Local companies rely on the student talent developed at Mohawk’s Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre
Mississauga high-performance metals manufacturer voestalpine relies on a contingent of Mohawk College graduates in its additive manufacturing division.
Wei Zheng, who graduated in 2019, was hired at voestalpine as an additive manufacturing technologist after doing a co-op at the college’s Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC).
His experience at AMIC was “critical,” said Zheng.
“The standard mechanical engineering program is more knowledge and theory based. There’s not much chance for industry connection, but the lab makes up for that and that’s how I got to this position.”
Akil Jacob says AMIC was a great training ground for his additive manufacturing technician job, in which he maintains the machines, communicates with vendors, and ensures the quality of each job.
“Students working at AMIC are guided and supported and allowed to explore their own solutions when working on industry projects,” he said.
Addison Wood, who works alongside Zheng and Jacob, says he was already into 3D printing at home when he came to Mohawk, but never expected to land a job in the field. AMIC changed his career goals.
“I’m so glad that I’m in this industry now because it’s still blowing up. The possibilities are endless. It’s incredible.”
AMIC gave him crucial design experience, teaching him that a job’s success is all about the thinking and planning you do before the printing.
AMIC, which opened in 2014, leverages federal and provincial grants to work with local businesses developing new products or looking to explore or adopt additive manufacturing in metal or plastic.
“Our metal 3D printer is a million-dollar piece of equipment. Companies can’t just run out to buy something like that to try it out,” said Simon Coulson, the centre’s general manager.
Using additive manufacturing can result in huge cost, efficiency and performance benefits over traditional manufacturing, but it’s not right for every application, says Coulson. That’s where the experts at Mohawk come in.
If the technology does prove to be a good fit, AMIC helps partners build a business case to move forward.
The use cases for additive manufacturing are only growing, along with the demand for skilled talent in the field.
Coulson says the experience for students at AMIC is unique. They can do stints in the lab for co-ops or be hired part-time or full-time, too.
“This is really the only place, in Ontario, that you can get hands on with this type of technology prior to going out into the industry and being taught on the job.”
In a typical year, researchers are working on a couple of dozen projects, so students are working side-by-side with clients and brainstorming and problem-solving every step of the way.
“We set a schedule for a four- or six-months project and we set some milestones but then we give them as much free rein as possible to get the job done. It’s very much like a real job. In other labs like ours, it doesn’t really work like that. Students are often doing the more monotonous things. Here, the student is driving the project.”
For Jason Podger, his experience at AMIC as a student was the launch pad to becoming a partner at Canadian Additive Manufacturing in Dundas.
“If I didn’t work in the lab I really wouldn’t have an appreciation or an understanding or a love for additive manufacturing,” said Podger. Mohawk is on the cutting edge of the technology in Canada, he says.
The company, along with Evolv3D, which it acquired last year, provide the sales and service of 3D printers, 3D scanners and software, along with production manufacturing, reverse engineering and inspection services.
The companies work in a wide array of industries, including aerospace, medical, marine, consumer and automotive. They even just printed a dinosaur skull for the Royal Ontario Museum.
“The nice thing about what we do is you could probably pick any industry out of a hat and I can tell you how this could be implemented or benefit that industry,” he said. “There’s probably not an industry that we couldn’t help.”
Image: Left to right: Addison Wood, Akil Jacob, Wei Zheng, at work at voestalpine