The increasing prevalence of 3D printing in Canadian industry has been accompanied by increasing utilization of these technologies within the realm of Canadian academia; these institutions understand the necessity of embracing 3D printing alongside industry to provide the most applicable experience possible for their students.
3D Printing and Canadian Academia
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) is a Canadian institution that sees the advantage of providing students with the opportunity to experience applied research, innovation, and the development of skills applicable to their future work environments. These learning opportunities are manifested through the institution’s Applied Research and Innovation Services department (ARIS), and the fabrication Lab (FABLab). First implemented at SAIT in 2003, FABLab continues to play a role in the development of student learning as well as research and development for ARIS’ industry partners.
The lab is home to the Stratasys Fortus 450mc — a production grade 3D printer which uses the process of Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) to create functional prototypes, manufacturing tools, jigs & fixtures, as well as end use parts, all in production grade thermoplastics. According to Stefan Dalberg, Researcher for ARIS, having Stratasys technology as a part of their FABLab has been instrumental for both research and product development.
“Being able to utilize Stratasys technology in-house has allowed me to quickly and efficiently fabricate prototype parts, which I can then identify problems with, thereby expanding the design process. Having the capacity to print tangible parts to handle between drafting and final fabrication stage is vital to an efficient prototyping workflow.”
Alongside the availability of the Fortus 450mc at SAIT for students and researchers, small and medium sized organizations (SMEs) in the surrounding area have access to the facilities to initiate their own projects. Once such project initiated with the FABLab was the development of a new product for TRAK Kayaks, a high performance kayak company committed to creating fantastic adventures for their clients.
As TRAK’s desire to create different designs emerged, they turned to the FABLab for the development of a new prototype mold. The goal was methods. 3D printing these components significantly reduced the turn-around time and lowered the cost. This allows us to test and gain feedback about the design much more quickly than we could otherwise.”
The completion of TRAK’s mold was also a result of the relationship between SAIT, and their industry partner, TriMech, whose Innovation Centre is home to the largest collection of Stratasys technologies in Canada. The team of Applications Specialists at TriMech were able to provide TRAK with industry leading expertise in all aspects of the design and prototyping process. For example, when the prototype proved too large to produce on the Fortus 450mc in the FABLab, TriMech printed the parts for FABLab on their Stratasys F900. Noting the importance of working with TriMech, Dalberg stated that,
“Over the years, partnering with TriMech has allowed the FABLab to keep up to date on the ever-evolving technology in the realm of additive manufacturing. TriMech is our ‘finger on the pulse,’ so to speak, which ensures that our department will always lead the way.”
The relationship between ARIS, TRAK Kayaks, and TriMech exemplifies the role 3D printing plays Canadian industry, spurring innovation in many fields and providing opportunities for academia with local industry. The implementation of additive manufacturing within academia affords students with hands on experience with the technology, and partnership with local businesses gives students industry insight that otherwise would not be possible – SME’s are equipped with persons who have relevant industry knowledge and understand the importance if implementing additive manufacturing effectively.
These partnerships do not only benefit those within academia, however; by working with with academic institutions, SME’s often gain access to equipment that would otherwise be unavailable to them, driving research and development that is otherwise not possible. It is through partnerships such as these that innovation truly flourishes, by combining the resources and creativity of the academic realm with the expertise and industry knowledge of local industry.