When three University of Windsor students hit a snag in their development of an environmentally-friendly lawnmower - the featured product at their startup company Aviot Industries - they came to St. Clair College for a solution.
They found their answer in the college's department of Applied Research and Development and its 3D Innovation Lab.
Aviot Industries, an innovative tech company that hopes to reduce the carbon footprint of the average consumer, created a lightweight, rechargeable lawnmower that is maintenance-free, easy to maneuver, and virtually silent. But the concept was missing a key component, a cover that would be lightweight and durable.
Using 3D additive manufacturing technology, St. Clair College researchers came up with a large-scale lawn mower cover that fit the bill.
"Compact and lightweight was their goal," says Linsey Kerkhove, program manager Applied Research and Development in the college's 3D Innovation Laboratory.
"That's when they came to us."
The first challenge was the size of the cover. "This was the first thing we ever printed in plastic of this magnitude," Kerkhove said.
Because of the size and limitations of the printer, the researchers at St. Clair manipulated the CAD file to have connection points - using rivets and dovetails - and separated the part into many different pieces. They ended up printing about 18 pieces that would eventually comprise the cover.
Once all the pieces were printed, they were attached using an adhesive.
The part that was created through the 3D printing process will now be used as a mold that can be mass-produced.
"It was impressive to see something put together so well, that is durable enough to withstand our rigorous testing," said Nigel Christian, one of the principal owners of Aviot. "We're actually using the same body currently on our prototype that is being used for testing and marketing purposes."
Aviot has a patent on the cutting mechanism employed in the lawnmower and the company is planning to use the same technology in their upcoming lineup of new yard and home improvement tools.
Christian said he has continued to work with St. Clair applied researchers since the cover was produced because the college is "exceptional" at producing large scale pieces, which are also capable of using metal as a material in 3D printing. "There aren't many people in the city that do that," he said.