Mark Wlodyka, Bruno Tomberli


University engineering departments are often challenged to maintain state of the art manufacturing facilities due to the rapid technological changes that are occurring in industry. Older or obsolete engineering laboratory equipment, manufacturing machines, and design tools are difficult to replace due to limited department budgets, space, and staff resources.
At Capilano University, where a hands-on project-based one semester first year engineering design class is offered, the Engineering department has taken a novel approach to meet the above challenge.
The Engineering Design students are required to design, build, and test original prototype electrical circuits, and mechanical structures as part of their design projects. Construction of these student-designed units requires a rapid turnaround manufacturing facility to meet the peak demands of the students, capabilities that smaller universities are often limited in their ability to provide.
To meet this specific requirement, a community-based private rapid prototyping design and manufacturing facility, Zen Maker Labs, was approached, and a partnership agreement has been developed. The agreement consisted of cooperation between the university and the Zen Maker Lab to support up to 60 engineering design students. The students were provided with tools, safety training, and support for manufacturing. The facility has provided CAD design stations, several 3D printers, laser cutters, and numerically controlled milling machines to support manufacturing of student designs. Access to the manufacturing facility was initially provided on subscription basis, where students used the library to “sign-out” membership cards, and access the facility on a controlled,  supervised basis. The controlling of student numbers through the  university library provided a method for managing student access to the
manufacturing facility over a period of 8-10 weeks. This arrangement for laboratory access has recently been expanded through a revised collaboration arrangement, and has provided engineering design students with handson experience with several manufacturing technologies and CAD engineering modelling and design tools.

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