Project Summary

Researchers from Promation Engineering Ltd. (Promation) and the Multi-Scale Additive Manufacturing (MSAM) lab at University of Waterloo collaborated on a user-friendly software plugin that automates additive manufacturing (AM) repair and modification of parts—including curved surfaces and complex features—when no CAD model or sketch is available. A portable robotic hardware system running the software was also developed as a unique, low-cost fabrication and repair system. Promation, a successful Ontario-based SME, is now diversifying into the robotic AM marketplace as a direct result of their partnership with MSAM. The software plugin and hardware system are anticipated to be commercialized in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

The relationship with MSAM is critical for Promation’s growth plan and intended diversification into the Robotic Additive Manufacturing market space. Promation looks forward to continuous development of additive manufacturing technology that will strengthen the manufacturing sector in this region.
Mark Zimny, President, Promation Engineering Ltd.

Partner

Promation logo

Promation, founded in 1995, is a privately owned SME based in Oakville, Ontario. As a leading designer and manufacturer of high-quality tooling, automation and robotic systems, Promation delivers custom engineering solutions to global customers in 3 its divisions: Nuclear, Automotive, and Industrial. MSAM and Promation’s collaborative relationship began in 2017, resulting in both hardware and software innovations that have enabled Promation to diversify into the robotic Additive Manufacturing (AM) market.

Read more about Promation’s additive manufacturing solutions: https://www.promation.com/industrial/3d-printing/

Promation headquarters in Burlington

Challenge

Repair or modification of high-value parts is almost always a more cost-effective solution than replacement, regardless of the industry in question. This project between MSAM and Promation addressed three key challenges:

  1. There is often no CAD model, or even sketches, for older or obsolete parts, which makes repair and upgrades much more difficult.
  2. Some AM systems existed to repair these high-value components, but required planar printing and time-consuming manual coding for portions with curved surfaces or complex features.
  3. A market was identified for commercialization of a portable robotic system that could achieve the desired results without costly and time-consuming transportation to a suitable facility.

Solution

Together, MSAM and Promation researchers developed a physics-based AM software plugin (PROERA) that automates toolpath for laser cladding and additive manufacturing. The software works on free-form and scanned surfaces, and includes automatic collision checking and post-machining of AM parts.

PROERA integrates seamlessly into Autodesk PowerMill for users with direct energy deposition (DED) systems and offers user-friendly data input and full simulation of the additive process. Repair or modification of parts can be done from CAD models or from laser-scanned parts where no model is available.

In addition, a portable robotic hardware system (PROClad 100) has been designed to run the PROERA software plugin and will be commercialized as a unique, low-cost fabrication and repair system.

Impact

Promation has invested over 3 years and $1.5M to diversify into the robotic AM market space and add a new business division—a direct result of the partnership with MSAM that led to effective, results-driven research and development.

“The relationship with MSAM has paid off in terms of the gained research, technical expertise, human resources, market, and the business knowledge.”
Mark Zimny, President, Promation Engineering Ltd.

The PROERA software plugin and the PROClad 100 hardware will be available to global clients with anticipated commercialization dates in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Promation estimates the addition of several highly skilled employees and significant revenue increases as a result of this project.