Niagara College home to first 3D printer of its kind in Canada

Niagara College mechanical engineering student James Turner inspects the first project – a vehicle window trim – completed by the Fortus 900mc Gen 2, the first 3D printer of its kind to be installed in Canada. A classic car owner searched years for a matching window trim for his 1934 Dodge DR and his dreams are finally realized.

Classic car collector Phil Foster searched years for a matching window trim for his beloved 1934 Dodge DR.

And although he and his wife Gwen have access to a network of other vintage car enthusiasts  – they’re founding members of the Antique & Classic Car Club of Canada, Niagara Chapter –  they still could not find the rare part.

“These garnish mouldings just aren’t around anymore,” explained the retired contractor/welder, who had all but given up once his grandson’s online search proved unsuccessful.

Then a friend suggested he could enlist the help of applied research students at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at Niagara College (NC). As luck would have it, the Research & Innovation division was in the process of installing a brand new 3D printer at its Welland campus – the first of its kind in Canada and the only one at the Centre capable of handling the size of Foster’s project.

The research team reverse-engineered Foster’s existing window garnish moulding, designed a 3D CAD mirror copy and then printed the new component. Mission accomplished!

The exclusive 3D printer that put an end to Foster’s search is the Fortus 900mc Gen. 2, a machine that’s leading edge in terms of size and scope and materials capabilities. The NC Centre is now also the country’s only material beta testing facility for Stratasys, a worldwide leader in 3D printer manufacturing.

This gives NC’s industry partners and customers exclusive access to materials not currently on the market and also offers a rare opportunity to drive the development of potential new materials, said Jim Lambert, Centre manager.

“Having this beta testing status will give Niagara College recognition as having world-class metrological inspection capabilities,” said Lambert. “Any in-development testing will quite literally be the first of its kind in the world.”

Foster described the venture as a “win-win” and, while happy with his custom part, he is also proud that his project has provided real-world applied research experience for the students. “We never had this when I was younger – I’m all self-taught.”

With funding support from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), the NC advanced manufacturing division acquired the new printer to improve its capabilities, and in turn provide more opportunities for key industry for prototypes, production parts, jigs and fixtures, and factory tooling.

Depending on the materials and the complexity of the project, having a prototype 3D printed at the Technology Access Centre could cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

 The Centre team at NC specializes in engineering design, 3D technologies, lean manufacturing processes and additive manufacturing. The division works with Ontario businesses to bring ideas to life, from concept through to developing working prototypes, utilizing leading-edge technology, including equipment and software.

The Fortus 900mc Gen. 2

  • Housed at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at NC’s Welland campus, this state-of-the-art 3D printer is the first of its kind installed in Canada.
  • The Centre is now also the country’s only material beta testing facility for 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys, making any in-development testing the first of its kind in the world.
  • The Fortus 900mc is the most advanced FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) system available, providing an unlimited materials selection – even for materials unique to the market, which includes many new polymers and composite materials as well as highly specialized materials for medical, dental, aerospace, automotive, food production and general manufacturing.
  • The size and scope of this new machine expands the printing envelope, giving the Centre’s lab the means to print objects that measure more than 36” x 24” x 36”. Prior to this recent purchase, the research team has been utilizing the printer’s smaller sister, the Fortus 400 – which has a print envelope of 16” x 14” x 16”.

Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre – a Technology Access Centre

  • The Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Welland is one of two of NC’s Technology Access Centres (TACS) – the other being the Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre. TACs are specialized applied research and development centres affiliated with Canadian colleges or cégeps.
  • Niagara College is only one of two colleges in Canada with two TACS.
  • Tech-Access Canada serves vital industrial sectors across the country, responding to industry applied research needs through innovation support services delivered by college faculty, staff and students. For more information on Tech-Access Canada, visit