Advanced manufacturing in S.C. builds reputation with professor’s rare honor
GREENVILLE — South Carolina is strengthening its advanced manufacturing credentials with the help of a Clemson University professor who has won an award that goes to a chosen few mechanical engineers.
Laine Mears, the BMW SmartState Chair in Automotive Manufacturing, was elected Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The distinction, awarded by the ASME Committee of Past Presidents, puts him in the top 2.9 percent of an organization that has 120,248 members.
Colleagues said that Mears has been key in strengthening Clemson’s ties to industry leaders, including BMW, GE, Honda and numerous automotive suppliers.
Mears has worked closely with companies on research and to develop graduate courses in automotive engineering. He has been recognized for producing students well-prepared for the automotive industry.
One of his latest projects brings together Clemson engineers and Greenville Technical College students to work together on a prototype vehicle assembly line. Next-generation auto workers will be ready for new technology because they are helping develop it, Mears said.
Mears had 10 years industry experience with SKF Bearings and Hitachi Unisia Automotive. While working, he attended Georgia Tech’s distance learning program to get his master’s degree and returned full-time to earn his Ph.D. Both degrees were in mechanical engineering.
In 2006, he became a founding faculty member in Clemson’s automotive engineering graduate program, which is based at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville.
“This is a high honor that goes to a small fraction of ASME members,” said Filipi, who also is an ASME Fellow. “It is a testament to his hard work, innovative approach and collaboration with industry. This is an honor not only for Laine, but for the department, CU-ICAR and the industry collaborators that have supported his efforts.”
Mears was active in establishing eight courses in the program, many in conjunction with personnel from original equipment manufacturers. The courses address core automotive industry needs and have produced automotive integration engineers who have been recognized widely throughout the industry, colleagues said.
His research portfolio accounts for more than $6 million in funding. Mears has worked with more than 25 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers and more than 20 undergraduates.
One of his master’s students, Valerie Pezzullo, claimed a $100,000 first-place prize in 2014 in the MTConnect Challenge 2. The application she entered was a design for an open-architecture platform to detect vibrations in metal-cutting machines so that corrections could be made before parts are damaged.
Mears’ awards include the 2011 SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award, the South Carolina Governor’s Young Researcher Award for Excellence in Scientific Research and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers George Stephenson Gold Medal.
He has generated more than 130 archival journal and reviewed conference publications. Mears also collaborated on the seminal textbook “Electrically Assisted Forming – Modeling and Control.”
Those writing letters to ASME in support of Mears included Ralph L. Resnick, president and executive director of the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining.
He said that Mears’ research portfolio has been more than half industry-funded with many sponsors returning for additional phases based on his past work.
“This continued funding directly demonstrates his power for translational research,” Resnick said. “These are solutions that impact a company’s bottom line, but require the generation of new knowledge in terms of modeling, control and information management.
“Dr. Mears has demonstrated exceptional and unique capabilities in balancing these approaches.”
Mears’ industrial experience includes machine, tooling and control-system design for high-volume component manufacturing. Mears is licensed as a professional engineer.
The citation from ASME to recognize his election as a Fellow states, “Dr. Mears has an outstanding career bridging both industry and academia to support new evolutions in the automotive field. As an engineer and manager, he developed new tools and process approaches for the manufacturing of bearings and driveline parts, but more importantly understood key automotive manufacturing issues.
“In his academic career, he has brought this real-world knowledge to learning as part of a core team that established the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research, and the first graduate program and department in Automotive Engineering. He has contributed through manufacturing research for new lightweight vehicles, and educating future automotive engineers.”
The honor is well-deserved, said Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.
“Dr. Mears is an excellent scholar and educator,” Gramopadhye said. “He has conducted cutting-edge research and created innovative academic programs that directly address industry needs. He has developed exceptional collaborations and is a leader in his field. I congratulate him.”