Background

With industry demanding customization and individualization of products without mass production, there is a critical need to explore opportunities in advanced manufacturing and rapid prototyping. 

Recognizing the potential to leverage expertise at UNB’s Faculty of Engineering, the UNB TME program engaged Think Stiletto to conduct a needs assessment. This assessment would identify industry needs, current capabilities in New Brunswick, and gaps within the ecosystem that could support the establishment of a centre of expertise for advanced manufacturing and rapid prototyping.  

Process

The Think Stiletto team first identified local industry needs in New Brunswick by conducting a focus group and online surveys of companies with an interest in prototyping.  This allowed us to determine any gaps in support, equipment, expertise and services in the province. We then identified provincial firms that provide prototyping service, and surveyed them on their current capabilities, capacity, and offerings.

Think Stiletto engaged key stakeholders and companies in the provincial innovation and advanced manufacturing ecosystem. We conducted extensive secondary research to confirm best practices and trends in exemplary markets, and to identify federal government programs in the areas of advanced manufacturing, mechatronics, prototyping, value-added wood and/or fibre materials.

After carefully researching exemplary jurisdictions, we identified Germany as a world leader in prototyping and advanced manufacturing.  We conducted site visits to facilities in Berlin, Dresden, Chemnitz, Paderborn, and Hannover to explore opportunities for collaboration and sharing of best practices.

Outcomes

Through our surveys, stakeholder engagement and focus group, Think Stiletto identified a need for companies to focus on product differentiation in order to compete in a stagnant market.  A focus on design, development, and testing capabilities would also help firms to access new markets and accelerate their testing and validation process.

When asked, nearly 80% of industry survey respondents were interested in staying engaged with the project. More than 90% answered “yes” when asked whether they would be willing to consider a membership fee to access talent and/or equipment that will better meet their product development needs.

Think Stiletto identified six partners in the German market for collaboration opportunities. Based on the analysis and feedback from the project both within Canada and abroad, we identified an expanded opportunity to concentrate on additive manufacturing with a focus on composite materials (for fibre) and value-added natural resources.