Today I woke up early and had a breakfast of coffee, eggs, bread, and fruit. I don’t know why it took me this long to realize that Germans don’t toast their bread for breakfast like we do. On the long bus ride to Regensburg almost everyone fell asleep, and the quiet ride was a nice way to get energized for the day.
It was nice out when we got to Regensburg, and I liked how colorful the buildings we passed on the walk to the tour guides were.
After we crossed the Danube and went down a few streets, we met Doris, our tour guide for the morning. She told us about the old town hall, and how it was made up of parts from different centuries cobbled together. As we walked throughout the old city, Doris pointed out a lot about the architecture, which I found really interesting because of connections I could make to things I learned in the intro to architecture class I took in the spring. For example, she told us about what appeared to be one 18th century building but was actually two 16th century buildings connected by a façade that covered the 16th century interior. Whoever owned the buildings wanted to make changes them, but didn’t have enough money to completely rebuild the buildings, so they created the façade instead. I recognized the classical architecture made popular by Italian architects like Serlio and Palladio, and the pediment and columns on the façade made it look just like one of Palladio’s villas.
Doris also showed us the “skyscrapers” that were about seven or eight stories tall, and told us they were mostly a way the wealthy boasted about how much money they owned, and I found it ridiculous that they didn’t even have stairs between the floors, instead people had to go through a connected building to go up or down. I did, however, find it interesting that they recreated the vaulted ceilings of a cathedral in their private chapels even though that design wasn’t needed to make the ceiling structurally sound.
Next, we went to the Dom, which was slowly finished over about 300 years, clearly evidenced by the combination of sandstone and limestone construction. Apparently, before the cathedral was built, there was an old Roman church in the same location, and even though city officials wanted to build a cathedral due to the economic success in Regensburg, they waited until it burned down to begin the impressive gothic cathedral. In the crypt there was a map showing the plan of the Roman church versus the current cathedral’s plan, and I noticed that there were no common columns or walls between the two structures. I found this interesting, because when we studied cathedrals in architecture, it was common for there to be overlap between the original and renovated or rebuilt cathedral.
After the tour we went to continental, and started by listening to an introductory presentation. We went to lunch at the company canteen, which is actually owned by Siemens, where I tried the schnitzel and some iced tea (but without any ice), which reminded me of home.
After lunch we listened to another presentation, this time about mobility transformation, and why there needs to be focus on innovation in transportation that will create a new era of driving in which the trip planners go from driver to robot, power transforms from internal combustion engines to electric engines, and the car goes from vehicle to “third room” for pleasure. At this point I was waiting to get an actual technical perspective into what kinds of things Continental actually produces, since both speakers stressed that they don’t just do tires anymore. Luckily next up was a tour of one of their production facilities, where, among many other things, they make pressure sensors that go in the doors and bumpers of cars. For the tour of the actual facility, we had to put on cool electro-static discharge protection lab coats, and grounding shoe covers that went into our socks. We also had to pass a test that made sure we were grounded properly in order to make sure we wouldn’t accidentally damage one of their machines even by just standing too close. The earphones for this tour made me feel a little silly since they stuck in your ears like a stethoscope, but were connected to a radio that hung over your chest from your ears.
Anyways, we followed the process from where basic prefabricated printed circuit boards were delivered to Continental, to the machine where a soldering paste is applied, to a machine that takes various chips and other components and places them in the right holes of the PCB. The tiny components are packaged in long strips of plastic and stored on a reel that feeds into the machine. Then the PCB’s go into a small oven where the solder melts enough for the components to sink into the holes, and are then sent to cool before they are inspected by powerful cameras. This process is so precise that only three in one million PCB’s made actually have something wrong with them!
Throughout the tour we encountered a few robots, about R2-D2’s height, carrying PCB’s and components from one part of the building to another. Our tour guide told us that they’re completely autonomous, and not only avoid running into people or things along their path, but can communicate with all the other robots rolling around if there is a path that is completely blocked. There were also some robot arms picking up and placing sensors in their cases into boxes at a very particular angle. These robots were not working completely on their own, and it was interesting to see how the robots worked together with human workers to be most efficient. I found the processes and machines used to make the sensors more interesting than the sensors themselves, and I wish I could have looked inside the machines and robots to see how they work.
One thing I noticed since we first walked into a Continental building was how consistent and good their branding is. Although we couldn’t take any photos on the site visit, all of the buildings, from the large yellow plant pot in the lobby to the anti-ESD lab coats, to the notepads we were given, the branding made the company appear very put together and cohesive.
After the tour, we went back to Regensburg, and had about an hour before dinner. Some of us went to a café with the German students, where we sat and talked more about our cultural differences. One of the biggest differences we noticed since first arriving in Germany was how much more prevalent smoking cigarettes is here compared to the US. Luca, one of the German students, even brings around all the materials he needs to roll his own cigarettes, while us Americans almost didn’t want to sit outside because of the cigarette smoke.
After our coffees, we went to Weltenburger next to the Dom for dinner. I had a refreshing salad, something light amid all the heavy meat and potatoes common in German dishes. I wasn’t expecting it to come with the wedges of fried swiss cheese, which were pretty good in the jam it came with. I tried to do some blogging on the long bus ride back to Augsburg, and was excited to get in my bed after quite a long, but fun day.
Today I had to include two sign/designs of the day. The one on top says “Freshly baked trout today,” which I saw at a stand along a main street in Regensburg. The sign on the bottom was in the cathedral, asking visitors to be quiet. Similar to the Norma design, I like the simplicity in both of these signs. The large text on the fish sign, needed so potential customers can see the sign from far away, keeps the sign from getting too complex, and is straightforward in what is being offered. The “quiet” sign effectively gets the point across in a way that transcends language, as would be needed in a place often visited by foreigners who all speak different languages.