Food insecurity and 3D printing don’t seem to have a natural connection to one another at first thought.
But if we examine a recent project that came out of the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) working with a company called Bluicity, you might just see that one fits with the other.
Sam Alesio is the senior vice-president at Bluicity, a company whose goal is to reduce global food and pharmaceutical waste by digitalizing the logistics chains.
They achieve this profitably for each chain member when information is shared live, from farm to fork, factory to pharmacy.
With Bluicity, low-cost Bluetooth tags are permanently affixed to the reusable pallets, bins in which perishable food or farmers products are shipped.
As products make their way through the logistics chain, Bluicity monitors the environment and builds a cumulative take on the condition of the product. Using a model for the remainder of the journey, Bluicity notifies chain participants in advance of spoilage and suggests preventive action.
A common issue with many small- and medium-sized enterprises can be in-house capabilities and resources to design, manufacture prototypes and have them 3D printed.
This led Sam on a journey to find the right partner to fill this gap.
Bluicity was a member of a local incubator which had them already connected into the Niagara region. “We originally were working with another company in Niagara, but their 3D printers were just too small for our needs. So, I reached back out to our contacts at the incubator and was then referred to the College,” said Sam.
This is where Brock Husak, Research Laboratory Technologist and the team at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) came in, working to find solutions for Bluicity.
“We had no problems working with Brock and the WAMIC team. They helped fill a gap we had with 3D printing and we’re grateful to have been able to free up resources.”
~ Sam Alesio, vice-president, Bluicity
The company had already developed an electronic device used to monitor temperature and humidity in the food and pharmaceutical logistics chain. Known as the Gateway, Sam noted this device required an enclosure to house the exposed electronics.
The requirements for the WAMIC team were straight forward. This enclosure needed to be modified with injection mouldability and manufacturability in mind. It had to sufficiently house all the electronics and be a serviceable enclosure allowing the electronics to be accessed if needed. The design that Brock needed to modify had to also consider the work environment that this enclosure will be put into.
The alpha prototype that was produced and 3D printed will be used in the field and tested at an upcoming trial Bluicity has with a food producer.
“We’re currently working on building a trial this winter with a food producer, likely about three months, so having the enclosures 3D printed were important for this trial,” said Sam.
Sam’s experience overall working with the WAMIC team was a good one, he noted. “We had no problems working with Brock and the WAMIC team. They helped fill a gap we had with 3D printing and we’re grateful to have been able to free up resources,” said Sam.
Moving forward, they will work together to research and develop a process to ultimately get the enclosure to a point where it can be “mass” produced.
The resources that were used to allow this successful partnership to take place were made possible by WAMIC’s Technoloy Access Centre grant funded by the Natural Resources and Engineering Research Council of Canada.