Automation is often discussed in alarmist terms—at least, when it comes to employment. A headline-grabbing 2018 RBC report found that at least half of Canadian jobs will be impacted, if not altogether eliminated, by automation.

But the report also suggested that skills that machines are not (yet, at least) adapted to will become increasingly valuable in the job market—namely things like complex problem-solving, critical thinking and social perceptiveness. And it just so happens that all those skills fit neatly into the job description for automation technicians. Becoming one of the relatively few professionals who know how to build and repair automated systems is one good way to stay ahead of this seemingly unstoppable wave.

When you hear the word automation, you may visualize a robot arm on a manufacturing line, sorting items or putting car parts together. You’d be partially right, but that’s far from the full picture. Automation is essentially the use of technology to complete a task with minimal human interference, and while that may include robots, it also applies to software running on other types of machines, from smart lights to control systems inside self-driving cars. And it’s working its way into industries beyond manufacturing, including health care, mining and law enforcement, all of which need more people who know what they’re doing.

Specifically, they need specialists who have the hands-on skills to operate and repair automated machinery alongside some understanding of the programming languages that run them. The best part? You don’t need an engineering degree to join this rapidly growing field. Thanks to strong employer demand, college-level programs that provide this particular combination of skills are popping up all over the country, and grads can expect to make between $50,000-$90,000 per year, depending on geography, industry and experience.

“I’ve always liked tinkering with machinery,” says Alex Dunn, an industrial automation integrator at PowerOn Control Systems, which specializes in custom automation systems for companies in industries ranging from water treatment to packaging and metal processing. “My favourite part of the job is the satisfaction,” he says. “When you walk away from a frustrating problem you’ve been working on for days and everything starts running as it should, it feels really good.”

Dunn graduated from Sheridan College’s three-year electromechanical engineering technician program, which focuses on automation. “It’s a key element of what we call Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution,” says Amjed Majeed, dean of Sheridan’s school of mechanical and electrical engineering technology. “When you apply automation to industry, you increase productivity and accuracy, as well as safety.” The college is currently developing a degree-level program in automation and robotics to be launched in 2023. Kwantlen Polytechnic, Cambrian, Centennial, Conestoga and Algonquin colleges have also opened automation programs, a wave that’s largely been driven by industry requests. These programs are fairly new; most have been launched in the past five years.

Many grads from college diploma programs work on the operations and repair side of the equation, rather than design, which is often handled by engineers. That’s not a hard and fast rule, though. “We have designers who have come out of universities and colleges. We don’t discriminate,” says Andre Dumais, president of Ionic Mechatronics, which specializes in industrial automation. “Mechatronics” is a term worth noting—it refers to an interdisciplinary field that involves electrical and mechanical systems, robotics and computing.

Dumais is keen to hire college grads because of their hands-on training. “The college grad is typically a tactical, practical person,” he says. The Ionic Technology Group set up an annual $1,500 scholarship program for Cambrian’s mechatronics program, in honour of Steve Matusch, the company’s late founder. “College grads tend to have more experience with programming and robotics, whereas that’s typically a small part of university programs.”

Since automation exists at the intersection of electronics, mechanics and programming and spans a huge (and growing) variety of industries, people who work in the field are interdisciplinarians by nature. “You have to have a good knowledge of electrical fundamentals and mechanical systems, but you also have to be able to think on your feet and respond to customer needs,” says Werner Scherzinger, a professor in Cambrian’s mechatronics program. High tolerance for stress doesn’t hurt either. “I don’t do much physical labour,” says Dunn. “But there are a lot of long hours, and at the end of the day, if something’s not running and you’ve got a bunch of eyeballs on you that are like, ‘Okay, every second this isn’t working is catastrophic for us’—you have to be able to deal with that.”

Good news if you get bored easily, though: novelty is a big part of the job. “There’s so much learning and relearning, so many different parts to work with,” says Dunn. “It feels like you’re always being pushed to work with something you’ve never worked with, and you’ve got to figure it out quickly. It really comes down to persistence.”

Source: Liza Agrba (www.macleans.ca)

The Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce honoured 10 of Greater Sudbury’s outstanding entrepreneurs and businesses this week at an online show of its 23rd-annual Bell Business Excellence Awards.

For the past 22 years, the chamber has hosted the awards as an opportunity to not only acknowledge the contributions of our community’s business owners, but to also learn from them and about them.

“From young entrepreneurs operating out of their home to established owners of international companies, the Bell Business Excellence Awards are an inspiring evening that points a spotlight on the people who form the backbone of our community and the family, friends, and experiences that keep them going,” the chamber said in a release.

“This event was a spectacular celebration that recognized businesses and entrepreneurs whose achievements and contributions to the community distinguish them from their peers.”

The winners were announced virtually on CTV Northern Ontario’s Livestream link.

The chamber received more than 100 nominations for 10 award categories this year. The finalists for the 2020 Bell Business Excellence Awards are:

  •  Best Place to Work, sponsored by College Boreal: M.I.C. Canadian Eatery & Whisky Pub.
  • Business Start-Up, sponsored by HARD-LINE: IVEY Group.
  • Company of the Year, sponsored by Sudbury.com: Cambrian Ford.
  • Entrepreneur of the Year, sponsored by RBC Royal Bank of Canada: Gabrielle Roy, Stitch and Stone.
  • Executive of the Year, sponsored by the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation and the City of Greater Sudbury: Ray Jambakhsh, DST Consulting Engineers.
  • Innovation, sponsored by Cambrian College: Ionic Mechatronics.
  • Not For Profit/Charity Excellence, sponsored by TD Bank Group: Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer (NOFCC).
  • Service Excellence, sponsored by Technica Mining: Total Nursing Care Inc.
  • Small Enterprise, sponsored by Regional Business Centre: Exceptional Painting Inc.
  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year, sponsored by Weaver, Simmons LLP: Ashley Kirwan, Orix Geoscience.

Source: TheSudburyStar.com

Marketing a new product in the middle of a public health crisis is no easy task. Ionic Mechatronics, a company that specializes in the creation of high-quality equipment, took on this challenge to create a product that would help their clients stay in business.  They created Therm-Assure in partnership with Synaptic Technologies (Synaptic Technologies is a member of the Ionic Technology group).

Ionic Mechatronics has been in operation since 1999 and won company of the year (51+ employees) at the Northern Ontario Business Awards in 2015. Their headquarters is located in Sudbury, Ontario but they also have various locations across Ontario and Chile.

Ionic Mechatronics is known for their innovation and how they changed the landscape for players in the heavy machinery industry. Specifically, the company builds control systems, special purpose machines and complete automation systems for metals, mining, and mineral processing. They also support various other industries including oil and gas, pulp and paper, and the automotive industry.

When an unprecedented event such as a pandemic hits, a company’s first response is to figure out how to keep their doors open. Since Ontario announced the state of emergency in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been able to work from home. For others, however, it was crucial that they still attend work.  As most of Ionic Mechatronics, clients have the ability to work from home or are considered essential businesses, they got their team together in order to see what they could do to help their clients stay open and in business. “If the customers keep their doors open, we can keep our doors open”, said the president of the company, Andre Dumais in an interview with the CBC.

Back in 2014, when the Ebola outbreak occurred, Ionic Mechatronics did a for the World Health Organization. This research was instrumental in helping them develop, Therm-Assure. Therm-Assure was created for industrial cellphones and designed to handle intense working environments and extreme conditions that certain industries face every day. The application scans an employee’s body temperature as soon as they arrive at work. It is a quick and efficient way to see if an employee’s body temperature is running high and if it is, the employee is sent home. Therm-Assure, analyzes data to look for irregularities in employee thermal scans by using an algorithm to identify which employee scan, differs from the norm. It has been a very useful tool during the COVID-19 pandemic as it allows individuals to continue to work, while also preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Since the lockdown, the company has been able to sell about half-dozen units and has interest from Northern Ontario mining companies, large retailers and the U.S. Air Force. In May alone, the app completed over 100,000 scans, which is incredible considering the product only launched a few weeks ago.

Ionic Mechatronics, has made it clear from the start that they did not create this product to profit from it. They stated that once they sell all their inventory and recover their development costs, the price of the product will be reduced. Priced at just enough to cover production and supply costs. Dumais said to CBC that it was not about making money, “I make money building equipment and machines, this is just a technology we were able to mobilize very, very quickly to help our customers keep their doors open.”

With so many uncertainties and stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies including Ionic Mechatronics are utilizing what is available to them for the greater good and to make employees feel more comfortable at work. Workers can breathe a little easier now, knowing that their employers have measures in place, to help keep them healthy and safe.

Source: www.northernpolicy.ca

SUDBURY — Tuesday evening, the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce hosted the 23rd annual Bell Business Excellence Awards. The event was held as a way to acknowledge local businesses and entrepreneurs.

Among the winners was Ionic Mechatronics, a local company that specializes in industrial automation for medium and heavy industries. It won the innovation award and its president says it truly is an honour.

“Steve, the founder of our company, always liked that good ideas are a dime a dozen, but having innovation, which is actually an idea to develop something that the customers actually want to use and are going to use, that’s true innovation,” said Andre Dumais.

The entrepreneur of the year award went to Stitch & Stone, a clothing company that has been operating now for six years.

“We started really small and I think we’ve really built good relationships in the community with a lot of our customers,” said owner Gabrielle Roy. “We really try to deliver amazing customer service. Our business is all based on the experience first and then we hope that people buying product is a big product of that experience so I think that’s why we stand out a little bit in the community.”

This year, the company of the year was awarded to Cambrian Ford. Its management said just being nominated was overwhelming.

“It was refreshing to find out that our group of people here at Cambrian Ford have been acknowledged to be a leader in the community,” said president Scott McCulloch. “Cambrian Ford has been in business for more than a hundred years and you don’t do that overnight. It’s not longevity from being randomly successful, it’s about proper planning and taking care of customers, taking care of employees, proper management. That’s the reason why we’re successful.”

Winners said they this is an award they’ll never forget.

Source: Molly Frommer CTV News Northern Ontario Videojournalist

“Innovation is of no use if there’s no one to use it.”

André Dumais invoked those words from Ionic Mechatronics founder Steve Matusch on Tuesday night as he accepted the Innovation Award on behalf of the company during the 2020 Bell Business Excellence Awards, presented by the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce.

Matusch died in March before he could witness the company’s achievement.

But his passion for innovation shines through as the mining-industry automation company moves forward.

“I want to dedicate this award to the memory of Steve, the founder of our organization, and I really hope to keep his memory alive over the next 20 years,” Dumais said.

The Innovation Award recognizes a company that has demonstrated product research and prototype development, or the marketing of new innovations in science, technology, special needs, or the environmental field.

Ionic has come up with a number of innovations for the mining industry, including the SafeBox, an energy isolation system that “significantly increases safety while increasing production,” Dumais said.

“At Ionic, one of the things we really try to do is make sure that the market is ready for a particular innovation,” he noted.

“Because ideas are a dime a dozen, and you can come up with the greatest idea, but if no one’s going to buy it, it’s not really an innovation and it doesn’t bring any value to the organization or to industry.”

Ionic was one of 10 recipients to be recognized at the event.

Other winners include:

  • Business Startup: Ivey Group
  • Service Excellence: Total Nursing Care Inc.
  • Small Enterprise: Exceptional Painting Inc.
  • Entrepreneur of the Year: Gabrielle Roy, owner, Stitch and Stone
  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year: Ashley Kirwan, cofounder, CEO, and principal geologist at Orix Geoscience
  • Best Place to Work: MIC Canadian Eatery and Whiskey Pub
  • Company of the Year: Cambrian Ford Sales Inc.
  • Not-for-profit Charity Excellence: Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer
  • Executive of the Year: Ray Jambakhsh, chief technical advisor and senior principal at DST Consulting Engineers

Source: www.Sudbury.com


Ionic Mechatronics in Sudbury is infusing an old copper-refining technology with new life, increasing safety and efficiency in the process.

Later this month, the firm will roll out an automated copper starter sheet machine that uses robotics in the transfer of all copper material, which the company says is the first of its kind in the world.

Copper starter sheet machines aren’t new. Built in the 1980s and 1990s, the technology has been used in the purification of copper for decades. But past iterations have relied on a combination of labour and hydraulics to get the job done.

“The old machines weren’t robotic. They were a lot of linear transfers, or a lot more hydraulic systems,” explained Ryan Catton, Ionic’s business development manager.

“The ones we’ve been able to develop now are really removing the people from doing the dangerous work.”

Copper starter sheet machines use a sheet of copper dipped in a chemical bath to “start” the process of electrolysis, which purifies the metal.

When the operation is complete, the resulting copper sheets are removed and the process is repeated.

Over the years, as companies started to migrate their systems over to newer technology, copper starter sheet machines fell somewhat out of favour, Catton said.

But the machines were so well built, they last for decades before needing to be replaced, and so many companies still use them.

“The company that used to do them got bought out by another company, so there are not very many people that do these,” Catton said.

“A new starter sheet machine hasn’t really been built in years, because these are such rugged and robust machines.”

But now, as the equipment starts to show its age, Catton said many companies believe the only option is to completely overhaul their existing setup.

Ionic’s solution allows them to either retrofit existing machinery or build something completely new.

“We looked at the need and we’ve come up with a totally new design for the same process, but using robotics and, really, just putting copper sheets on one side and you’re getting your finished product out the other side.”

It helps make the job safer by removing employees from that part of the operation, reducing their exposure to toxic substances and gases, while also lowering the risk of musculoskeletal injuries, he added.

The addition of robotics also increases an operation’s efficiency and reduces downtime.

After a year in development, the first of these new machines will be ready to be sent to a customer in Arizona, at the heart of the U.S. copper belt, by mid-August.

Ionic has also received interest in the technology from a company in Poland, along with distributors in South Africa and India.

“We’re also looking at a similar application for a different metal for a starter sheet machine,” Catton said. “We’re going to be able to take the same technology and apply it not only to copper, but to other metals.”

This flurry of activity comes as Ionic embarks on an in-house construction project to double the size of its 12,000-square-foot shop in the Sudbury bedroom community of Lively, which will give staff more room to work.

As COVID-19 makes its way around the globe, many operations have stalled, but Catton said Ionic has remained busy over the last several months.

Many larger projects have been shelved as companies trim their capital budgets, but a steady stream of smaller jobs has kept staff working and the shop humming.

“They’re not these million-dollar machines, but being able to do these smaller automation studies or small automation projects has definitely helped out and have kept us busy throughout,” Catton said. “It’s been good.”

With pandemic uncertainty continuing, Catton anticipates more companies will look to automation in keeping with social distancing protocols to keep people safe and production running.

“We can look at automation and then we can look at how to repurpose the individuals and put them into some tasks where we don’t feel like they would be at any risk of any kind of pandemic or disease, or COVID, or whatever it is at that point.”

Article by: Sudbury.com – By: Lindsay Kelly

Vale and IONIC Engineering have designed a material handling system capable of packaging the concentrate into bulk bags at a rate of 24 to 32 tonnes per hour by integrating a Flexicon automated bulk bag filling system.

To handle the volume, Francois Nzotungwanimana, Operations Manager at Ionic Engineering and Project Engineer on the bulk bagging project, specified the dual bulk bag fillers, roller conveyors and a central pallet dispenser comprising the Flexicon system.

In addition, Ionic designed the electrical and control systems, sourced labelling machines and other equipment, designed safety systems and performed the systems integration including programming, electrical and safety. The Ionic Engineering team also performed additional mechanical design and safety engineering.

View More Details

Taking Intelligence Underground

First-of-its-kind ore handling solution puts safety first at one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines

Mining companies are digging deeper than ever. And to maximize output, what starts as a pit mine often extends underground.

“As mines get deeper, extraction of valuable ore becomes more costly,” said Derek Meloche, manager of business development, Variant Mining Technologies. “In addition, safeguarding personnel from underground hazards is a critical concern.”

Located in the Sudbury basin in Ontario, Canada, Variant Mining Technologies specializes in solutions for underground hard rock mining. The company works to solve one of the industry’s biggest challenges – moving material underground safely and efficiently.

Opportunity at Massive Mongolian Mine

Recently, a leading global mining company engaged Variant Mining to solve an ore transport challenge for a copper and gold mine in Mongolia. The mining company began open pit mining at the site in 2011 and recognized the value that lay deep underground.

“In fact, this site boasts one of the largest known copper and gold deposits in the world,” Meloche said. “Specifically, the company approached us to design an ore-pass loading system for underground operations slated to begin in a few years.”

Upon completion, the underground mine is expected to produce 95,000 tonnes of ore per day, tripling the current production at the site.

Block Caving Challenges

Transporting ore underground presents significant challenges, depending on the excavation method used. Underground operations at the Mongolian mine will use the “block caving” method. In block caving, a large section of rock is undercut. The ore then collapses – or “caves” – gradually under its own weight.

The resulting rubble funnels through a series of vertical ore passes at various levels in the mine. A chute system is located at the bottom of each ore pass.

“The chute is a device that allows ore to be transferred safely to the haulage vehicles,” Meloche explained. “It controls the flow so haulage equipment can be loaded quickly and safely.”

Trucks collect the material from a chute at the haulage level and transport it to conveyance systems, which bring the ore to the surface.

If ore is not sufficiently controlled, loading material at the haulage level poses a significant safety risk to personnel. Potential hazards include chute failures, falling debris, uncontrolled run of muck and unexpected vehicle traffic.

Safety First

“Safety is the number one priority for this customer,” said Meloche. “They are focused on creating a productive mining environment that mitigates safety risk – and is an attractive place to work.”

The project is well aligned with Variant’s niche in the marketplace. Traditionally, underground ore chute systems have been viewed as steel fabrications, with very limited control. However, Variant brings control technology to the forefront to help make equipment safer, more efficient and more reliable.

A Two-Fold Control Solution

Successful operation of the ore loading system depends on the coordinated control of the ore chutes and haulage vehicles. Variant is charged with supplying the ore chutes – and a safety control system that meets functional safety requirements. To achieve a functionally safe system, in this case a system that meets SIL 3 ratings, the design considered the process that encompasses the bin, chutes and trucks.

The control system is built on a Rockwell Automation® platform featuring Allen-Bradley® Compact GuardLogix® safety controllers, Allen-Bradley POINT Guard I/O™ modules, and HMI based on Allen-Bradley PanelView™ graphic terminals.

The system is designed with a GuardLogix controller and HMI in each chute and aboard each truck. For fail-safe communication, the integrated system uses the CIP Safety™ protocol running on an EtherNet/IP™ wireless network.

“We have a history of working with Rockwell Automation during our design process,” Meloche said. “We’re a relatively small company developing state-of-the-art solutions, so we rely on the core competence of our larger group of companies and supply chain to support the development our solutions.”

Enabling Smart Technology

To optimize the system, Variant incorporated several technologies that are not new in other industries but new to underground mining. For example, the vehicle detection system in the chute loading area detects a truck’s presence and position – while RFID technology determines the vehicle model and type.

“This technology – and CIP Safety over wireless – allow operators in the truck cabs to control the chutes in a safer manner,” Meloche said. “The chute will not operate unless a haulage truck is present and in the correct position. Jeeps or other vehicle types cannot trigger operation.”

The system also includes fallen object protection. A gate at the end of the chute contains any loose rocks from the previous load to help safeguard approaching vehicles and personnel.

“And our system monitors the ore bins associated with each chute to make sure they don’t run empty,” Meloche said. “We keep material in the bins at all times to serve as a buffer – so ore falling 150 feet doesn’t come out of the chute like a rocket.”

On the mechanical side, Variant designed the chute with a large, 5’ X 10’ (1525 mm X 3050 mm) opening to improve throughput and minimize the risk for hang-ups.

Exceeding Expectations

Variant’s initial contract includes five systems. The final mine plan will have as many as 30 chutes distributed underground – and up to 40 surface and underground haulage trucks for loading.

“We tested the first system onsite here in Canada,” Meloche said. “We fully assembled the system and ran it for a month. The customer was very pleased with the results they saw at our facility.”

The initial system has shipped to Mongolia and is awaiting underground installation.

In addition to enhancing operator safety, the ore handling system is designed to optimize mine throughput. When installed, each chute is expected to achieve a maximum instantaneous flow rate of 10,000 tonnes per hour (tph). Variant anticipates the system will enable significantly better traffic control and equipment utilization than other systems on the market.

“Overall, mining companies are most concerned about safety – and productivity,” said Meloche. “Our safety-rated SIL 3 system is designed to improve both.”

This truck loading control system is currently patent pending.

SudburyROCKS will support the Northern Cancer Foundation with its 2020 marathon, with a new race date of May 31.

“We’re excited to bring the SudburyROCKS Marathon to a new date,” said Brent Walker, race director for SudburyROCKS, at a press conference at Health Sciences North on Tuesday. “We’re hoping it brings warmer weather, more runners and increased volunteering.

“We’re also very pleased to once again be working with the Northern Cancer Foundation with the race this year. With the help of our runners, we have an opportunity to put our best foot forward for local cancer care.”

During the last 14 years, SudburyROCKS has become one of northeastern Ontario’s most popular races and is Sudbury’s only Boston Marathon qualifier.

Last year’s race saw more than 1,800 runners and walkers take part.

“We are so pleased to be the charitable recipient of the SudburyROCKS Marathon committee again this year,” Anthony Keating, president and CDO of foundations and volunteer groups at Health Sciences North, said in a release. “Keeping an active lifestyle is an important piece of the cancer prevention puzzle, but another piece is raising funds for charity.

“In addition to participating in SudburyROCKS, we’d like to strongly encourage all walkers and runners to help raise funds for the Northern Cancer Foundation by asking their friends and families to make donations. Funds raised through this event support world-class research and care delivered at the Northeast Cancer Centre.”

For more information or to register for the SudburyROCKS Marathon, visit www.sudburyrocksmarathon.com.

Article by: Sudbury Star Staff

Variant Mining Technologies is a leader in providing clients with muck circuit material handling solutions, solving some of the industry’s biggest challenges in moving material safely and efficiently, while remaining cost competitive. As an innovation driven company with roots in an internationally recognized mining center, our growth plan has always been focused on staying ahead of the curve..


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