There’s a growing roar of excitement on the campus of
Now anchored by two major gifts from longtime Clemson supporters Sonoco Products Co. and Harris A. Smith, the institute will be one of Clemson’s Crown Jewels and be unequalled anywhere in
“The new focus on Packaging Design and Graphics, when combined with Clemson’s existing core competencies, will provide the opportunity for the Sonoco Institute to provide global leadership in packaging and graphics innovation,” says Robert Kimmel, who earlier this year was named Packaging Science Department Chair in addition to remaining the director of Clemson’s Center for Flexible Packaging.
The institute will encompass a two-building complex. Ground-breaking for Phase I will take place in November and occupancy will occur in December 2008. The second building is currently being planned in terms of its size, design, funding and delivery.
According to Kimmel, the 30,000 sq-ft Phase I institute building (see illustration) will house three main laboratories: a state-of-the art computer-aided design lab; a package prototyping laboratory capable of using paperboard, corrugated board, plastics and other materials; and a printing laboratory that will house a wide variety of small-scale printing equipment.
Says Kimmel, “These laboratories will strengthen Clemson’s abilities for both teaching and research in areas such as: new printing technologies; RFID; sustainable packaging through source reduction; new materials from renewable sources and innovative biodegradable materials; innovative combinations of existing materials; and others.”
Kimmel emphasizes that although the expansion may allow small increases in undergraduate enrollment, the primary goal of the Institute will permit undergraduates a richer, more comprehensive experience, including training in package design and prototyping.
Adds Sam Ingram, chair of the Graphic Communications Dept., “the Institute will permit the university to address more formally the initiatives from its industry partners and enhance the student experience. We can offer a unique program that will take them far into their careers. There is nothing but a brighter future and opportunity for our graduates as we move forward. We have a lot of enthusiasm as we embark on this new journey of collaboration that is not typically found at a university, at least in a formal sense.”
Over the summer, we caught up with some of the key university personnel involved in this major expansion. These included Chip Tonkin, who already had a close association personally and professionally with the university when he was named as the Sonoco Institute’s first director in July.
“I can’t hide the fact that I’m a Clemson Tiger fan, and I’m absolutely ecstatic about rejoining Clemson,” he tells Packaging World.
First Goal: Leverage packaging and graphics synergies
The initial, short-term goal of the Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics is to take advantage of the synergies between those two departments, he says. “They’re in different colleges, and have not done nearly as much together as they could have. With a joint appointment, I’m part of both departments. My first goal is to facilitate more joint projects because the packaging and the printing side fit together so well. Both departments will benefit from this.”
Second Goal: Inter-departmental and industry familiarization
“A second goal as institute director is to become very familiar with what kind of research is going on in other parts of the campus,” says
Third Goal: Tie those two goals together.
“Our overall goal is to tie together industry’s current needs and what it wants in the future with what we can provide as an academic institution,” he says.
In addition to bringing exciting new initiatives and research under roof, he says the institute will boost current research efforts.
One of those is in printed electronics, a segment with tremendous potential that
“This really builds on strengths that we have in graphics and in packaging and elsewhere here at Clemson,”
The institute sparks further opportunities, according to
For example, Clemson researchers are looking at the ability of planted tobacco to produce polymers instead of tobacco for traditional uses. Another potential research project is designing and optimizing the harvest, processing, and packaging of certain types of fruit products to insure that the nutraceutical value is maintained.
Clemson looks to strengthen industry ties that it has benefited from over the years, but it is also looking for increased interaction with consumer packaged goods companies, according to
Change is also ahead for some of Clemson’s current facilities. Phase II of the institute building will house both of the departments including all offices, laboratories, classrooms, as well as the industrial testing and training operations.
Thanks to the generosity of its benefactors, the Sonoco Institute will be a crowning achievement for the future of the packaging and graphics programs at
To hear more, listen to the accompanying audio interview with Clemson's Chip Tonkin, Podcast: Clemson University's Sonoco Institute.