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College invites manufacturers to innovation sandbox

November 25, 2013
by Norm Tollinsky
In: News, Research

ICAMP opens doors

Industrial-sized robot mounted on a track at ICAMP’s Canadore College trades campus can tool CNC machine in two hours, versus the six hours it takes for a machinist.

Manufacturers and entrepreneurs from North Bay and the rest of Northern Ontario have a standing invitation to come and “play” in a sandbox with the latest in 3D laser scanning, polymer printing and robotic technology.

ICAMP, the Innovation Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Production, celebrated its official opening in September.

The 8,500-square foot innovation centre, located at Canadore College’s trade campus in North Bay, is equipped for reverse engineering, product design and rapid prototyping. Cutting-edge “toys” include a hand-held Metra Scan 3D optical scanning system, Solid Works virtual reality simulation software, a 3D theatre, a Connex 500 3D polymer printer and a robot with a 9 axis CNC milling machine.

Still to come are a scanning electron microscope and a water jet cutter.

ICAMP “is an incubator, a sandbox, where companies can come and have access to this equipment,” said Charles Gagnon, the college’s manager of corporate relations. “If I’m a manufacturer of mining equipment, I can send my employees to ICAMP to learn how to program a robot to tool a machine, so I don’t have to buy it and have it sit on my floor for eight months while I’m getting up to speed. I can use it at ICAMP and practise on it until I’m comfortable.”

In addition to offering companies expertise and technology, ICAMP will connect clients with funding agencies to support their research, product development and process improvement.

For example, a manufacturer or entrepreneur with an idea for a new wrench can scan an existing one, import it into Solid Works software, adapt it, view it in a 3D theatre and then produce a replica of it using the polymer printer.

An industrial-sized robot mounted on a track to the nine-axis CNC machine and a miniature, six axis training robot offer manufacturers an opportunity to test drive 21st century manufacturing technology.

“Mining supply companies have been very slow in adopting robotic technology,” said Gagnon. “We know there’s going to be a tremendous skill shortage in the coming years. Robotics can help address it. We also face offshore competition. Using a robot, you can tool a machine in two hours, versus the six hours it takes for a machinist.”

Gagnon and Canadore president George Burton consulted widely with North Bay manufacturers to conceptualize ICAMP and its toolkit of prototyping and manufacturing technology.

“We pounded the cement for a year and a half visiting companies, talking to owners and asking them what kind of equipment we should buy,” said Gagnon. “We had a tremendous amount of input and we were very fortunate to have strong participation from local businesses.”

The federal and provincial governments each contributed $1 million. Another $800,000 came from the college and local businesses, including Rotacan, a manufacturer of rotary blasthole bits, Wipware, a manufacturer of photoanalysis and fragmentation analysis systems, Pilot Diamond Tools, Premium Mining, 3H Manufacturing and GinCor Industries.

There are plans to hire a metals and materials expert to assist clients and equipment suppliers themselves will demonstrate their technology through workshops and presentations.

A working relationship with other innovation centres across Northern Ontario is in the formative stages.

ICAMP has signed a memorandum of understanding with MAJIC, the Materials Joining Innovation Centre in Kirkland Lake, and hopes to establish a similar relationship with the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre and the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology in Sudbury.

“It’s a natural down the road because we need to work together,” said Gagnon.

www.canadorecollege.ca/ICAMP

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