Canada Makes, in partnership with NRC-IRAP, successfully completed the program Metal Additive Manufacturing (AM) Demonstration Projects. This Canada Makes led project assisted 18 small- to medium-sized (SME) companies in increasing their understanding of the advantages of the metal laser additive manufacturing (AM) technology. This program provided companies with a better understanding of the advantages and business opportunities both in terms of cost savings and efficiency of adopting AM technology and processes, as well as introducing never before considered options to their clients.
“CME is very pleased with the results of the first round of the project. The objectives called for the engagement of up to 10 NRC-IRAP eligible companies; we did 18” said Martin Lavoie, Director of Innovation with Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. “The knowledge gained by all involved can only benefit Canada’s competitive edge in the innovation of new products.”
A working group of metal AM service providers from across Canada, comprising both private and academic institutions, was created to assist in delivering this program. The group comprised the following: Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), FusiA in Quebec, Mohawk College’s Advanced Manufacturing Centre in Hamilton, Burloak Technologies Inc., Renishaw Canada, NRC-London and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton.
Participating companies would choose an item/tool they thought would be a good candidate for metal 3D printing and then submit both a CAD file and a short summary of their requirements. Once a review of the submission was completed, a meeting to discuss its feasibility was held. One overriding consideration during the review process is if the candidate item is economically viable for metal AM. Sometimes a part may seem like a good fit for AM but is actually better suited for traditional manufacturing methods.
Valiant Corporation, a program participant, saw certain advantages in adopting metal AM to produce high-pressure nozzles for their ValueFlex Washer. “When exploring relatively new technologies, using the most suitable approach is paramount for project success. Ours was to identify the significant criteria that makes a part the perfect candidate for 3D Metal Printing” said Sorin Cerghet, Sr. Project Engineer Advanced Technology with Valiant. ”It’s a simple statement, but it’s encompassing for a lot of areas, not just from a technological standpoint, but from a business perspective as well.”
Richard Janik, Vice President, J&C Tool & Die Limited had this to say about the program, “In continually improving our capabilities in production tooling, the NRC Metal Additive Manufacturing Demonstration Program has provided us a valuable opportunity to evaluate processes and materials for the manufacture of complex components.”
The experience gained through the delivery of this program was a two way street. Both the service providers and participating companies gained pertinent knowledge that only hands-on projects like this can offer. “This project was an opportunity to use our new technology to advance the R&D in a Canadian company while also learning more about the capability of our system” said Neil Wenger, Technology Coordinator at NAIT. “When I took the newly printed part to the NAIT Machinist Program to help with some finishing, it gathered a great deal of interest from the instructors. This project was a chance to see an example of what kind of work is being done in industry. Collaboration expands the circle of knowledge.”
Mark Kirby, Additive Manufacturing Business Manager with Renishaw Canada said this about the program, “The CME program has fostered early and effective engagement with potential customers who have new product or process ideas. The program has delivered both process knowledge transfer via collaborative design reviews and valuable proof of concept parts for testing and evaluation.”
With the cost of manufacturing in Asia steadily climbing and re-shoring now a legitimate option, the idea of incorporating additive manufacturing makes more and more sense. The advantages AM offers in cost savings and innovation makes this program a potential game changer for Canadian manufacturers and exporters. Lavoie added, “CME’s Canada Makes will continue to explore ways to help manufacturers stay competitive through the adoption of additive manufacturing, and a new and expanded version of this program is just one of our upcoming initiatives.”