To ensure students have the real-world skills they need to excel in rewarding careers, Conestoga College in Ontario, Canada, invests in leading technology, including in additive manufacturing. With industrial-grade equipment on site, students see the power of 3D printing, whether prototyping or creating usable parts.
Dependability needed to meet student demand
Across various campuses and departments, Conestoga has a long history of relying on Stratasys printers, which are sold and supported by Javelin a TriMech company. College technologist Dan Strype oversees two Stratasys F120 systems. They also recently purchased an F170 for a new research facility.
“Large industrial systems in general open people’s eyes as to what’s possible. You can really push the boundaries. And using Stratasys printers, with their throughput and reliability, means we don’t stop for anything, except to feed them more materials.”
With days of builds lined up, and a set timeline to move students through projects and programs, Dan can’t afford any setbacks. He said the Stratasys printers run unattended – no fiddling or babysitting required.
“Students will often wait until the final hours to get their print jobs in, and I can usually say, ‘don’t worry, you’ll have your parts in the morning.’ I have printed thousands of parts over the years, and 99.99% of the time, everything is perfect. I have a 12-year-old Stratasys here that is just as reliable as the new F170.”
3D printing instead of machining
John Tielemans leads Conestoga’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program, designed to get students ready to create automated systems for industry. He explained that using 3D printing allows him to make the design process a little easier for the students, without compromising on the learning experience.
Third year students built a completely automated work cell. In the past, substantial machining was involved, and a lot of time was spent in the shop fabricating metal parts.
“Using additive manufacturing allows students to place more attention on programming and design alterations instead of standing in front of a lathe or mill. These students are not going to become machinists, they are in the program to become automation experts. Now the focus is on the engineering design work that is most important to building their knowledge and making them desirable to employ.”
Unleashing student creativity at Conestoga College
As engineering students progress through their courses, they design and print parts with increasingly complex geometry. Examples include machine parts such as connectors, grippers, and hoppers.
Dan talked about how he guides students learning to design for additive manufacturing.
“The geometry is free, so you’re not limited to traditional manufacturing rules. They’ll bring me part files that are split up into multiple bodies, and I will advise them that we can print it whole. Or I talk to them about adding fill or a support post to make a part more robust, or how they can add holes for mounting sensors, which would not have been possible using traditional manufacturing. When students start seeing the possibilities, we see really interesting results from them.”
One group of Robotics and Automation students created a pop rivet mechanism to load a stud into a part using a simple design similar to a click pen. The stud loads into the feeder and the clicking mechanism continually loads the studs into the automated work cell.
“This was a student design made possible by additive manufacturing. It’s the innovative spirit of our students that will drive the need for more of this technology. They continually prove that our investments are worth it.”
Creating a wind tunnel for the lab
Engineering co-op student Jordan Abbruzzese was tasked with creating a modular wind tunnel for students studying fluid dynamics to test the efficiency of their designs. Taking advantage of Conestoga’s onsite additive manufacturing capabilities, Jordan is creating something with great value to the college and to his fellow students. Using 3D-printed parts makes the work fast and affordable.
It’s a legacy that Jordan will leave behind at Conestoga, knowing that his hard work will benefit future learners. And as he seeks enrolment in a master’s program, he now has an exciting and tangible project to share.’
“I hope that future students will be able to continue my work and make revisions and improvements to the wind tunnel as they see fit,” Jordan said.
Dan spoke about the benefit of being able to produce their own lab equipment.
The wind tunnel will replace a water table that uses purple dye to show how different shapes affect the flow. Everyone’s covered in mess by the time the lab is over. The wind tunnel will be a modern representation of what we’re trying to teach the student and a lot cleaner to use.”
Preparing for the future
Dan said they continue to see strong enrollment in design and engineering programs, and instructors and students are coming up with more and more reasons to print.
“We’re watching the expansion of our traditional machine shop into a full engineering and manufacturing centre. Demand continues to increase, so we’re looking to expand our commercial-grade 3D printing capacity to meet those needs.”