Provincial innovation funding supports creation of on-campus product development and fabrication facility.
WINDSOR – The University of Windsor has been awarded matching grants of $398,811 by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation to help develop an Innovation Design Studio and Transferable Manufacturing System. The systems will be housed at the university’s Centre for Engineering Innovation scheduled to open in the spring.
Total cost of the project is about $1 million. Another $200,000 in funding has been collected through a number of private partners, including Festo Automation, the company that designs the iDesign and iFactory systems the university will use to develop product ideas from conceptualization to actually producing ideas within the laboratory through the iFactory assembly system.
Dr. Hoda ElMaraghy, Dr. Ahmed Azab and Dr. Waguih ElMaraghy will chair the research project. They hope it will establish links within the manufacturing industry, placing Canada as a global leader in that sector.
“These novel technologies will enable industry to implement new business models in order to be competitive in a changing world,” says Dr. ElMaraghy.
The iFactory and iDesign platforms will be the first of their kind in North America and only the second in the world. The other systems are in used in Stuttgart, Germany.
The systems are fully customizable, giving users the opportunity to configure the machines based on the product being produced. The iDesign studio acts as a hub for innovation where faculty and students will be able to conceptualize products, break them down into single components and assemble them in the iFactory. The iFactory serves as an assembly line for the components that is fully customizable through a series of computer and robotic systems.
The systems are also designed to cut the costs of manufacturing by allowing a single machine to produce a number of different product concepts. Dr. ElMaraghy says this factor will play a significant role in keeping manufacturing jobs in Canada because of the lower costs of the manufacturing process. By being able to control output, the system can cut costs by running on an economy of scope platform.
Dr. ElMaraghy says the new systems are a great opportunity for the growing number of under-graduate engineering students at Windsor to have hands-on experience that will equip them with the knowledge needed in the transition to the workplace. It will also allow about 25 masters and PhD students the opportunity to research in a hands-on, technical environment by bringing concepts to life.