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Innovation on wheels

Over the course of its nationwide tour, the InnoTruck has been showcasing technology and ideas for tomorrow. It stopped for two days at the Freudenberg production site in Weinheim, Germany, to the delight of employees, students and trainees. The youngsters reveal what fascinated them most.

Whether the target is sustainability and energy, healthy living or intelligent mobility, German companies are investing heavily in promising innovations. To ensure that this trend continues, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research has sent an “innovation ambassador” out onto the street. The InnoTruck primarily visits schools and showcases around 80 exhibits from the most innovative players in the fields of research, education and development. Freudenberg is also represented. The Safety Separator for lithium-ion batteries from Freudenberg Performance Materials consists of an ultra-thin, ceramic-impregnated nonwoven. It is flexible and extremely heat-resistant, making it one of the country’s selected top innovations.
Around 800 people visited the InnoTruck, which stopped at Freudenberg on November 19 and 20. They were impressed by the innovation strength of the individual exhibits and their interactive presentation. Many of the exhibits could not only be viewed, but also touched and tried out and via touch screens visitors could learn more about the respective projects. Some exhibits were equipped with tablets to be be used to scan a QR code that led visitors to further information, augmented reality graphics and videos.

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Florentine, age 11

There was one thing that particularly impressed 11-year-old Florentine. “It was the first time I’d had a tablet in my hand”, she explained. “Things at home are not that technical. But it’s fun and I’m happy to have tried it out. Because when I grow up and have a pediatric practice with my best friend, we will definitely need tablets.”

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Greta, age 10

Her friend Greta was similarly impressed. “For example, the car here”, said the 10-year-old. “You can tell from the shape that it’s a car of the future.” Is she particularly interested in cars? “No, I want to become a veterinarian”, she explained. That’s why she was especially interested in the 3D print of a human heart on display. “I find that exciting, because then the doctor can look at the heart even before the operation and see what’s wrong.”

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Niko, age 10

Nico also found it impressive to see things in a different light. The 10-year-old mainly looked around the upper floor of the InnoTruck, where a virtual reality station had been set up. “So far I’ve only been able to watch YouTube videos”, he explained. “It’s super cool being able to put on glasses here and fly around in a computer world.” But for him, the robot in the basement was the star of the show.

"It's really cool to put on VR glasses here and fly in a computer world."

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Urs, age 12

Urs also took a close look at the robot. The two-arm robot YuMi can independently assemble small parts with its arms and work together with a human colleague on the same assembly element. “With the right programming, robots can be used anywhere”, the 12-year-old explained. “In combination with artificial intelligence, they can even learn on their own. I know that from my father. He does something to do with that.”

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Johanna, age 12

The endless possibilities of robots and their programming fascinated Johanna too. “You could work from home on an assembly line and the robots do the work – unbelievable,” said the 12-year-old, who is already dreaming of a mechanized school. “It would be great if we had digital boards. We already have iPads. But a virtual classroom using VR glasses would of course be much better”.

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Paul, age 12

Paul had some good ideas about what can be achieved with VR glasses. “For example, if you want to relax, you could go on holiday virtually with your glasses”, he speculated. “But this is especially practical in the working world. For example, an architect could build a virtual house and see in advance whether his idea works.” The fact that he was able to try out the glasses in the truck impressed the student. “I think it’s great that we’re here on the Freudenberg site and experiencing cool things. I wish we could do this more often.”

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Teresa, age 19

Teresa shared his opinion. The 19-year-old is training as a mechatronics engineer at Freudenberg and is already familiar with a few products of the truck: “Last week, we actually applied new measurement techniques with our tablets, just as they are exhibited here in the truck. So what you can see here really has the potential to become the standard at some point.” She felt this was particularly true in the area of medical technology.

“I find it super exciting that a 3D-printed heart is on display here. I think in future digital solutions will need to be used in the medical field especially.”

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Nick, age 18

“It’s fascinating what’s been going on over the last few years”, said Nick. The 18-year-old is doing an apprenticeship at Thyssen but uses the Freudenberg training workshop with the other apprentices. “It’s great how many companies are investing money in innovation and are willing to show it off. I already know the truck from a trade fair and am looking forward to seeing the exhibits again here at Freudenberg.”

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Jasmin, age 20

Exhibits that may one day be the future. That’s how Jasmin saw the event: “We’re all still quite young and I think it’s great to see new technologies here that we might have to deal with one day in our working lives. Who knows where everything is going, but being able to get an impression here of what’s possible is fun and fascinates me.”

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Philipp, age 21 

“Our training is already very innovative”, added Philipp. The 21-year-old is training at Freudenberg as an electronics technician for industrial engineering and has already used VR glasses in the course of his work. “We used a welding simulator in the training workshop with the help of virtual reality. We use VR glasses to look at QR codes, which then digitally simulate a weld seam. This makes the work much easier.” Getting to know these possibilities and many more in the truck is particularly important for the trainees, Philipp believes:

“Once you’ve seen this technology, you’re much more open about it. That’s why I think it’s really good that we get the opportunity here at Freudenberg to familiarize ourselves with new technologies and use them right away in our training.”

The Sites of Freudenberg Performance Materials