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Va. Center Aims To Help US Reclaim Manufacturing

One of the first projects being conducted at the center looks at improving the technology used to coat surfaces with anti-heat or friction material using a robotic arm that can spray those coatings on metals. Another is studying human performance in manufacturing operations. As part of those research efforts, the center also will have a visualization lab that will allow engineers to do three-dimensional modeling.

CCAM is a "cornerstone of innovation" that "provides a place for researchers and industry partners to collaborate on the innovative technologies of tomorrow," said Will Powers, executive vice president and CFO of Rolls-Royce North America, which donated the land for the building on its Crosspointe campus, where it makes components for jet engines.

Construction of the building, which is owned by the University of Virginia Foundation, was financed with $11 million from state Recovery Act bonds, a $4 million federal grant and a $2.5 million grant from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.

Those involved say the center allows industry and universities to solve real problems and gives companies a low-risk environment in which to examine new ideas.

"The factory floor today isn't designed for experimentation, it's designed for efficient production. When you're interrupting that with experiments, then you disrupt the intended purpose of the factory," Lohr said. "Having an independent location where you can do research and do it at the same speed as you would at a factory, it takes that risk out of the equation."

Lohr said when you're making really expensive parts, "you don't want to send one to the lab and cut it up after you've invested all the money making it â¿¿ you want to sell it."

Similar public-private collaborations are taking place across the world.

In the U.S., BMW partnered with Clemson University in Greenville, S.C., for research that focuses on automotive technology, Lohr said. And President Barack Obama announced a $30 million federal investment in a manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio that will bring together manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges, and non-profit organizations from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

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