Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can access Sheridan Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technologies (CAMDT)‘s applied research expertise, cutting-edge equipment, and advanced manufacturing facilities. CAMDT also offers diverse programs to provide outstanding SMEs with funding.
Transforming Vision into Reality
A recent article by Sheridan College profiles George Balyasin, a Guelph-based entrepreneur and co-founder of Acrebot, an agricultural robotics company aimed at developing a vision-guided robot, capable of identifying and harvesting tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers — vegetables that make up the largest share of greenhouse vegetables grown in Canada.
But like most startup founders – George and Acrebot co-founder Diana Pfeffer had a concept of what they wanted to build – but needed the technology and team to actually make it real.
This is where Sheridan’s Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technologies (CAMDT) shines.
Recent Case Study: CAMDT and Acrebot Inc.
“This is a great example of combining innovation and capabilities to advance a product to the next stage of investment,” says Carolyn Moorlag, Director of CAMDT. “CAMDT provided the robotic setup in the lab, programing expertise, and the ability to 3D print custom components for the proprietary system. Acrebot designed the system and incorporated AI.”
An early-stage startup may have a brilliant idea that can solve a critical business problem. However, the founder may find a gap between an idea and a product.
Early-stage startups tend to be constrained by limited available resources – team, equipment, and funds. Acrebot was a startup facing those problems.
The founder generated the idea of an AI powered machine that can recognize vegetables and harvest them automatically. Such innovative machines can solve labour shortage which caused a revenue decline in Canada in the past few years.
With the goal of actually building the machine itself, the Acrebot team started to work with CAMDT in August 2021.
At CAMDT, the machine of Acrebot was prototyped and tested by a research team. In the very beginning, Acrebot was just a machine that could recognize vegetables; and after several iterations at CAMDT, the machine can now cut the stem and pick the fruit by itself.
According to Acrebot founders George and Diana, this is just the beginning of Acrebot’s development. Their team is still working with CAMDT on building a mobile system. The prospect of Acrebot is bright – and the research team expects the machines will go to the market soon and make an impact on Canadian agriculture.
CAMDT Program Overview
CAMDT aims to fill up the gap between an idea and a product. “Our collaborative research projects at CAMDT provide the time and space for partners to explore innovation in manufacturing,” says Moorlag. “For many small businesses or start-ups, it is essential for the project to access specialty equipment on-site, the support of laboratory staff, and the expertise of Sheridan faculty. These projects may ultimately demonstrate a new manufacturing or a new product prototype.”
As an innovation hub, CAMDT has five different research areas which cover a wide range of technologies, including:
- Design for Manufacturing: Product design and optimization, reverse engineering, design for additive manufacturing.
- Automation: Advanced robotics, process design and optimization, sensor integration, cybersecurity for industrial systems.
- Digital Fabrication: Multi-axis CNC, waterjet cutting, laser cutting, metrology.
- Simulation and Modeling: Computational flow dynamics, finite element analysis, process simulation, advanced 3D modelling.
- Prototyping: 3D scanning and prototyping, metal and plastic printing/finishing, system integration (keep system integration).
Cutting-edge facilities for research and prototype enable SMEs to realise and test innovative ideas. The facility expertise of CAMDT includes:
- Lab for Innovation and Research in Industrial Cybersecurity: LIRIC focuses on leveraging expertise in machine learning, AI, gamification, cloud computing and more to address both threat detection and remediation in legacy systems, and to help design better systems and processes for the future.
- Additive Manufacturing: This zone features industrial additive manufacturing equipment such as FDM, SLS and Polyjet. Local SMEs can learn how to best leverage additive manufacturing to support their product development initiatives by generating advanced prototypes, manufacturing tools and production parts.
- Digital Fabrication: Equipped with multi-axis CNC, waterjet cutting and laser cutting, this area complements our prototyping capacity. Here, partners can enhance functional prototypes using conventional equipment.
- Electronics: This zone is equipped with multi-functional circuit printers, industry-standard advanced measurement instruments, power supplies, soldering stations and software tools. It supports R&D work in design, simulation, fabrication and testing of electrical components within prototype devices.
- Automation: This area features 11 industrial robots with numerous capabilities: picking, packing and palletizing; machine tending, material handling and product assembly; and advanced vision-related programming.
How Does CAMDT Help?
SMEs that are developing or about to launch a new product can benefit from three programs:
SONAMI (Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation) funding aligns to the research focus of CAMDT on advanced manufacturing and applies to research carried out to solve manufacturing challenges, develop new prototypes, and bring new products to the market. The program support SMEs to find academic partner, prototyping, and adapt to market. Applications can be made through the website.
Multiple NSERC ARTP (Applied Research and Technology Partnership) grants for different research themes. NSERC ARTP program is suitable for SMEs who propose solutions for advancing technologies in mobile health and machine learning, supporting economic growth through innovation together with companies across Canada, and advancing IoT and high-tech wearables. The grants are available through CAMDT.
NRC IRAP CTO Assistance
IRAP CTO Assistance (Industrial Research Assistance Program Contribute to Organizations Assistance) focuses on Electric Vehicles (EV), Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV), and Electrified Industrial Systems.
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