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August 29, 2013 2:06 PM

Students develop solutions to meet industry need

Students in Conestoga's Mechanical Engineering Technology (Robotics and Automation) program have developed a robotic solution that will streamline the manufacturing process and provide benefits to a local car parts manufacturer.

The student-built robotic production line, initially developed as part of an applied research project, provides a new tool that significantly reduces the time required for a cutting process critical to the manufacture of automotive components.

The project originated in research done in partnership with Hematite, a Guelph-based company that provides engineered solutions emphasizing recycled plastic technologies for North America’s automotive industry. The company challenged Conestoga's students to develop an innovative cutting solution for their vacuum-formed parts.

After several months of design and research, the students came up with a proof of concept design that would allow the company to streamline the processing of parts and increase their production and efficiency.

"What used to take minutes for a machine to process now takes a fraction of the time," said Professor John Tielemans, coordinator of the Robotics and Automation program. "Through their applied research project, the students developed a way to shorten the cutting process which benefits the manufacturer by increasing their productivity."

The applied research program at Conestoga provides partnership opportunities to businesses and industries across the local community. The aim is to support these companies in their efforts to innovate and improve their products and processes while providing students with opportunities to apply their skills and gain real-world experience.

Third-year student Erik Westerveld said that the entire project was built from the ground up by the students, who used the skills and knowledge they developed in class and on their co-op work terms to provide the industry solution.

"We did all of the mechanical design, the electrical and the programming," he said. "We built this entire work cell from the ground up in three months."

Westerveld credited Conestoga with setting him up for challenges he might face in the industry.

"Conestoga has a lot to offer with hands-on experience that is combined with theory work in class," Westerveld continued. "The projects you get to do every year build your experience and the final project is a simulation of what you'd be doing in the industry."

After a presentation to Hematite officials, the students hope the project will move from concept to reality.

For more information on Conestoga's Applied Research program, visit the website.

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