Day 9: Carbon and Chemistry

We had our last company visit today, and we had some free time in the afternoon to work on our final presentations. The last company was SGL, who produces carbon fiber materials. It was a rough morning for me, as I woke up later than I had planned to and then did not have time to eat breakfast. The bus ride to SGL was short, so we arrived at SGL before 9am.

My first impression of SGL was similar to my first impression of Audi, as both companies have flags outside and beautiful glass buildings, although Audi’s site is definitely grander and more impressive. Right when we walked in, there were many carbon fiber products on display in the lobby. I liked being able to see products made from SGL’s carbon fiber, and we were able to spend some time in the lobby before our visit officially began.

SGL’s Carbon Fiber Products

First, we were given a presentation by Dr. Tilo Hauke, a former University of Pittsburgh Katz business student. The presentation was very well-done, and I especially enjoyed it because I understood everything for once. There was a lot of information about the chemistry behind carbon and graphite, and the process of making the carbon fibers was covered well. We learned about synthetic graphite, expanded natural graphite, and carbon fiber. Graphite is light weight, stiffer and stronger than steel, and environmentally safe. It can be applied in many different industries. Carbon fibers are a strong and stiff material that is also light weight, and they perform excellently but are expensive materials. There are many efforts to try and bring the cost of carbon fibers down. SGL is currently working on many innovations, including 3D printing and fuel cell materials, which is important because they also need to adapt to the changing automotive industry. I never knew that there were so many different forms of carbon or that there was so much that could be done with carbon!

After the presentation, we went on the tour, which was really interesting, although I was expecting to see more carbon fiber production rather than testing of the products. We did get to see long lines of carbon fiber, and we got to feel how sturdy the products made of carbon fiber are. The machinery used to produce carbon fiber was large and extensive, which is mainly why carbon fiber is so expensive. It takes a lot work to produce a little bit of material. We also got to see various carbon fiber products and our tour guide explained how they test these products. Although the site is not mainly production as I was expecting, I realized that all parts of the production process are necessary in a company, including component testing, which was the focus of this SGL site.

Lunch was provided by SGL, and it was an interesting but good meal. There was rice and vegetables, meat wrapped in cabbage, and a parfait dessert. I am not sure what exactly the dessert was, but we decided that it was best to mix it before eating it. I felt very professional sitting in a big conference room with glass windows all around. As we ate lunch, we all just talked, and I appreciated the time to relax and enjoy the meal. It was a nice way to wrap up the company visits!

My Lunch at SGL

My group met up at the hotel about an hour after we got back from SGL to work on our presentation. After lots of wifi trouble, we worked for four straight hours and were all exhausted afterwards. We had to do a lot of research and find information online, but I think that our presentation is coming together well. Our group gets along well, and it is a lot of fun working with Noemi, Laura, and Alicia! Tomorrow, we are going to meet again to finalize the presentation.

For dinner, the boys went to a Mexican restaurant to celebrate Eamonn’s birthday, so the girls went to a different Mexican restaurant called Enchilada’s to avoid a group of 20+ people eating at one place. I was curious to taste Mexican food in Germany because I was not sure if it would be different from what we are used to in America. I ordered chicken tacos, and though the food was great, something about it was different. I think I prefer Mexican food back home, but it makes sense because I do not think that Mexican food is very prominent in Germany.

Tacos at Enchilada’s

Tomorrow we are going to Ulm to climb the 768 steps of the church tower!

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