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Red Deer Polytechnic plans to expand manufacturing research to help more industries

Wolfe wants to bring in more welding, automation equipment, three-dimensional printers
Red Deer Polytechnic is looking to expand its Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing — Technology Access Centre, which helps industry with product and process development. (Contributed Photo)

From interlocking solar panels to an anti-snore device, Red Deer Polytechnic’s applied research teams have helped over 300area businesses develop projects and technologies.

More than 120 small to mid-sized companies were helped since 2021, said Tonya Wolfe, who manages RDP’s Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing — Technology Access Centre (CIM-TAC).

The centre was federally recognized in 2020 as a technology access centre, which brought funding that allowed for the hiring of more experts in manufacturing and design.

Within the next few years, RDP officials are securing funding to be able to add 10,000 square feet to the CIM-TAC, where product research and development is done in collaboration with businesses.

Wolfe said the goal is to have more space to bring in additional equipment to bring more clients’ ideas to life. The research is done on a cost-recovery basis, with funding from industries as well as government.

Among the success stories for CIM-TAC’s applied research is helping Finis Energy with the continued development of a patented prototype roofing tile that soaks up solar energy to generate electricity for the homeowner.

Also, a new a medical wound clamp (iTClamp) now sold across 30 countries was developed through applied research CIM-TAC. Wolfe said the design was honed through a 3-D printing process that produced 34 different prototypes over nine months.

Modifications and improvements were also done at the centre to an anti-snore device designed by MPowRx. The resulting ‘Good Morning Snore Solution’ is now sold on five continents.

Wolfe would like to bring in more welding, injection moulding, automation equipment and specialized 3-D printers to CIM-TAC — as well as have enough space to trial new equipment that some industries would like to test to see if it suits their needs.

With more demand for medical device research in Alberta, Wolfe would also like to set up a special area for these processes, away from potential contaminants from other manufacturing processes.

She believes RDP is already a leader in the applied research field. The focus is to push this capacity further, under the wing of new president Stuart Cullum, who came to RDP from research-heavy Olds College.

“Certainly we want to help more people” by increasing the number of projects tackled in future, as well as their complexity, said Wolfe.

Later in 2023 or 2024, she expects a report will be able to show the community benefits that came out of RDP’s research, in terms of job creation.

CIM-TAC is just one of RDP’s research arms. Wolfe also heads the Energy Innovation Centre, started in 2019, which helps industries figure out the best sources of alternative energy to use to bring down their operational costs.

And there’s faculty-led research into various social innovations — including how to better integrate newcomers into the community, into animal welfare, remote health project and other topics.

Red Deer Polytechnic is looking to expand its Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing — Technology Access Centre, which helps industry with product and process development. (Contributed Photo)

Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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