North Island College industrial automation students are printing safety equipment to support fall programs that include on-campus delivery. Image provided

North Island College students printing safety gear

Industrial automation students use program smarts to help others

North Island College (NIC)’s industrial automation students are using the technology, skills and knowledge from their program to design, build and 3D-print safety gear to keep other NIC students safe this fall.

The students returned to the industrial automation shop in Campbell River after safety protocols were put in place and began looking at ways to help support other students who will be taking on-campus programs this fall.

“We heard about the need for items like ear-savers and face shields and wanted to help,” said Joe Barnes, NIC industrial automation student. “We found open source designs and then adapted the design to fit with our 3-D printer and the materials we use.”

The first runs of printing are being prepared for NIC students in programs that are coming back on campus to finish up their winter term work and for the programs being offered through on-campus and digital (blended) delivery this fall, including trades and health programs. NIC has also been approached by companies looking to work with the college to print safety gear for their staff.

RELATED: NIC leads province in transition to online biology labs

“It really shows how the versatility and adaptability of the skills they learn in this program,” said instructor Brad Harsell. “At its core, industrial automation is about troubleshooting and problem solving – figuring out the best fix for the situation. That’s what the students did by taking this open source design and adjusting and adapting for the best product possible and maximizing the efficiency of production using the equipment they have.”

The NIC ear-savers are printed using carbon fibre reinforced nylon, which can be printed thin without sacrificing strength.

“The material is lightweight and also prints faster because it’s thinner,” said Barnes. “We also adjusted the design to ensure we were maximizing the attach points for elastics in a way that made it more versatile for users.”

The ear-savers are being printed in two sizes, 6-inch and 6.5-inches. Students are also printing headbands and hat clips, which can be used to support plastic for face shields.

RELATED: North Island College announces blended approach to learning in the fall

“We wanted something versatile that can also be reused or adjusted, depending on the needs of the wearer,” said Barnes. “You don’t need specialized plastic or expensive materials. You can use sheet protectors, which are available in large quantities at office supply stores.”

For the students, it’s also a chance to be back in the shops and contributing.

“We were preparing for our capstone project, which is our final project of the program, when COVID hit,” said Barnes. “We’re still working on what that final product might be, but knowing that we can be using our skills like this and also helping our fellow students is great.”


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