ITESM Spin-Off Helps to Inspire OEMSMon, 09/01/2014 - 14:31
Q: Why was CIMA founded as part of ITESM and what is its function?
A: CIMA was founded in April 2004 out of ITESM’s Toluca campus due to close relations with automotive heavyweights such as GM, Chrysler, Nissan and Ford. The Toluca campus is one of the members of Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education (PACE) University Program, which brings together 56 universities around the world, including 6 in Mexico. Since PACE began in 2000, it has helped bring together universities with companies like GM, Siemens, HP, Autodesk and Oracle. Furthermore, CIMA began just as ITESM launched the first Master’s program in automotive engineering in Mexico. As such, CIMA’s focus was not just to solve industry problems using state of the art equipment and methodologies, but also to create highly trained professionals for the automotive industry. We have a software suite that is tailored to help students and professors run simulations or plan automotive- related activities. Combined with our laboratories and infrastructure, this setup helps us run projects with OEMs and suppliers. Another advantage we have is our proximity to GM’s Technical Engineering Center in Toluca, one of only three in the Americas, which has over 800 engineers in residence, and other engineering centers from companies like Chrysler, Ford, and Nissan that have been established in or near to Toluca.
2007 saw CIMA shift gears. Prior to that, it was widely felt among the international automotive community that Mexico had neither the infrastructure nor the knowledge base to carry out research or engineering. We had to work hard to show companies that these resources did exist in the country. This led to CIMA working on larger projects with OEMs and suppliers. Our new orientation led us to get funding from the government through CONACYT, COMECYT, and the Ministry of Economy. The government has dedicated funds for such projects, making it appealing for companies to work with us, as they know 40-60% of the budget will come from government agencies. This increased level of collaboration has led to CIMA’s budget for projects increasing to US$2-3 million per year. As a result, companies such as Bosch, Chrysler, Ford, GM, and Mastretta, to name a few, have come to us.
Q: Working with companies like GM and Bosch really put CIMA on the map. What helped you secure these projects?
A: It was mainly down to our experience, as CIMA was only a few years old when we won that project. We can count on the accumulated experience of ITESM’s Toluca campus going back to 1982. This has allowed CIMA to be viewed on a broader scale than just being a university- affiliated center. The transition was not easy, and we had to knock on a lot of doors of a lot of big companies to show that we could develop an excellent project. At first, we faced rejection but now companies seek us out and we don’t knock on doors anymore. For example, we have a big project with Macimex in their Tenango plant were we are developing a laser machine for heat treatment of crankshafts, a new development that has attracted OEMs like GM, Ford, and Chrysler. All of them are interested in the way this machine could change how treatments are applied to crankshafts.
Q: What is your approach to staying ahead of the latest technological trends?
A: We are not looking to develop a lot of projects; we focus on specific high-impact projects, sometimes collaborating with other research centers. We have developed testing equipment for GM and Macimex. A major project that we are developing was requested by GM through the PACE network. The Portable Assisted Mobility Device (PAMD) is a very small transportation unit, which folds up nicely and allows people to combine public transport and PAMD to get to work. GM asked us to develop the project, after 56 universities presented alternative designs for PAMD. Another principal focus of CIMA has been our dedicated work on electric vehicles. We do not work on all the parts of the car, but mostly on its structure, its energy control, and energy management. We are currently developing an electric vehicle powered by hydrogen cells, along with IIE, CENIDET, IPICYT and the University of San Luis Potosi. IIE in Cuernavaca is focusing on the hydrogen cells while we are working on the car’s aluminum structure. We are currently broadening the spectrum of our electric car expertise to envelop power systems, manufacturing and mechatronic centers. These are the most important areas for CIMA at the moment.