Fred Doern: On the Right TAC

Heritage Group Meeting of September 17, 2015

Photo of Fred Doern

Heritage Group members went away considerably prouder to be associated with RRC after September’s Heritage Group meeting. Over thirty of us had squeezed into room A137 to hear invited guest Fred Doern. Not only did his polished presentation open our eyes to some of the amazing research activities and leading edge technologies hidden within our walls, it underlined the pivotal role RRC plays in providing industry access to those technological assets.

TAC banner

An RRC alumni himself (early ’70s Chem Tech), Fred returned to the College in 2003 after 30 years within the Canadian nuclear research and medical device industries. As Research Chair for the School of Transportation, Aviation, and Manufacturing (STAM), Fred directs and supports the research activities for RRC’s Technology Access Centre (TAC) in Aerospace and Manufacturing. $1.7 million in funding in 2012 made RRC’s one of the first five Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) funded TACs in Canada. The Centre’s three main areas of focus are advanced materials & bonding, imaging & automation, and simulation & visualization.

Photo of a Motor Coach Industries' J4500 coach

A Motor Coach Industries’ J4500 coach at RRC

Fred kicked off with a bit of a history lesson, taking us back to early RRC applied research with Motor Coach Industries in 2005. That project sought to insert a new engine/transmission pairing into a  bus to meet stricter US environmental requirements. In Fred’s words, it was more of a plumbing exercise, like trying to squeeze an elephant into a phone booth. But the venture established RRC as a serious player and laid the foundation for future applied research partnerships and initiatives. It also confirmed RRC’s pivotal role in filling the gap between basic university research and eventual commercialization: to demonstrate how new technologies can be used. 

Photo of Robotic CO2 laser

Robotic CO2 laser

In 2009, RRC’s Centre for Aerospace Technology and Training (CATT) became RRC’s first Industrial Campus (one of only three of its kind in all of North America). The CATT houses an array of cutting-edge laser systems capable of welding, cladding and cutting parts with complex geometries and thickness variations. Questions from the floor were flying thick and fast after Fred’s high-res videos of laser welding. Most interesting too was how the CATT is exploring additive manufacturing techniques, such as using 3D printers to accurately “print” prosthetic limbs (as for hip replacements). Industry recognition for the CATT has been high since 2010.

Photo of LaserUT Gantry, CNDI Industrial Campus

LaserUT Gantry, CNDI Campus

Across street from the CATT, RRC’s Centre for Non-Destructive Inspection (CNDI) opened in 2012. Housed within Magellan Aerospace on at 660 Berry, the CNDI features some of Canada’s most advanced inspection equipment (including one of only 2 laser ultrasonic testing systems in the country). Laser Ultrasonic inspection utilizes lasers to generate and detect ultrasound. This allows for a contact-free inspection of composite parts to inspect for porosity, delamination and inclusions. “Think of it as a very expensive coin to tap surfaces for defects”, explained Fred.

Photo of the Baxter research robot.

Baxter research robot from

But perhaps the most interesting of all was RRC’s industrial automation robotic facilities. You may not know that we are one of the most privileged colleges in Canada in terms of robotic inventory.

Fred introduced us to Baxter (currently the only Baxter to live in Canada), whose flexible arms that can sense when they bump into something (like a person). Through Baxter we learned about fixtureless robots and the socialization of technology, with robots working alongside humans rather than replacing them on the shop floor.

Photo of Eddie robot platform

Eddie robot platform

Eddy, a mobile member of RRC’s Robotics Lab‘s family with a laptop, has been the centre of recent research involving a number of intern students. Eddie can navigate autonomously and see in 3-D using the power of Microsoft Kinect. Five distance sensors (three infrared and two ultrasonic) detect objects to help avoid collisions.  

And Fred just kept going: robotic communications and simulations via the Robot Operating System (ROS), industrial simulation and mixed media development, how integrating vision with autonomous robots is helping to provide elder care in Japan. We were treated to an extremely informative and tightly packed one-hour presentation, much more than can possibly be described here. We could not have asked for a more engaging sixty minutes. 

Fred concluded by reiterating the role of the research chair: to engage stakeholders and investigators, to evaluate emerging technologies, to establish vision and mission, to enhance research capacity, and to extend the College’s circle of influence. If the engagement of this Thursday morning’s audience is any indication, RRC has much to be thankful for.

Well done, Fred! And thank you.


Categories: All, Guest Speakers

Leave a Reply