S.C. lab offers testing for auto suppliers

Components-Lab24 Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research’s Component Testing Laboratory opened Tuesday. (Photo/Liz Segrist)

By Liz Segrist
Published Sept. 11, 2012

In an effort to shorten the automotive supply chain, tier-one and tier-two automotive suppliers can now test interior components at Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research’s newest lab in Greenville.

Companies can test components at the new Component Testing Laboratory rather than sending them to their own facilities, which are often overseas.

The lab’s first component testing chamber includes a vibration chamber featuring temperature and humidity control, and a shaker system that can accommodate vertical and lateral vibration testing. (Photo/Liz Segrist)

Draexlmaier Automotive in Duncan and Faurecia in Fountain Inn will be the first suppliers to use the lab. Suppliers can bring their interior components to the facility to undergo solar simulation, environmental and climate testing, and shaking and vibration testing.

“A lot of these tests used to be done in Germany and now we have the flexibility to perform them here, shortening our supply chain,” said Chip Vogel III, Draexlmaier’s North American procurement director.

BMW, Clemson University and CU-ICAR began collaborating on the lab about a year and a half ago. The Clemson University Research Foundation invested $2 million in the lab and its equipment.

“The vision was really to add value and assist the tier-one and tier-two type suppliers in the BMW supply chain,” said Lab Manager Rob McDaris, noting testing could eventually expand to other automotive companies or aerospace suppliers. “We want to be experts in the BMW test specifications first and eventually evolve in test specifications for other companies.”

Lab Manager Rob McDaris
Clemson President James F. Barker

This is the only components testing lab accredited by the BMW Manufacturing Co. outside of its BMW facilities in the U.S.

Clemson President James F. Barker and BMW Manufacturing Co. President Josef Kerscher spoke to university and industry officials during the opening Tuesday in the Center for Emerging Technologies building, which houses the lab, on CU-ICAR’s campus.

“It’s an advantage for our suppliers and it’s up to them to use this advantage,” Kerscher said. “I think as the supplier business becomes more advanced, we need these facilities more.”

The roughly 7,500-square-foot Component Testing Laboratory will allow local companies to be more competitive and add value to their products, officials said.

Draexlmaier was consulted throughout the process on their testing needs. The components supplier will begin testing at CU-ICAR next month, Draexlmaier President and CFO Stefan Bude said.

The lab’s first chamber includes a vibration chamber featuring temperature and humidity control, and a shaker system that can accommodate vertical and lateral vibration testing.

The second chamber features a walk-in solar chamber for OEM climate solar simulation tests.

“The Component Testing Laboratory is a response to the industry’s need for local testing of interior components,” Barker said. “We listen to industry, and we respond.”

Testing times vary. The solar test takes up to 18 days, while other tests take up to 12 hours or several days.

The Center for Emerging Technologies, which opened in May, houses emerging or established companies that can expand or develop technologies that complement Clemson faculty and student research. The center aims to move technology from the lab to the consumer end-user.

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