Canadore College of Ontario is about to become the owner of one of the most coveted pieces of technology in the manufacturing industry. The college’s Innovation Centre for Advanced Manufacturing (ICAMP) has become known as a major driver of product development in the region since it opened in 2013. The research and development center offers the resources and space for corporations to develop new products or improve existing ones without investing millions in the technology needed to create a product that may or may not return the investment. In the two years since its opening, it has been highly praised by industry leaders for the cutting-edge technology it offers to its client companies.
That technology is soon to include a metal 3D printer. The lab currently owns two 3D printers for prototyping purposes, but with the addition of the metal printer, companies will be able to print fully functional, highly customized steel, aluminum, titanium and stainless steel parts in a fraction of the time it would take to design them and send them out for casting.
“It can be done in the course of a few days as opposed to what can take months,” said Evan Butler-Jones, ICAMP’s applied research lead.
The printer will be capable of manufacturing parts for the heavy equipment, metallurgical, aerospace, medical, and natural resource industries. Due to their cost, 3D metal printers are relatively rare. More inexpensive models are in the works, but currently they are largely inaccessible to all but the largest corporations, which makes ICAMP all the more appealing to its client base.
“As much as I can find out there are less than 20 of these units in Canada,” said Butler-Jones.
The acquisition of the printer is being made possible as part of a $2 million investment that federal and provincial governments, as well as a few local industry partners, have made for the expansion of the lab. The printer, which is the size of a small CNC machine, is at the center of the expansion, as the lab will need to be reconfigured to handle the equipment as well as the larger influx of products. The new equipment will be installed later this year and is expected to be ready for use in early 2016.
ICAMP has been credited with the creation of 57 new manufacturing jobs by its clients and industry partners in 2014, as well as the retention of 16 positions that otherwise would have been lost. With the faster turnaround time in product development and testing, companies are getting their products to market much more quickly and for far less cost than they would have before partnering with the lab.
“Since January, we’ve executed over 120 projects for 29 companies, and we want to keep expanding that,” said Butler-Jones. “We think the model’s working as we see new needs from companies, new potential services and technology. We’re going to keep expanding and renewing our equipment and make sure we have the latest and best.”