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Giving Canadian companies a real-world advantage

At a glance
The challenge

New manufacturing tools must be designed and tested before installation

The solution

A "virtual factory" to model new tools

The outcome

New software that reduces development time and increases efficiencies

What's next?

Company commercialized software and is investigating additional applications

In manufacturing, becoming more efficient opens the doors to increased profit and a competitive advantage. Now, Canadian manufacturers will be able to gain an edge in efficiency with a new piece of software developed for the tooling industry through Mitacs Accelerate.

Han Chen, a Mechanical Engineering Masters student at McGill University, has created what amounts to a virtual factory, where new tools and equipment can be designed and tested, significantly reducing their real-world production time and creating a lot of opportunities.

“Currently, it can take up to three months for the tool-making industry to develop a new tool or machine for a factory,” says Han. “The device has to be designed, then a prototype has to made and repeatedly tested in the factory to ensure it will work properly. During my internship with Longterm Technology Services Inc., I found a way to put the entire testing process into a computer simulation, cutting it down to just ten hours.”

Han’s software allows manufacturers to build virtual replicas of their factories, add the designs for the new tools or machines, and test and modify them until they know they will work. This eliminates the need for real-world prototypes and lets them go straight to producing the final products that will be put to work on the factory floor.

Han says there are immediate benefits.

Reducing the time spent on developing new tools and equipment gives manufacturers more time to focus on producing their goods, which lets them get their products to their customers more quickly. Smaller companies that wouldn’t normally have the resources or time to spend on extensive tool development can now use this software to find solutions quickly and at a lower cost. Because the software’s currently only available in Canada, our manufacturers will have a competitive advantage on the world stage.”

Longterm Technology Services Inc. owner Aaron Guo says partnering with Mitacs accelerated product development.

“We have commercialized the software to benefit our customers in the tool and die industry. This product is helping us a lot because our customers are always looking for ways to reduce time and costs. It’s also earned us more attention from potential clients who want to find new ways to ensure they make their tools right the first time. And we’ve had requests from other types of manufacturers, so we’re researching whether the software can work for them.”

“It’s a great example of what can happen when academics and industry come together,” says Han. “When research has real, practical goals and results, it benefits everyone. I really appreciate that Mitacs and Longterm Technology Services Inc. offered me the chance to develop a software product that will have positive effects in the real world.”

 


Mitacs would like to thank the Government of Canada, the Networks of Centres of Excellence's Industrial Research and Development Internship Program, the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, along with Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, the Government of  British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of  New Brunswick, the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland & Labrador, the Government of  Nova Scotia, the Government of  Ontario, the Government of  Quebec, and the Government of  Saskatchewan for their support of Mitacs Accelerate.