Monday, March 23, 2015

$5Mln Allocated for Digital Manufacturing Hub in Winnipeg

          By Brian Orlotti

Western Economic Diversification Canada (WEDC), a department of the federal government, has announced that it will establish an advanced digital manufacturing hub (ADMH) in Winnipeg, MB.

3D printing is not just for creating pretty little plastic blocks. As outlined in the March 18th, 2015 3D article, "Volvo Trucks Cuts Production Time By 94% & Costs with Stratasys 3D Printing Systems," the technology has substantive, money saving applications in the manufacturing, aerospace and automotive sectors.  Graphic c/o 3D

The ADMH will develop additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing) technologies for use in the aerospace and medical industries. As outlined in the March 13th, 2015 WEDC press release, "Harper Government Supports Innovation in Western Canada," the hub will be developed in partnership with several companies including local satellite component manufacturer Magellan Aerospace

The move comes on the heels of WEDC's March 4th unveiling of a new satellite manufacturing facility in Winnipeg. As outlined in the March 9th, 2015 post, "Magellan & U of Manitoba Open New Satellite Manufacturing Facility," both initiatives are part of the Canadian government's efforts to shape Western Canada into a tech nexus.

The ADMH (to be called Precision ADM) will operate as a division of the Orthopaedic Innovation Centre (OIC), a non-profit corporation focused on orthopaedic technology development located in Winnipeg's Concordia Hospital. WEDC will contribute $5Mln CDN of the ADMH's projected $20Mln CDN cost over the next five years.

As Canada's first dedicated additive manufacturing facility, the ADMH has acquired several high-profile industry partners including:
  • Stratasys, a leading US-based manufacturer of industrial and consumer 3D printers.
  • EOS of North America, a subsidiary of a German firm specializing in selective laser sintering (SLS) technology.
Although not a traditional expert in the area, Magellan's interest in 3D printing is rooted in the technology's potential to dramatically reduce both the cost and weight of spacecraft and satellites.

In addition, recent moves in the space industry indicate increasing demand for high-volume, low-cost space systems. Over the past year, several  large firms, including Google, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), and the Virgin Group have announced plans to deploy huge constellations of small, low-cost satellites to provide internet access. Magellan's participation in the ADMH can be seen as a first step in building a new industrial base to service this emerging market.

But, as outlined in the March 10th, 2015 Space News article, "Com Dev Gears Up for Mega-constellaton Opportunity," another Canadian space firm, Cambridge, Ontario based COM DEV International, is also looking to drive business in this area.

According to COM DEV CEO Mike Pley, his company has been preparing for bids on mega-constellation projects since mid-2014, and one project, the proposed 650-satellite OneWeb system is moving forward faster than the others. The OneWeb company is expected to create a joint venture this year with the builder of its constellation and could be operational as early as 2019.

With such opportunities on the horizon, COM DEV participation in the ADMH is not inconceivable.

The creation of the ADMH, combined with Magellan's and Com Dev's ramp up in capabilities in the wake of MacDonald Dettwiler's (MDA) slow exit from the Canadian space sector, as outlined in the March 2nd, 2015 post, "Will the Last MDA Employee Leaving the Country, Please Turn out the Lights," can be seen as a changing of the old guard to the new.

As stated by Michael Corleone in one of the more memorable lines of the 1990 film, 'The Godfather Part III':

Brian Orlotti.
               Your enemies always get strong on what you leave behind.

Brian Orlotti is a network operations centre analyst at Shomi, a Canadian provider of on-demand internet streaming media and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

1 comment:

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