Shawn Curran, MIDAS lab director, shows the Kootenays first 3D metal printer that arrived on site in Trail last week. (Submitted photo)

First 3D metal printer in rural Canada arrives in Trail

MIDAS provides access to state-of-the-art equipment for fabrication and rapid prototyping

A Trail leader in technology development for students and the community at-large — often referred to as the “Fab Lab” — is now providing another golden learning opportunity for locals.

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Metallurgical Industrial Development Acceleration Studies, or “MIDAS” for short, just became the first rural fabrication lab in Canada to house a 3D metal printer.

“It’s big news for the Kootenay region as the benefits of having access to a machine of this kind will be felt throughout every local industry and sector,” says Cam Whitehead, executive director of KAST (Kootenay Association for Science & Technology).

“Metal printing is a game-changer for fabricating parts and prototypes,” he explained. “Lower costs and increased speed to produce prototypes means faster innovation and more competitiveness. This all means more jobs and wealth for the region,” Whitehead added.

“Our services are available to commercial members, unlike most universities these machines are so new and expensive that previous focus has been on research and not necessarily business needs.”

The Rapidia 3D Metal printer arrived at MIDAS Lab, located on Highway Drive in Glenmerry, arrived in the city last week. It is one of five machines to first come off of the assembly line.

The Rapidia can print a wide range of materials including stainless steel, inconel, tool steel, ceramics and titanium.

It can also be used by a broad range of users from ski and bike part manufacturers to the medical industry (inconel and titanium are used in medical tools and machines), to local industry partners like Teck Metals and Spearhead.

“MIDAS Lab is unique in Canada and has been since it opened its doors in 2016,” Whitehead continued. “We’re thrilled that it’s received countrywide recognition and we’re using some of the lessons learned to help other startup fabrication labs and innovation centres across B.C.,” he said.

“The Kootenays have always been leaders in innovation — it’s harder to live in rural communities, which means we’re often better at looking for something to make living or working easier.”

Having this type of 3D metal printer will enable users to make complex metal parts in a sustainable way.

Jason Taylor, a Selkirk College instructor who’s based in the Trail lab, says it’s taken a lot of research and insight into new ideas to decide on this specific printer.

“All in all, it’s an amazing opportunity,” Taylor explained.

“While there are printers that can do what the Rapidia can do, we chose this one because of its safe operation, and the speed at which you can operate and create the designs and parts (is what) our industry partners and Selkirk College, needs.”

In September 2020, Selkirk College will launch a two-year diploma program that trains graduates for advanced manufacturing called Digital Fabrication and Design.

Daryl Jolly, School of the Arts chair says the Rapidia 3D metal printer is an exciting new educational tool for students to get their hands on.

He says the machine can dramatically reduce costs for prototyping because it saves time with no additional tooling or fixturing used in traditional manufacturing required, less material is used, and complex assemblies can be created without welds, bolts or assembling.

“As we launch this new program, it’s exciting to again see that Selkirk College students will be trained on and have access to world-class equipment,” Jolly said.

“We expect our graduates will be well-positioned to support continued economic growth in our region, bringing value to industry and innovation.”

The Rapidia 3D metal printer uses a water-based process, which is the fastest and simplest way to 3D print complex metal parts in just two steps.

The water-based metal paste eliminates the debinding step, enabling the two-stage Rapidia process to produce most parts in under 24 hours.

The innovative support system cuts printing time further by avoiding the need to print a metal base plate or most metal supports, saving up to 90 percent of the metal normally wasted on these elements.

About KAST:

Since 1998, KAST has been a regional leader in economic development through technology and innovation. It is the only non-profit tech association serving the entire Kootenay region.



newsroom@trailtimes.ca

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