Good Ideas Take Flight  Airbus Joins Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufactu

Photo courtesy of Airbus

Good Ideas Take Flight -- Airbus Joins Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing

Advancing from an idea to building a physical structure to having 24 projects currently underway, Virginia’s Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) has made amazing strides over the past three years.

The consortium began research activities in 2011 and the 62,000-square-foot facility, which is adjacent to the 1,000-acre Rolls-Royce Crosspointe Campus in Prince George County, Va., opened in March 2013.

The work done on this campus is unique in that its members, which are private companies, universities and government organizations, collaborate to produce new techniques and processes applied in aerospace, defense, transportation, consumer electronics and other industries.

The arrangement is quite exceptional in that R&D risks and costs are shared by members – away from live production floors – and research results are shared, allowing each company to capitalize on developments that emerge from the research.

This is what caught the attention of its newest member Airbus.

“Airbus was founded on innovation – we operate daily knowing that using and developing leading edge technology is a requirement in our business, and CCAM is founded on that mindset,” said Charles Champion, executive vice president engineering for Airbus. “This union is a natural one. Tapping the intellects of the greatest researchers in the industry benefits everyone involved from the developers to the end users.”

Airbus joined as a result of a specific strategy that CCAM follows.  The organization has chosen six specific technologies that it focuses on: surface engineering, manufacturing systems, machining technologies, welding/joining, additive manufacturing and composite materials/processing.

Therefore members need to be involved in those specific areas.

“We started recruiting a year ago  by introducing some of our partners to Airbus,” explains Joe Moody, president and executive director of CCAM. “They understood our model and saw that we could provide the research expertise that they were looking for. It was a perfect match.”

Airbus joined CCAM under the category called Organizing Industry Member. At this level the company is encouraged to have an onsite technical lead on CCAM’s campus. The campus’ facility includes an applied research which consists of a 16,000-square-foot high bay area, five machining labs, five computational labs, a 3-D visualization lab, conference rooms, and open and modular workstations.

“As an organizing industry member, the company has influence over the research plans and participates on the operations board, “explains Moody.  “This category allows the company to secure IP from directed research (as opposed to the generic research the organization does) and also gives them the option to add more funding to a particular research.”

CCAM is structured with a few different levels which allows for a variety of access to research.

CCAM industry and government members include Canon Virginia Inc., Chromalloy, Newport News Shipbuilding, Rolls-Royce, Sandvik Coromant, Siemens, Oerlikon Metco, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Blaser Swisslube, Hermle Machine Co., Mitutoyo, Paradigm Precision, Buehler, Cool Clean Technologies, GF AgieCharmilles, Mechdyne, National Instruments, Spatial Integrated Systems, Airbus and NASA Langley Research Center. Academic partners are the University of Virginia, Virginia State University, Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University.

One of the more ingenious aspects of the organization’s structure is that Organizing Industry Members are asked bring at least two additional members to the group. “We are very strategic in how we are building this organization,” Moody says.

This strategy has worked. In the past there years accomplishments include:

·Membership has increased from 10 (7 industry and 3 university members) to 25 (20 industry, 4 university, and 1 government member)

  • 18 project have been completed  (9 generic, 8 directed, 1 externally funded)
  • 24 projects are currently underway (11  generic, 13 directed, 1 externally funded)
  • 16 projects in development (7 generic, 9 directed)

All of these projects call for a skilled workforce. To add to the pipeline of future talent, CCAM is proposing to start its own apprentice academy in Virginia.  Following their business model in this area as well, CCAM is collaborating with other parties. It has already obtained a commitment of $25 million in state funding as well as $25 million from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. These funds are contingent on matching funds from the federal Economic Development Administration.  

Planning for the future is the central mission at CCAM. Moody explained it best when announcing Airbus’ membership.  “Airbus will bring decades of expertise in engineering technologies and manufacturing systems to the research conducted at CCAM.”

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