This morning we took a short tram ride from the Königsplatz to Faurecia for the penultimate company tour of the trip. We began with a tour of the facilities, but first we had to put on thin lab coats, steel toes, and safety glasses. If I had known I would have brought my own, but luckily, they had plenty to fit over glasses.
The first facility we went through was for testing exhaust pipe systems, where they performed various tests to measure how pressure, temperature, and vibration, amount many other factors, affected the structural integrity and performance of the systems.
Next, we saw their sound chamber, where they tested the noise levels of the systems actually installed in vehicles. The room was almost completely covered in foam wedges to reduce external sound, and the adjustable tracks in the floor allowed for testing four-wheel drive vehicles.
In the next room we saw where machinists made custom parts to hold exhaust pipes in the appropriate place for testing. This part of the building was also where exhaust pipes were connected to engines so they could be tested in more realistic conditions, but since they were testing with just the engine, and not the whole car, the technicians had to make elaborate rigs to hold the engine, exhaust system, and any other parts that might be needed to make the tests as realistic as possible.
One thing I had also noticed at all of the previous company visits was how prevalent the 80/20 t-slot aluminum building material is used in industry. We had the material in our shop on my high school robotics team, but we rarely used it, and when we did it was only for prototyping purposes. Seeing it used in real life was unexpected, but it makes sense because it’s a versatile building material for when a construction needs to be adjusted or changed often, and it just didn’t suit our needs for the robots we built. One question, however, that I didn’t think of until after the company tour was why they still had machinists using drill presses with hole saws to make their jigs rather than using CAD and CAM to use CNC machines to make jigs instead. I could understand if the jigs don’t need to be precise, and doing it by hand is more efficient than modeling and digital fabrication, but otherwise it doesn’t make sense.
In the next building we saw more testing rooms, where the exhaust pipes were tested for hours and hours on end. The computers in the hallway that displayed and recorded the data being collected over each test seemed pretty old, and the software looked like the interfaces made in the program Labview, but hopefully the program was more advanced than Labview.
Since the testing that occurred in this building was running the engines while connected to the exhaust pipes, obviously a lot of CO2 is produced in this testing. One question I didn’t get to ask was if there is any pressure by the government or other environmentally-conscious organizations to make testing procedures greener.
Before the company presentation, they provided some tasty pretzels, sliced in half with butter in the middle, a common snack here. I learned quite a lot about the company during the presentation, and it was much, much larger than I expected given I had never heard the name before the Plus3 program. Apparently one in four cars has Faurecia components, but it was hard to tell if the company wanted their brand to be known or not, since they don’t put their name anywhere visible on their products.
The company is having an interesting response to the fact that part of their operation is slowly being made obsolete, as exhaust systems won’t be needed in electric cars, and expanding into cases for batteries is quite a different avenue to follow. Eventually, even if it’s far into the future, they won’t need this kind of testing facility.
At the end of the company information was a kind of unorganized presentation about their internship programs, one directed towards undergrad European students, the other towards any international masters student, neither of which applies to us.
Generally, Faurecia seemed more outdated than the companies we’ve already seen, from their products to their procedures, in terms of digitalization and how much they’re using recent advances in modern technology.
After Faurecia, we had a good lunch at Mensa again, and looked at the university “store,” which was not actually a store, just two small display cases with a few pieces of merchandise you can buy. I think I’ll have to go back one day and get myself a University of Augsburg sweatshirt.
Later in the afternoon we listened to a talk about German politics by Dr. Sebastian Greßler, who used to teach but has been working as the chief of staff for a member of Germany’s Green Party. I thought the talk was interesting because it gave further insight into something I began to learn about in the comparative politics class I took in the fall semester. I didn’t study Germany’s government in great detail, but I remember it being a parliamentary system, and more complicated than our system, especially with regards to the legislature. This talk provided further context for how their system changes the way the recent rise of the far-right affects politics in Germany compared in the US.
Afterwards my presentation group met to prepare for our company tour on Monday, and we decided how we’re going to split up the work.
A few of us had dinner at the döner place again, the sandwiches are just too good. We need to convince the owner to open up a restaurant in Oakland, he’d make some good money.
After some blog writing, it’s time to rest up for a big day in Munich tomorrow!
Sadly, I didn’t see any signs or designs that were quite good enough for this segment today, but I’m sure I’ll see a bunch in Munich tomorrow.