Robert Wagner used SIEF funding to travel to institutions in England in 2018 to learn and share information related to additive manufacturing and how best to integrate this emerging technology into an existing university lab while maintaining workflows, ensuring trouble-free installation, and establishing safety and training protocols to protect all lab users.

As a Senior CNC Technician in Mechanical & Mechatronics Engineering his goal was to explore a more in-depth knowledge of safety procedures in relation to Additive Manufacturing processes, and how this new equipment is being integrated safely into the research environment.

How have you applied your international learnings to your role at The University of Waterloo?

Having seen the level of commitment to safety training and the investment that each of my host schools have made in this area, I’ve come back with a determination to ensure that the students I work with have better basic training, have closer supervision when required, and are provided with a much higher level of instruction for the tasks they wish to complete. Since I have direct responsibility over several large pieces of equipment, my goal here will be to rework the SOPs to specify ‘qualified users only’, and also to visibly post a qualified users notice on each of these machines. In addition, I intend to work with my Department to develop a library of documents to support each machine through its life cycle.

What surprised you most about your experience in the United Kingdom both professionally and personally?

An unexpected lesson for me was to understand how connected the University of Sheffield AMRC is to the industrial sector. Many well-known global manufacturing companies work side by side with them. The cross collaboration between units at Sheffield was also apparent, as when an industrial partner has a problem, multiple units of AMRC may be actively working to solve it, instead of the silo culture where everyone works independent of each other to solve similar problems. As each solution evolves, another group - whether it is the composites team, or the additive manufacturing group - may be enlisted as a resource to generate parallel solutions or examine the problem from their perspective. It was fascinating to see how these groups meshed, the brainstorming that went on, and how with the industry partner and the assembled team from AMRC tackled a problem; a real world, viable solution could be produced in a fairly rapid time sequence.

What was the greatest lesson you learned from your trip?

One of the common threads I found amongst all 3 of the partner institutions I visited was the level of dedicated documentation available for each piece of equipment in use.  While this results in a mass of paperwork, it also informs a very high level of operational practice resulting in superior safety standards. The end goal is zero incidents, no matter the size or nature.

On a personal note, I was continuously struck by the fantastic customer service I received from everyone I met in the UK, whether it was in the lab, at the train station, on the street or in restaurants.  It seemed everyone was willing to go out of their way to answer my questions and ensure I was well looked after.

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