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, visitNiagaraCollege.ca/advanced-manufacturing-innovation-centre.