Canada Announces over $20M to Help BC Businesses Access 3D Printing

Metal AM Markets

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At the end of July, the Canadian government announced it will disburse over $20.8 million in funding intended to make it easier for research organizations and businesses in British Columbia (BC) to access 3D printing technology. The funding initiative was publicly launched at British Columbia Institute for Technology’s (BCIT’s) Centre for Applied Research and Innovation, by Minister of Citizens’ Services Terry Beech and Minister of Emergency Preparedness Harjit S. Sajjan, who is also Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada (PacifiCan).

$1.9 million from the funding will go to BCIT for the establishment of Advanced Additive Manufacturing Technology (AAMTECH), which will serve as an additive manufacturing (AM) hub for Burnaby, BC, the province’s third-largest city, less than ten miles southeast of Vancouver. As the representatives of the Canadian government noted in the funding announcement, Burnaby is a burgeoning node of growth for southwestern Canada’s development of several different industries centered around emerging technologies. According to the PacifiCan press release concerning the funds, AAMTECH is expected to serve around 60 small and medium businesses, while also assisting the commercialization of “90 products or services” and creating nearly 300 jobs.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of the program is Garibaldi Glass Industries Inc., a Burnaby company that delivers glass solutions for a diverse range of verticals, from maritime to hospitality. The company will get $4.625 million to “add a second production line” and acquire latest-generation hardware, and another $168,000 for bolstering Garibaldi’s workforce development program. The press release also mentions that the additional production capacity should facilitate Garibaldi’s branching out into as-yet untapped industries.

Regarding the $20 million-plus in new spending for 3D printing infrastructure, the president of BCIT, Dr. Jeff Zabudsky, BCIT’s president, said, “Today’s announcement furthers the important work of the BCIT Centre for Applied Research and Innovation — creating practical learning opportunities for BCIT students, while providing practical solutions to industry challenges. With the PacifiCan funding for the new AAMTECH 3D Printing Hub, BCIT continues to grow our breadth of support across multiple manufacturing sectors including metals, composites, foods, and bio-manufacturing. Businesses, organizations, and BCIT researchers and students now have a truly state-of-the-art space to build innovation in the 3D printing arena.”

The VP of operations at Garibaldi Glass, Chris Mobius, said, “With the recent support of [Business Scale-up and Productivity] and [Jobs and Growth Fund] funding, we are reinforcing Burnaby’s position as vibrant hub for innovation. …As we grow internationally, we remain dedicated to promoting innovation, creating opportunities, and strengthening the community we proudly call home.”

I don’t see the energy sector listed as one of the verticals in Garibaldi’s customer base on the company’s website, so one possibility for Garibaldi’s entry into new markets could be oil & gas. The Canadian government just guaranteed over $2 billion in loans for Kinder Morgan’s expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which is expected to triple the amount of crude oil flowing from Alberta to Burnaby by early 2024.

If oil & gas is indeed one of industries that Garibaldi is hoping to gain access to, pipeline sight glass is a product that may be in high demand, assuming the Trans Mountain project stays on-track. Despite the Canadian federal government’s seeming ambivalence about the nation’s future in oil & gas, if the floor for the price of oil stays around current levels in the long run, fossil fuels should continue to grow increasingly important to the nation’s economy. Assuming that happens, AM is likely to gain traction in parallel.

The PacifiCan funding is only the latest sign from the Canadian government that it is committed to growing the potential of Canada’s manufacturing economy. In February, Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen), a trade organization dedicated to a project called the Global Innovation Cluster for Advanced Manufacturing, announced that it had received an additional $177 million investment from the Canadian federal government. The nation’s 2022 budget committed a hefty $750 million to the clusters through 2028.

As the US government mulls an AM Forward small business investment fund (SBIF), one thing to watch for is the potential emergence of connections between projects like the one in Canada (and other NATO member/partner nations), and any similar initiatives in the US. This will be especially relevant surrounding manufacturing for critical industries like oil & gas, where the nature of the market dictates a necessity for heightened international cooperation, as well as the consistent prompt meeting of uniquely rigorous production deadlines.

Images courtesy of BCIT

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