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.