Day 6: The future of everything (May 12)

Today we took a bus to visit SGL.  SGL is a world leader in the production and application of carbon fiber.  Carbon fiber is lighter, more durable, and stronger than steel, but it is much more expensive.  This is fine when it comes to high quality and luxurious products like sports cars and golf clubs, but it is currently fighting for market share as steel is getting even cheaper.  SGL is a very diversified company in terms of what they produce.  In their showrooms they have sports equipment, car parts, and consumer products all completely made of carbon fiber.  This tells me that they see a future in which carbon fiber will become the new steel and will dominate the material market.  After a short tour of the offices of SGL, we were shown the factory.  In the factory there were very few people, as many jobs have been given to KUKA robots and controlled by engineers.  It was really cool to see how a metal-like material started out as a thin piece of string and is then turned into a material harder than steel.  During the tour, we were told how innovative SGL is and how they are focused on process enhancement in order to bring the price of carbon fiber down.

SGL is a really cool company because they are shedding all excess from their books and focusing on their future more than any other company we have visited so far.  I think that the carbon fiber explosion we will see in the coming years will have a far greater effect on the planet that just better products.  I see carbon fiber as a safeguard for the environment in the scenario that e-mobility doesn’t catch on or takes longer than expected.  This is because carbon fiber is so light that it will likely reduce carbon emissions greatly.  Either way, visits to companies like SGL that aren’t just in business for money are really inspiring as that is what we see almost always in America.

A map of Europe made out of carbon fiber at SGL HQ

After our visit and lunch with SGL, we headed back to the University of Augsburg to meet with a representative from BMW (visit on Monday) to talk about the future of autonomous driving.  I think it was pretty interesting to talk about, but we were unable to get many answers to our questions because BMW obviously doesn’t want to reveal company secrets.  However, the presentation did provide more insight on how the car industry will change over the next years and it outlined a progression in car technology that will lead to completely autonomous vehicles.

Today was another good day in Germany, and I’m really excited for tomorrow.  Tomorrow is the trip to Munich and is the thing I have been looking forward to the most.  I’m really excited to see how a large city like Munich in Germany compares to a city like New York of Philadelphia.  Thanks for reading and expect a good blog entry for tomorrow.

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