Greenville Technical College has four new, high-tech robots thanks to a collaboration with KUKA Robotics.
KUKA’s industrial robots, which can be found in major manufacturing plants all over the world, are recognizable by their traditional bright-orange exteriors that range in size from slightly bigger than the size of an arm to large, car-wielding machines.
Greenville Tech’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation already had some KUKA robots, but the partnership gives it four new, larger ones to keep during the duration of its partnership with KUKA. In return, KUKA now has a trainer based at the center to teach the company’s clients how to use the robots.
Joseph Gemma, CEO of KUKA Robotics, told a crowd at Greenville Tech in September that the company continues to break its own production record year after year — in 2016, KUKA produced 290,000 robots, which was then a record. Last year the company produced 387,000, Gemma said.
The company doesn’t have an agreement with other colleges like the one it forged with Greenville Tech, and Gemma said they chose Greenville Tech because of its location.
“This region is becoming a hub for manufacturing, and it is expected to continue to grow over the next decade and beyond,” Gemma said.
Some of KUKA’s clients have large plants in the Greenville area, such as BMW, and the partnership will allow a KUKA employee to have a base in which to train clients with the robots.
“Robotics training promises to take on greater importance than ever before. Manufacturers are looking to satisfy increased demand with a little help from robotics and automation technology,” Gemma told the crowd.
Meanwhile, Greenville Tech’s center received $700,000 worth of high-tech robots by relinquishing an office to KUKA’s trainer.
David Clayton, director of CMI, said the college is looking at new ways of partnering with industries to create a model for manufacturing education.
“Our students will have access to these machines, have access to the curriculum; our faculty will be trained to deliver this kind of curriculum here at Greenville Tech for our students,” Clayton said.
Dan Donaldson, automotive plant support technician with KUKA, will work out of CMI to train not only BMW employees, but also their suppliers — such as Magna Drive Automotive and ZF Transmissions.
“BMW just bought close to 3,000 of our robots, but all of their suppliers as well are using us,” Donaldson said. “We have a lot of customers in this area, so that’s why we wanted to do the partnership.”