Greenville Tech's CMI and director play leading role in robotics collaborative

Published on Monday, January 16, 2017

Enlarge photo

David Clayton is Greenville Technical College’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation.

David Clayton is Greenville Technical College’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation.


Enlarge photo

Greenville Technical College’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI).

Greenville Technical College photo

Greenville Technical College’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI).


The Department of Defense announced Friday the formation of the Advanced Robotics Manufacturing Institute, a project bringing together 84 industry partners, 35 universities, and 40 other groups in 31 states.

Goals for this $253 million project aimed at creating 510,000 new manufacturing jobs include increasing worker productivity by 30 percent and making robots more accessible to small and medium-sized businesses. 

Greenville Technical College’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI) and its director, David Clayton, will play an important role in this effort. One of eight Regional Robotics Collaboratives will operate from the CMI. Co-leads for the seven-state Southeastern Collaborative will be David Clayton and Venkat Krovi, the Michelin Endowed Chair in Vehicle Automation at Clemson University.

“As a co-lead of the Southeast Regional Robotics Innovation Collaborative, I am excited to partner with Clemson University, the Department of Defense and the Advanced Robotics Manufacturing Institute to further the research and application of robotics in manufacturing environments,” said Clayton. “This collaboration will position Greenville Technical College students and industry partners at the Center for Manufacturing Innovation as leaders in intelligent manufacturing and automation.“

Plans for the institute, based in Pittsburgh near Carnegie Mellon University, call for a wide range of research driven by industry and defense needs in aerospace, automotive, electronics, and textiles. Researchers involved envision a future in which robots begin to take over lower level tasks, allowing humans to work on tasks and challenges requiring higher-level thinking.

“This effort fits well with our plans for the Center for Manufacturing innovation,” said Keith Miller, president of Greenville Technical College. “We invited Clemson to partner with us at our fifth campus because we wanted to close the gap between the education of the technician and that of the engineer.

“Quite often, the engineer doesn’t have a clear understanding of the manufacturing process, and the technician isn’t well versed in design concepts,” Miller said. “A solution to this gap at CMI is in bringing the education of the technician and that of the engineer together so that by the time they enter the workplace, they have already learned from one another in a project-based environment, and they are ready to team up again on the job.”

Four research projects are already being planned for the CMI-based Regional Robotics Collaborative bringing together students from Greenville Technical College and from Clemson University. One of these projects involves creating a robot with Chicago-area manufacturer, Yaskawa, that can place a 20-pound alternator on a car as it moves along an assembly line, allowing humans to operate the robot, which won’t suffer injuries and fatigue as humans do in performing the alternator placement task. Research for this project will be conducted via a four-station, prototype assembly line at CMI.

Greenville Tech’s CMI opened in fall 2016 with the idea originating with employer needs.

Around 2010, as the economy showed signs of improvement, advanced manufacturing employers voiced concerns about finding an adequate supply of skilled workers in order to take advantage of opportunities. The idea for the CMI grew out of these discussions. Greenville County Council supported the initiative by approving $25 million in bonds to build the campus, and state government provided additional support for equipment.

CMI brings many firsts to advanced manufacturing education. The involvement of Clemson University (CU) as a partner is the first of its kind education model between a technical college and a research university in the U.S. This is not a shared location for separate offerings; instead, educational offerings are integrated.

A Manufacturing Honors College, which will allow GTC and CU students to work together to solve real world manufacturing challenges, is also a first. An additive manufacturing partnership with Renishaw at a technical college is another groundbreaking effort, and the open manufacturing lab for education, training, and industry collaboration is unlike anything else in South Carolina.

This campus is a first for Greenville Technical College with its focus on one sector of the economy and contains the college’s first precision metrology lab.

David Clayton began work as the director of CMI in 2015. The former research director for the South Carolina Department of Commerce brought experience in economic and workforce development along with leadership and manufacturing experience in the U.S. and Europe with companies including Westinghouse Electric, General Electric, and PTV Loxane.

Clayton earned a bachelor’s degree from Clemson University in mechanical engineering and an International MBA from the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business. In addition, he completed MBA coursework at the European School of Management in Paris and coursework in artificial intelligence and economics at the Munich University of Applied Sciences in Germany.



Related Photo Galleries

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Stories

Trending: Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, Obituaries, Chon Restaurant, Allen Bennett Hospital


View All Events