Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre Team
As the Research Project Manager of the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC), Amal Driouich oversees the R&D needs of Niagara’s SMEs (small- and medium-sized businesses), managing a wide range of applied research projects and bringing together faculty, staff, students, and industry partners.
No stranger to project management, Amal has a successful history in leading all phases of diverse technology, engineering, and applied research projects and has developed innovative advanced manufacturing solutions within industries in Ontario and Canada. Most recently, she served as Project Manager for Oakville-based Promation, an automation manufacturing company with nuclear, automotive, and industrial divisions. Prior to that, she was a Research Associate at Quebec’s Laval University in the department of Mechanical Engineering.
Amal holds a BSc in Industrial Engineering from Mohammadia School of Engineers in Morocco, her home country; and an MSc in Mechanical Engineering from Laval University. She is fluent in Arabic, French, and English. In her spare time, she volunteers with the Women in Nuclear Canada, Golden Horseshoe West chapter, and is chair-elect for the Toronto chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.
Niagara College’s WAMIC specializes in 3D technologies, engineering design and additive manufacturing, all to help SMEs with innovative prototype development or process improvement.
David Vuyk is the Research Laboratory Technologist for the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, where he is responsible for the operation of the research programs, the coordination of technical services and applied research projects, and the leading-edge technologies in the research manufacturing lab. Prior to his position with Research & Innovation, David spent four years in the horticulture science industry with Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, where he focused on robotics and automation; he also has research experience in product development: from design for commercialization to process design for experiment protocols, as well as beta-testing and troubleshooting of newly developed technologies. As a graduate from the Mechanical Engineering Technology program at Niagara College (2015), David is no stranger to the campus, or the technologies being used in the advanced manufacturing technical access centre.
Precision measurement and CAD-based engineering perfectly match the capabilities and passion that Dr. Al Spence shares as a Research Lead at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at the Welland Campus.
Al has degrees from the University of Waterloo in Applied Mathematics (BMath 1984) and Mechanical Engineering (MASc 1986), and a PhD in CAD-based machining simulation from the University of British Columbia (1992). His specialization in coordinate metrology and computer-aided design has led to work in the spacecraft, energy, textile and manufacturing industries. He has also been a faculty member in Mechanical Engineering at McMaster University for 22 years, where he completed numerous government-funded research awards and industry contracts, and supervised over 30 graduate students.
This broad influence with an established network of industry and academic collaborators is good fortune for both students and industry partners involved with the Research & Innovation division. As Al notes: “It’s so very difficult to gain this specific experience. The greatest thing that’s happening here at Niagara College is that the students are getting some experience outside the classroom because we actually have matched equipment and expertise.”
In addition to contributing in the areas of measurement and CAD, Al hopes to introduce the TRIZ design protocol – a structure of 40 inventive design principles, to assist clients, staff, and students with analysis and solution of challenging technical problems.
“Here’s where the creativity comes in,” he explains, “… you take a specific problem, abstract it, and find a different way to look at it. This is a science design approach to this that can be taught.”
Since childhood, Gordon Maretzki has been dismantling and assembling things – radios, machinery, cars – and then inventing new products and processes throughout his entire career. So a new lab, filled with cutting-edge technology and manufacturing equipment, is a veritable playground for this engineer/inventor, who thrives on solving problems.
This passion for the intricacies of design engineering is being imparted to the students he now mentors as a Research Lead in the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at the Welland campus.
“It’s pretty rewarding to see these young minds light up when cool things happen.”
He’s currently working with a local nut grower to help design a machine to crack the unique heartnut – more precisely, a machine that will open the nut without harming the shell or the inside kernel. All jokes about it being a “heartnut to crack” aside, Maretzki says it’s quite a complex problem, given the asymmetry of the shells.
Coming to Niagara College from the private sector, Maretzki has run his own business for more than 12 years and has held many applied research government contracts in areas of engineering design, automation, manufacturing/fabrication and performance testing/validation.
So he understands first-hand the benefits for small- and medium-sized enterprises and the immense incentive for industry to work with the College. “We’ve got all this horsepower and all this technology ready to be unleashed … and industry can test drive these resources and see if this is for them.”
His former projects fall in the category of unique: refitting machines used in infectious disease research for Health Canada; designing solar hot-water collectors; and a personal venture in the design of a guitar pickup that found him heading to Nashville to market.
Maretzki has a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Manitoba (BASc 1985).
His mechanical aptitude now serves him well for repairing farm machinery on his 47-acre century farm in Beamsville. This is also where his large family – his wife and eight children – practice the agrarian lifestyle, which values the ideals of a rural society.
In his role as co-ordinator in the new Renewable Energies Technician program, Bryan Mewhiney makes sure he practices what he preaches, carving out time for research projects that are heavily integrated with local industry.
From developing the capacity to test the thermal resistance of insulating materials for the construction industry, to developing a new method of solar-power generation, Mewhiney devotes many of his waking hours to creating a greener future.
As co-ordinator of the Renewable Energies Technician program – which saw its first graduates one year ago – he invests time in developing the curriculum, working with the lab trainers and delivering courses.
As part of the research team at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, Mewhiney has worked with student research assistants to oversee the development of the electrical control systems for several projects. Recent industry partners have included Papernuts, for whom Research & Innovation developed a dispensing machine prototype; Durham Foods, a hydroponics company that wanted to automate part of its harvest operations; and Ryan IT, a Grimsby-based machine fabricator which also came to Research & Innovation for prototype development.
“Being involved on a practical level with our industry partners and their projects ideas has allowed me the opportunity to really engage our students both inside the classroom, while also offering them exciting and rewarding employment opportunities outside the classroom,” Mewhiney notes.
With his commitment to sustainable energy sources, Mewhiney is currently investigating the possibility of installing solar panels above his office space, so that he may run his computer, coffee maker and desk lamps on solar energy only.
Before coming to Niagara College, Mewhiney worked for a climate control company, gaining invaluable experience with design, building and testing a climate control automation panel for greenhouses, one of which is installed at the Niagara College Teaching Greenhouse.
He is a graduate of Niagara College’s Electrical Engineering Technology (Co-op) program.
When not working on these projects or teaching, he somehow also finds time to work on classic cars, and go camping in provincial parks.
Rick Baldin doesn’t like to hear pessimistic talk about the state of manufacturing in Niagara.
The Research & Innovation faculty lead knows first-hand there are plenty of opportunities for skilled workers, and plenty of partnership possibilities for industry with Niagara College.
The former GM engineering team leader has been putting his skills to the test in Niagara’s advanced manufacturing division, working on projects that develop efficient, quality-driven processes.
His past coaching and managing teams of engineers, tradespeople, and production workers, ensuring all objectives are met under strict timelines, translates well into his role in the Technology Research Lab.
“Companies call us, instead of consultants, because consultants will give you a report, but we will actually come in and work with that company on a project to implement something that works.”
What’s more, the new processes are implemented without interrupting the existing manufacturing systems.
For example, Baldin’s team recently worked on a LEAN manufacturing workcell project with Calhoun Sportswear. The old way involved shipping bulk quantities to large suppliers, but with an e-commerce plan came the need to promptly respond to one-time custom online orders. Baldin and his student research assistant were able to research, develop and implement the system, which reduced labour requirements while still allowing next-day delivery of custom-built products.
In all projects, Baldin says he adheres to five metrics: safety, quality, people (working with industry partners), responsiveness (meeting deadlines) and cost efficiency.
Baldin, who holds a Bachelor of Applied Sciences in Mechanical Engineering, has taught at Niagara College since 2008. Courses include Dynamics, Manufacturing Processes, Materials Technology, Physics, Machine Design, Quality Improvement Tools, Health and Safety for Technology, and Computer Applications.
Much of Baldin’s spare time is spent either coaching competitive soccer or watching his two sons play in youth sports.