Finally, the day for my company tour! I had a few questions prepped and written down on my new Continental notepad, some coffee and a croissant, and I was ready to go. Luckily the bus ride wasn’t too long, and when we arrived we were able to look around the show room before the official visit started. We got to see some cool components made using carbon fiber composites plus objects made out of SGL graphite.
First was a talk by Dr. Tilo Hauke, who gave a good overview to what SGL does. He probably had the most thorough presentation of the company tours, and was able to answer our questions really well, whether business or technical.
After the long Q&A section, which will very useful for our presentation, we began our tour, where we first saw where and how they actually produced carbon fiber from polymers at the Lightweight and Application Center. Machines basically cook the white polymers into the black carbon fiber, obviously with lots of complex steps along the way. Since the whole mini production line is basically parallel, continuous lines of the fiber being made, if one section gets backed up, the entire line could be affected, but it seems like they maintain the machinery well enough to prevent such an event.
Next, we went to the Fiber Placement Center, where we saw some really really cool machines that are meant to optimize the amount of carbon fiber needed when making products out of the material since it’s so expensive. The Fiberforge Relay 2000 uses vacuum suction and ultrasonic spot welding, and the Compositence Robomag uses a robot arm to place pieces in 2.5 dimensions. Here are some images from SGL’s Fiber Placement Center website, since we weren’t allowed to take pictures on the tour.
Then we went to the Application Center where they test and research methods to turn sheets into components. The giant radial braiding machine looked very impressive, as it allows for components to be woven directly into the final shape, and I wish we could’ve seen even one of the machines in action. After that, we went to another part of the application center where they test ways to essentially make stock material out of carbon fiber, like flat strap or square and round tubing. It was cool because I hadn’t thought about whether it would be more expensive to make stock to be machined versus developing whole new methods to make custom parts. I guess it depends on the range and quantity of components being produced.
Next, we went back to the showroom, where our tour guide went over some of the parts on display. There were some renovations going on in the showroom, so we couldn’t get close to all the things on display, making this part of the tour pretty quick.
After waiting quite a while for the other half of the group to finish their tour, we were finally allowed to serve ourselves lunch. I’m not sure if the sausage wrapped in a cabbage leaf is a traditional German dish, because I had never heard or seen anything like this, but it tasted pretty good. The roasted veggies were nice, and so was the dessert of yogurt with berries.
I really liked the large presentation room we were in, because it was so open, and had lots of natural light. This time I had the privilege of giving one of our guides a gift, a print of a piece by one of the most famous artists from Pittsburgh, Andy Warhol–I made sure not to begin with “It’s a soup can.” On the bus ride back, we all sang happy birthday to Eamonn, but we had to pause the celebration back in Augsburg so we could work on our presentation for Wednesday.
After a quick break at the hotel Ravi, Eamonn, Esme, and I took the tram to the university where our German groupmates were waiting for us. After I dealt with some wifi issues, we split up and organized the information we got from the tour, and began formatting our slides.
After some hard work, we went back at the hotel and split up for dinner. The guys took Eamonn out to a restaurant for his birthday, and the girls went to Enchiladas for a ladies night. I was honestly kind of surprised at the quality of the tacos at this restaurant in Germany, since I have had some below average taco experiences in Pittsburgh.
Today’s sign of the day is a little sticker indicating that dogs, or at least dachshunds, are not allowed in a bakery in the Königsplatz. I thought it was kind of funny that the sticker depicted a specific dog breed, rather than just a generic dog.