Advanced Manufacturing Center Breaks Ground in Virginia

April 1, 2011
Center's leader says new technology developments could encourage more domestic production.

Could a collaborative effort between several large manufacturers and university researchers bring advanced manufacturing technologies to market that reduce labor costs and lessen the need for offshoring?

That's what the leader of an advanced manufacturing center that broke ground March 31 in Prince George County, Va., says is possible through the center's research and development activities.

Construction began March 31 on a 50,000-square-foot advanced manufacturing facility near Petersburg, Va., called the Commonwealth Center for Advanced manufacturing. The center will house research and development labs for manufacturers and university researchers.

Seven manufacturers, including Siemens, Rolls-Royce and Canon Virginia Inc., have agreed to locate in the facility that is expected to be completed in about one year.

The companies will work with researchers from the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University on new developments in surface engineering and advanced manufacturing, said David Lohr, the president and executive director of CCAM.

The surface engineering work will include research on new coatings for metal, composite and wood materials that can be used to develop new products for the member companies, Lohr said.

Advanced manufacturing activities will focus on utilizing design processes and technology to gain a competitive advantage in manufacturing. The hope is that the new techniques will create efficiencies that will reduce the need for manufacturers to move production offshore, Lohr said.

"It's about how do we use science and technology to make a product that requires half the labor input with the same or better quality part," Lohr said.

When complete, the facility will house computational and large-scale production labs, as well as open production space for heavy equipment and surface coating processes, including a thermal spraying machine, a directed vapor deposition machine, integrated data acquisition systems and a thermal conductivity measurements system.

The companies involved have made five-year commitments to the center with the option of renewal at the end of the contract. The center's goal is to eventually expand to 30 or more industry members, Lohr said.

Initial investment for the nonprofit research center, which includes federal and state funds, is approximately $100 million, according to Lohr.

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