One person really can make a difference. Just ask the folks at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC), where Dawn Ng played a big role in solving a complicated issue that ended up reducing raw material use, air emissions and water as well as improving quality and saving money. That’s an impressive formula!
Two years ago, Dawn was a student at the University of Waterloo and a co-op at TMMC. As she studied and learned the vehicle painting process, she noticed every time a new color was applied to a bumper, a solvent-water mixture was used to clean the nozzles of the high-tech spray robots. The cleaning agent contained about 10 percent solvent.
“As I watched the robots clean the nozzles between colors, I wondered how much solvent is really needed in the mixture to do the cleaning,” explained Dawn. “My manager, Ryan Slute, asked me to look into it.”
The results were so impressive that Toyota’s parent company in Japan is developing a new standard to evaluate and optimize solvent/water mixes whenever a paint material changes.
With the help of the University of Waterloo and other Toyota team members, Dawn researched, analyzed and tested different cleaning agents. She even developed a computer program to test the “cleanability” of different solvent/water mixes.
“Our lab was able to utilize a sophisticated approach that combined experiments with modeling the Toyota paint booth environment,” said Leonardo Simon, professor of Chemical Engineering at Waterloo University. “This is a real-world application of our curriculum that would not be possible without Toyota‘s collaboration.”
After months of work in the university lab, Dawn developed a new cleaning agent with better and faster cleaning ability than what was previously being used. The new solution is currently in use on the water-borne paint line installed at TMMC in 2018.
The success of this project inspired the university to grow the partnership, getting more students involved on other exciting Toyota projects. Dawn is now a full-time engineering specialist at TMMC, and she’s helping other students on their co-op terms.
Way to go, Dawn!
Vehicles in this story include the 2019 RAV4, manufactured in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.