Mohawk College will be opening The Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Additive Manufacturing in March 2014 (read more here).
This creates a perfect opportunity for Mohawk to support a Hamilton treasure, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. CWHM maintains in flying condition one of the finest collections of World War II aircraft in the world. Their restoration projects, bringing abandoned, rusting aircraft back to life, are awe inspiring. But as time goes on, it becomes more and more difficult, and more expensive, to find parts for these aircraft. One of their current restoration projects, the Bolingbroke, is using the remains of 8 aircraft to try to assemble one restored to flying condition.
That’s where Mohawk’s new lab could help. Imagine the benefit of a complete digital inventory of parts for CWHM’s storied Lancaster bomber, one of only 2 still flying in the world. Imagine the dedicated volunteers at CWHM being able to 3D print or CNC machine any part they need. What a fantastic benefit to the museum. What a perfect way for the College to demonstrate these leading edge technologies. And how better to get students and faculty excited about the possibilities than by having the opportunity to use 21st century technology to help preserve some of the finest examples of 20th century technology.
This is a perfect application for 3D printing – the replication, in low volume, of parts that are not practical to produce using higher volume, lower cost methods. Even where the actual part cannot be printed (it needs to be made from high grade stainless steel, for example), having a 3D printed model to guide the machinist is invaluable.
I was at the Museum yesterday with my son on a school trip. Several other classes were there too. The volunteers take the kids through the basic physics of flight, let them do hands on experiments to learn Bernoulli’s Principle, and pass on the history of the brave young men & women who built, maintained & flew these aircraft in defence of their country and her allies. I’ve heard the story of Andy Mynarski, VC, to whom the Lancaster is dedicated, several times, and yet I still get a lump in my throat every time.
As I walked past the working part of the museum, where the aircraft are restored and maintained, I was struck by several things. First, by the tens of thousands of hours put in by the volunteers. Second, by the fact that many of them are older, and won’t be able to continue for much longer. We need to bring a new generation in to help, and find ways to manufacture parts that are becoming impossible to find.
I’m going to contact both institutions and urge them to consider this. I’m hopeful they’ll be as excited by the possibilities as I am.