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Wednesday, 17 September 2014 10:55

Big plans for the 3-D printer at Medicine Hat College

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Walter Garrison, manager of innovation and scholarship department for the Medicine Hat College and Steven Penzes, the 3-D Fabrication Technician, also of the same department, are constantly looking at things three-dimensionally and for good reason.

Armed with the Stratasys Fortus 400mc 3-D printer which was unveiled at the school in 2013 as well as the Faro EdgeArm and Laser Tracker for scanning models, the college is leading the way technology-wise not only in southern Alberta, but is pushing all Alberta education and expanding the area’s industry.
Anything anyone wants to make which has a 3-D form can be manufactured within the 3-D printer which looks like a tall top-loading oven or microwave. The objects formed are made of a plastic, and recently they’ve added a plastic material which has nylon fibres which allows the 3-D object to be able to bend.
The object’s bottom portion is built first as a computer-aided design (CAD) tailors the object by having the machine spray a liquid (usually plastic), starting with the bottom layer and then working its way up with hundreds of thousands of layers.
Garrison says there are numerous courses offers where the students are learning to use the 3-D printer.
“We have 3-D print labs that utilize their skills sets right within the college,” explains Garrison citing the visual arts/ communication, business, engineering and even those working in first-responder training can utilize the printer.
Garrison says the possibilities for the 3-D printer are endless with those industries in manufacturing, health, engineering, science (such as Atmosphere Sensor and Laser Spectroscopy), agriculture and entertainment is crucial.
This is especially true in reverse engineering where one is taking design information from something already created and building something new and improved. For example, 3-D technology will come in handy with those people trying to create parts for motor vehicles and farm implements.
An order made by industry or an individual goes through to tech expert and he does the rest. (See related story).
“It’s additive manufacturing; you’ve got a model and the great aspect of this is you can custom-make an idea,” explains Garrison. “You can make it far more cheaply this way.
“Continuing education in 3-D printing is paramount, but we have reached out to industry and they’re responding. For example in product development, we’ve reduced their costs with the use of this printer.
“We’re going to be making a concerted effort with trying to find out where we can fit specific needs.”
He says there are possibilities of working with the military or even closer to home with Medicine Hat Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicle Systems which has a training centre based near Foremost.
Another aspect is the medical field where models for different tools and equipment can be created.
“I would say we’ll engage with the health industry. There’s some real focuses on implants or surgical guides. I really think there’s a need there too,” explains Garrison.
He credits the college, the Alberta Innovates initiative and the area for helping to support the 3-D printer.
There’s more funding with the Western Economic Diversification Fund from the federal government.
“I’ve learned a tremendous amount with all the basic applications for it,” says Garrison who thinks 3-D printing in metal would be on his wish list, although the college would have to get another printer for that. “We’ve done a lot with it, but can do so much more. We have to watch we don’t get too far ahead of the curve... (but) if you have an idea, you can conceptualize it. Without an idea we can’t do it, design it and customize it ...
“2014 will fall by the wayside and the ability to manufacture will improve, we’ll have to be on top of it.”
Any questions for Garrison can be forwarded to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor