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Niagara College (NC) works closely with industry partners, like Hamill Machine, where owner and CEO Bob Benner (right) credits the partnership for his company’s ability to expand into new markets, while doubling his machine shop and workforce. Pictured with a recent project success, the microgreens harvester dryer, are Lucas Howe, mechanical engineering student and research assistant with NC’s Research & Innovation division (left) and James Dahl, NC mechanical engineering graduate and now Hamill lead engineer.


Pressure sores are a major cause of concern, especially for people experiencing impaired sensation and prolonged immobility. When OKE Polymer Systems, a Canadian manufacturer specializing in therapeutic support surfaces and medical, occupational and recreational applications, decided to pursue the development of a product that offers people the ability to sit longer without discomfort, the company sought a partner with specific applied research capabilities: Niagara College.

“Colleges and institutes have the equipment and expertise that is reflective of the needs of industry in their region,” says Marc Nantel, associate vice-president, research and innovation, Niagara College.

“By doing applied research, we help companies create new products and services, which then can generate new jobs and wealth.”

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In order to serve companies like OKE Polymer Systems even better, Dr. Nantel was instrumental in establishing the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), which includes facilities at Niagara College, Sheridan College, Mohawk College, McMaster University, Conestoga College, Fanshawe College and Lambton College.

“This is a very collaborative effort. Our principal investigators regularly compare notes and discuss what type of equipment we need for different projects,” says Dr. Nantel. “We are also working closely with an industry advisory committee that provides strategic input about what companies are looking for.”

By having state-of-the-art infrastructure that reflects the market, we not only service our industry partners, we also give students the skills they need to succeed in those industries.

— Marc Nantel Associate vice-president, research and innovation, Niagara College

OKE Polymer Systems, for example, turned to Niagara College because its parent company Blake Medical reported a very positive experience of working with Mohawk College, says Dr. Nantel. He adds that this initiative required the use of 3D scanning, design and printing technologies – to focus on developing a proof-of-concept tooling mold to integrate into OKE Polymer Systems’ manufacturing line for trial runs.

The result? Another successful SONAMI project that resulted in a dressing that relieves pressure to the tailbone. Traditional products for this purpose, which are typically made of foam, are limited because they are unable to fully form to the shape of the body – and this is something the new gel can achieve.

“By having state-of-the-art infra-structure that reflects the market, we not only service our industry partners, we also give students the skills they need to succeed in those industries,” he says. “And we help to create solutions that address very specific societal needs.”

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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