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Clemson launches Vehicle Assembly Center

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Officials representing Clemson University, Greenville Technical College, BMW Manufacturing and Siemens officially open the Vehicle Assembly Center by “crashing” a ribbon with a vehicle moving along a prototype assembly line. (Photo/Ross Norton)

The Clemson University Vehicle Assembly Center opened Thursday in the Greenville Technical College Center for Manufacturing Innovation.

The center will allow automotive researchers, students and manufacturers to work side by side developing and learning advanced manufacturing techniques. Educators say the real-world research space will provide innovative manufacturing solutions and highly trained engineers and technicians for industry.

The Vehicle Assembly Center is a collaboration of the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research, Greenville Technical College, BMW Manufacturing and Siemens. The 4,000-square-foot center will have a full vehicle assembly line that joins lab, subassembly lab, embedded devices lab, collaborative robotics center and autonomous factory vehicles.

The partnering organizations introduced the center in a “ribbon-crashing” ceremony Thursday. They dispensed with the usual oversized scissors and broke through a giant ribbon with a car chassis.

A large portion of the research will be conducted by faculty and students in Clemson’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences. Greenville Tech students will be enrolled in manufacturing training programs.

“We are embarking on a new model where academia and industry can drive compelling research while simultaneously defining a new education paradigm as students at the graduate, undergraduate and technical college levels collaborate on full-scale manufacturing projects and fortify each other’s learning,” said Laine Mears, Vehicle Assembly Center director and BMW SmartState Chair in Automotive Manufacturing at Clemson.

Clemson President James P. Clements said the Vehicle Assembly Center will provide a boost to a crucial part of the economy.

“Today we cut the ribbon not just on a new center, but on a new era of innovation and education,” he said. “Technicians, technical leaders and engineers all come together in advanced manufacturing facilities. The world-class Vehicle Assembly Center will bring manufacturing research and education to the forefront, creating a new model for the nation to follow.”

Knudt Flor, president and CEO of BMW Manufacturing, said that a highly skilled, well-educated workforce is essential to meet the challenges of the next generation of vehicles. He told the audience Thursday that the center will close the knowledge gap between engineers and technicians.

“The Vehicle Assembly Center and its project-based learning approach promise to prepare a workforce with the skills needed to be successful in the premium automotive industry,” he said.

Keith Miller, president of Greenville Technical College, said, “As our advanced manufacturing students work with Clemson’s engineering students on real-world projects, the teams share ideas and collaborate as they will in the workplace. This experience better prepares them for their careers.”

Reach Ross Norton at 864-720-1222.

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