Day 9: Car shopping

Today we ventured back into Munich for our final company visit: BMW. After about an hour drive downtown, our bus pulled up to a large, oddly-shaped building that housed the visitors’ center. Different models of BMW, Rolls Royce, and Mini cars were on display, along with interactive exibits and video games. Our tour began shortly after, led by a industrial engineering student that must have been interning there. 

Our tour guide brought us into the first part of the production line, where larger car parts like the sides and hood were made using a gigantic press. We couldn’t see the press up close, so they had a display on the wall that showed us the steps of producing a car hood, which was a lot more complicated than it looked. 

As we moved around in this building, we watched as the skeleton of the car was forged together using Kuka robots. As we moved forward, below us we could see the “marriage” of the car, as our tour guide called it. This is when the body of the car is joined with the exhaust and power systems.

As we moved through the production, we got to see the progression as the Kuka robots quickly added new parts to the cars, and workers intervening occasionally to tighten a bolt or move a small piece. The most interesting part of the tour was the paint line. Car bodies rolled out on a conveyor belt as more Kuka robots strategically sprayed paint on every inch of the metal. For the first layer, the paint-spraying robots also had probes that created an electric field around the nozzle so that the paint would stick to the metal. This was the coolest thing to see because you could actually see the electric field within the paint. By the end of the line, a rainbow of beautiful BMWs rolled off the conveyor belts. 

Nearing the end of the tour, we entered another huge building where the interiors of the cars were added. This work was more human-oriented because of the tight spaces, but robots still did most of the heavy lifting. At this station, the control systems, dashboards, and seating were all added. Finally, the engines were put in and the basic cars were completed. In another part of the building, employees would adjust the suspension of the cars and conduct a variety of different tests. Finally, the car was completed.

After this exhilarating tour, we were free to get lunch and explore the BMW visitors’ center once more. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go to the BMW museum, but we did get to go to Olympia Park, home of Olympic Tower. We all rode the elevator to the top of the tallest building in Munich and enjoyed the phenomenal views of the city. I also discovered there was a restaurant on the lower level that revolved around the axis of the tower. (No one believed me, but it was definitely spinning.) Then we went out and explored Olympia Park, which had a hill you could climb with more great views of the city, and many dogs. I’m glad we got to spend the afternoon outside instead in a museum. After a long day we got back on the bus to Augsburg. Excited for Neuschwanstein Castle tomorrow! 

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