesn’t seem to have any unused time.

“I’ll always fall back on my love for cars, but as a career option, I have put it aside.”

For more information about working with or for the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre,


Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre Workshop highlights digital manufacturing

The deadline to register for the workshop on Digital Manufacturing is Mon., Jan. 26.

Digital Manufacturing is changing the way the world makes everything. By enabling you to produce prototypes, tools and final parts directly from CAD data, additive manufacturing creates dramatic reductions in delivery times and production costs, so you can easily respond to customer needs and market changes. The workshop takes place on Fri., Jan. 30 at the Welland Campus.

The Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre has partnered with a number of industry leaders to bring you several workshop opportunities. Topics for the year include productivity, digital manufacturing and recruiting and retaining the right talent.

To learn more about the workshop, visit the

Event Details

When: January 30, 2015 from 8:30 AM – 12:00 PM

Location: Niagara College, Welland Campus
(click here for details)