North Island College industrial automation students are doing their part to keep fellow students safe this fall.

The students are using technology, skills and knowledge from their program to design, build and 3D-print safety gear.

After returning to the Industrial Automation shop in Campbell River once safety protocols were put in place, they began looking at ways to help support other students who will be taking on-campus programs in a few months’ time.

“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 3D 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.

“It really shows 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, six-inch and 6.5-inches. Students are also printing headbands and hat clips, which can be used to support plastic for face shields.

“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 are great.”

You can find out more about NIC’s Industrial Automation program here