A Light Material and Day (Day 9)

By: Nicholas Erni May 14

Germany Day 9:

Well today did not start off on a high note. I was actually up until 3:45 am watching my Philadelphia Sixers play the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semifinals game 7. Due to the time difference of 6 hours it was not the best for us in Germany. Reid and Eamonn were up for the first half but I was the last one standing in the lobby alone. The game went down to the wire and Kawahi Leonard hit a buzzer beater to bury us and send us home. So I only needed up getting a short 3 hour “nap”.

The squad left for SGL at 8:15 am. The bus ride was the shortest of the trip for sure, it only lasted about 20 minutes. Upon our arrival we were given an extremely detailed and great presentation by one of the heads of their innovation department. He spoke upon many engineering and business topics. SGL is a primary focused Carbon Fiber producer and supplier, their markets range from automobiles all the way to aerospace. The presenter gave a great description of the intensive process of producing carbon fiber in which I could not really understand due to the heavy focus on chemistry. 

SGL Plant

After the technical stuff, the presenter dove into the business side of the company. He said that SGL is partnered with a large number of car companies ranging from BMW to Lamborghini. When discussing partners and competitors, he mentioned BMW in both catagories to my surprise. BMW and SGL had been partners in the development of Carbon Fiber and and other components over the years, but then BMW dumped its stake in SGL and used the knowledge they gained to try to produce their own carbon fiber. This split was a success for both companies in their own ways. On one hand BMW was able to produce their own carbon fiber, on the other SGL was still able to produce carbon fiber for BMW and didn’t loose much of its market supply to them. 

As the focus on eco friendly technology increases in this time period, cars are going to need lighter materials so they don’t use as much gas or electricity when traveling. This is where SGL and their carbon fiber comes in. As carbon fiber is 25% of the weight of normal steel cars, it is the best alternative to steel and a main part of up and coming “green views” of the world. With this their business is starting to grow as evidenced by the jump in their sales in the automotive industry between 2017 and 2018. 

Maxi and I Dabbing

Although carbon fiber is very light it comes with an extremely high price tag. Sticking with the steel comparison, carbon fiber costs on average 7-9x what steel costs to produce. So in order to get an eco friendly car with the light materials, one will have to make a not so pocket friendly purchase with a high price tag. This can be seen in how the BMW I3 and I8 are completely made out of carbon fiber (which is something I was unaware of before this visit), so their prices are some of BMW’s highest. 

After the presentation we were given a tour of SGL’s facility. Our first stop was the show room. Here they had a number of objects they made out of carbon fiber to see. One of my personal favorites was the Porsche GT3 door. We were allowed to pick it up and feel how heavy it was. In my opinion I would say it was 10 or so pounds, a complete shock to me. The reason for it being so light is it allows the race cars go much faster than compared to other race cars with steel or aluminum. We were also able to feel how great of a conductor carbon fiber was by touching very metal feeling objects in the sun and the shade. The ability to conduct was incredible and showed how the carbon fiber can be used in a wide variety of ways. 

From the show room we went to the actual facilities where the carbon fiber was being produced. This was most definitely a incredible place for any chemist or material engineer to visit. Once again as a business student I didn’t really comprehend what was going on, but I can say I am learning to appreciate the processes on display. To see the polymer strands of some sort of cloth go through machines, heating and cooling, and some other devices to be turned into carbon fiber was a crazy process to witness. It really made me wonder how in the world someone could develop this type of material. We also were able to see how the carbon fiber was woven and meshed together into various comments that would be featured in many different products in the respective markets SGL would sell to. After the tour we had some lunch, not really sure what it was, but ill give it a 5/10. 

After the 20 minute bus ride back to the hotel, my continentnal group and I headed over to Augsburg university to further work on our presentation which is due in 2 days! 

Fields on the way home from SGL

When working on our presentation we already had done our individual research, so putting the presentation together east that hard. Having unlimited time for this presentation made it easier than the first in my opinion, even though the topics were more in depth. 

After our time at the university we came back to the hotel gathered al the boys and went to Sausalitos for Eamonn’s birthday. Sausalitos is a Mexican restaurant here in Augsburg. We weren’t allowed to order food due to the fact the kitchen was so backed up. Therefore I give the restaurant a low rating of 5/10. 

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