Canada’s largest provider of 3D technology is a company called Cimetrix. Based in Oshawa, Cimetrix has spent the past 12 years introducing the practical and rational aspects of 3D printing technology to Canadian industry and academia. To date, about 30 per cent of their machines have been placed in academic institutions, and of that number, about 65 per cent are in high schools.
James Janeteas, owner of the company, is realistic about the limitations but excited about the future possibilities. “The thing is to keep it in perspective,” he says. “While we can do a lot right now, there is a lot we cannot do and all the media buzz has created some false expectations.” He notes that there are about 24 machines installed right now in Manitoba at production facilities such as Standard Aero, Boeing, Loewen Windows and at schools including Red River College and a couple of high schools. Red River shares its large production system with Standard Aero.
Cimetrix was instrumental in introducing the technology in Manitoba. They donated the original 3D prototyping system to AssentWorks for their Fab Lab at National Research Council. AssentWorks is a non-profit group dedicated to assisting “entrepreneurs, inventors, tinkerers, artists and innovators” in getting access to fabrication, and prototyping equipment. The motivation for the gift? “I believe in AssentWorks,” says James.
His faith in them was well founded. AssentWorks has upgraded to a larger system, the same model installed at the Industrial Technology Centre in Winnipeg.
In the great scheme of this new technology, however, these local systems are still pretty basic, capable of producing prototypes and models, but not able to make metal-based products. Such machines cost in the range of a million dollars as opposed to the $170,000 for the production-based Fortus system.
Still, these early installations are the shape of things to come. James expects that we will see major changes over the next 10 years as systems become faster and more reliable. And with the co-operation between academia and industry taking place here in Manitoba, we’ll be ready to smoothly transition into this exciting new world.