Brazilian Finale

We have officially ended the tour in Brazil, coming to a close with a press conference. Many journalists showed up to see the car that they had heard about, traveling their country over the past weeks, over a route of about 3,730 miles.

Brazilian Finale

igus Brazil’s country manager, Marcello Pimenta, kicked off the conference with a welcome to the journalists, and an overview of igus history, then masses the microphone over to Marcio Marques, the Brazilian bearing product manager. Marcio presented the journalists with some information about our self-lubricating plastic bearings, and their use in the automotive industry.

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After his presentation, Marcio had the exciting job of introducing the visiting journalists to the star of the show- the iglide car!

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I also took the stage for a few minutes to explain the retrofit process of the car, and the tour so far.

We also used the press conference to turn attention to our charity donation for this leg of the tour, receiving one Euro for each KM driven. For our Brazilian charity, we are working with a children’s hospital organization started by two parents as their child was fighting cancer. After having to travel throughout the entire country to receive various treatments, the parents founded the hospital to centralize all cancer treatments in one place, making expensive travel unnecessary.

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The conference ended with a lively discussion among the journalists and igus representatives, and a chance to look through our famous little car.

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The car left the conference directly for the airport, where the car took off on its way to the Great White North – Alaska!!

We will spend more than two full months from there traveling coast to coast across the United States and Canada.

I will update you from America!!

-Sascha

 

Foz do Iguaçu

From Rio Grande do Sul we took off towards one of the most beautiful places on Earth. About 560 miles separated us from the stunning Foz do Iguaçu waterfalls. Those 560 miles took us just under 17 hours! We left the hotel bright and early at 7AM, and didn’t reach the hotel until midnight!

Foz do Iguaçu

We got off-track a few times, heading in the wrong direction, but also had to face incredibly bad weather, dirt roads, and heavy traffic. At one point, we were stuck for more than an hour without moving an Inch.

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While this was exhausting for us,  it was no sweat for the bearings in the car. They are resistant against dirt and water, and have done us well over the past 17,400 miles! The 560 miles we drove today is no problem at all.

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The road to the waterfalls was very curvy, leading mainly through mountains and forest. While driving on roads like these, some of which were unpaved, it is important to have a good steering system, one that is reliable, and easy to maneuver. Self-lubricating igus bearings are used to improve the performance of thousands of vehicles manufactured each year all over the world. They ensure a smooth turning motion of the car, as well as stand up to continuous impact loads and changing temperatures.

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As soon as we caught our first glimpse of the Foz do Iguaçu waterfalls, we forgot all about the horrendous drive it took to get here. They were absolutely breathtaking – demonstrating just how powerful nature can be, as well as beautiful. It is incredible how much water flows over these falls, about three times as much as Niagra Falls!

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It is impossible to get one shot of the entire falls – they are incredibly massive – about 1.7 miles long, with 275 falls.

These waterfalls have drawing people to the area for centuries. According to legend, A God created these falls when he saw the woman he was about to marry fleeing with her lover in a canoe. The God, in a rage, sliced the Iguaçu river, creating the falls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall. Less dramatically, the falls also stand as a natural boundary line between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.

There are many pedestrian areas that allow you to get surprisingly close to the waterfalls. The National Park that surrounds the falls is also home to a wide variety of animals, including raccoons which were everywhere during our visit!

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We were not able to drive the car into the park, but were invited to jump on any of the public buses running through, many of which are using iglide bearings in their sliding door mechanism!

Nearby this natural wonder, is a wonder of engineering – the Itaipu Dam, located on common ground between Brazil and Paraguay. The dam is the largest hydroelectric facility in terms of energy generation. In fact, the dam produces about 70% of the power consumed by the entire nation of Paraguay!

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The structure is incredibly massive – 643 feet tall and over 25,000 feet long. In 1994, it was names one of the seven modern wonders of the world by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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We are now heading back to São Paulo to end the Brazilian tour. The car will then be shipped off to the United States, where it will begin its travels in Anchorage, Alaska!

Until then,

Sascha

Rio Grande do Sul

We have left the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, and have entered the country’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul, which borders with Argentina in the West, and Uruguay in the South. Rio do Sul is famous for it’s endless sand beaches, only broken up by the estuaries of two large lakes. At the heart of of of the lakefront is the capital city, Porto Alegre.

Rio Grande do Sul

The city was one of several to host the recent World Cup; 5 matches were hosted right here in this stadium:

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According to a study by the U.N., Porto Alegre is the Latin American city with the highest standards of living, which reflects into the city itself. The transportation system is smoothly functioning, including exclusive bus-only lanes on main roads. One of the manufacturers supplying the many busses to the city of Port Alegre is the Brazilian company, MarcoPolo, where we stopped in for a visit.

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MarcoPolo focuses on bus bodies, supplying about half of Brazil’s bus companies. They have been a customer of igus for approximately a year and a half, and are using iglide plastic bearings in the bus door systems. The bearings have worked so well for the busses that the company’s lead engineer is planning to install iglide in other applications. He said he likes the high quality and long lifetime of the iglide bearings. Hear a bit more of his thoughts in this brief interview:

https://youtu.be/0c2c1ZOTGsA

Door hinges are a very popular application for iglide bearings. They are not only maintenance free, but also have a very high compressive strength, are resistant to dirt and dust, and are also very inexpensive.

Rio Grande do Sul

Part of our tour throughout Brazil is visiting local universities, where we can talk with engineering students about our products, and offer them advice on their student applications. igus has a big involvement with students, offering support though the YES Program. YES provides free products and information for students and teachers working on education-centered projects. Learn more about the progam on the YES page, www.igus.com/yes.

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Porto Alegre is about as far South as we will head on the Brazilian tour. We now only have a short stop in Argentina, then we are heading towards the stunning Foz do Iguacu waterfalls! We’ll leave Porto Alegre soon for our final big Brazilian adventure.

I’ll let you know what happens,

Sascha

Finding Germany in Brazil

On our way South to Brazil’s border with Argentina, we stopped into a city about 80 miles South of Curitiba, called Joinville. This city has one of the largest German populations in the country.

Finding Germany in Brazil

Brazilians of German decent are scatted throughout the country, but the overwhelming majority lives South of São Paulo. If you group all the German dialects spoken here, they would make up the second most spoken language, after Portuguese.

The first German settlers arrived in Brazil in the mid 1800’s, as a result of the German Revolution of 1848. Many of them arrived in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, where they founded the cities of Joinville, Pomerode, and Blumenau. Even today, they are keeping their German heritage alive. In Pomerode, German is the first language taught in schools, and German traditions, such as the annual “Pommernfest” have been kept alive and well. The car even got it’s photo taken with Blumenau’s Oktoberfest Princesses!!

Some of the houses are unmistakably German, and date back as far as 1860.

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Besides getting our fill of Germany away from Germany, we stopped and visited customers along our travels South, this time to an agricultural equipment manufacturer. The company takes advantage of igus components in the cabins of their self-propelled sprayer systems.

Agriculture is a big part of Brazil’s economy – they are one of the largest producers of agricultural products in the world. Every year, millions of tons of sugar, coffee, grains, and more are harvested. For this, a wide variety of high performance machines are needed, and igus can stand up to the challenge! They are resistant against high shock and edge loads, rough, dirty environments, and can handle any temperature under the Brazilian sun.

Finding Germany in Brazil

In addition to cabins, igus products can be used in a wide variety of applications in agricultural equipment. Click here to see more examples!

We are currently on our way to Florianopolis, on a route leading us around to the coast.  I’ll continue to keep you up to date on our travels!

-Sascha

 

Santos

While São Paulo is the economic center of Brazil, there is a major logistical problem – There is no direct access to the sea. Because of this, all goods manufactured in São Paulo and the surrounding areas is transported to Santos, the nearest port city.

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Although São Paulo has 40 times the inhabitants of Santos, with respective populations of 20 million and 500,000, Santos is essential for the big city to thrive. Ships are docking every possible minute, making Santos the biggest port in South America. Surrounding the port are dozens of logistics companies, handling large portions of the world’s coffee exports, as well as steel, oil, car, fruit, and cotton. When the massive shipping containers arrive by truck, massive Reach-Stackers get ready to unload them.

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After unloaded by the Reach-Stacker, huge cranes take over, moving the massive containers around as needed. Cranes like these require many different sources of energy, including power, hydraulics, and more. To protect and guide these required cables, many use igus’ line of Energy Chain cable carriers. Very large versions of these Energy Chains are used as an alternative to festoon or bus-bar systems, which could lead to cable damage.

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Santos not only has the most important port in South America, but is also a major tourist destination. As our bearings have no problems with sand or salt water, we decided to take them to the beach!

Near the shore is a hill, which has become a launch-site of sorts for paragliders. Sometimes, the air above is so filled with parachutes it is amazing they don’t collide!

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From the top of the hill, we stopped for a moment to take in the great views of the entire city.

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Just an hour drive from Santos is the small city of Guaruja. Here, you can experience white sand beaches, bars, palm trees, and sunbathers, much like you’d see in a Caribbean resort, not just outside Brazil’s biggest city.  Right now, being winter, it is a lovely calm place, but I can imagine the summer, crowded with beach-goers.

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We are still heading South, traveling alongside the countless Argentineans heading home after the World Cup finals. Even after Germany won, the streets were alive with happiness and excitement from everyone!

https://youtu.be/-rPZMymayyM

I’ll keep you up to date as we head further South!

-Sascha

Traveling through São Paulo

We left sunny Rio, and went back to spend a few more days in São Paulo. We are now beginning our travels South toward the border with Argentina. Between Rio and São Paulo, we stopped overnight in a village called Penedo. Just by chance, the village turned out to be a Finnish Colony, with most buildings looking more Scandinavian than Brazilian.

It turns out that there were enough Germans living there that I was able to get a typical German dinner and beer at a neighborhood restaurant, Casa do Fritz!

After our German meal, we were able to meet up with the iglide car’s Brazilian driving companion – this time, a huge van carrying a mobile exhibition booth! We tested it out at our first customer visit, EATON – and within 5 minutes we had build a beautiful showcase for the wide range of igus parts that we offer.

EATON, which has their South American headquarters located in São Paulo, is a global manufacturer of transmission systems, where they utilize iglide plastic bearings. During our visit, we had the chance to spack with the company’s leading engineer, who has used igus products for nearly a decade. He was particularly pleased with iglide’s high wear-resistance and cost to performance ratio. Check out this interview with him to hear a bit more:

https://youtu.be/PSKJjlM076M

By driving our iglide car around the world, we are not doing anything new, just proving that our plastic bearings are already being driven around the world in all kinds of automotive applications.

Being the economic center of Brazil, many of our customers are in our around São Paulo. Between visits, we took a little time to explore the famous city, starting on Paulista Avenue, where a large number of financial and cultural institutions of Brazil are located. Here, you can see people from all around the world, all working and living together. This is one the the world’s most diverse cities, with large Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Spanish, Arabic, and Lebanese populations – larger than anywhere else in the world, outside the countries themselves. Nearby Paulista Avenue is one of the world’s largest Neo-Gothic style cathedrals.

Traveling through São Paulo

Completed in 1616, the cathedral is the city’s biggest landmark; in fact, every distance that is calculated from São Paulo to another location uses the cathedral as the starting point or end destination.

To get a bird’s eye view of the city, you can climb any one of the countless buildings. The Italy Building offers an observation deck as a free tourist stop.

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If you are looking for a break from the bustling city, however, you can pull into any of the parks and escape into a lush green oasis in a sea of buildings and concrete.

I’ll be sure to let you know what we come across as we continue our travels South!

-Sascha

Rio de Janeiro

As we crossed from the Norther to the Southern Hemisphere, we also changed from summer to winter. Even so, it certainly doesn’t feel like winter here in Rio de Janeiro.

Rio de Janeiro

It’s close to 90º, and despite my SPF 50, my entire face is sunburned. Good thing the iglide bearings in the car can handle this heat better than I can – they’re still working perfectly, which isn’t surprising as they’re used so often in harsher environments than these. One of our bearings, iglide T500, can even work in long-term temperatures nearing 500º! Despite the heat, Rio de Janeiro is completely beautiful.

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One of our first customer visits in Brazil was outside Rio, at a factory that manufactures equipment for Brazil and Latin-America’s biggest TV network. At their factory, they were creating a custom chairs for a TV singing competition that will sound familiar to some of our readers. The chairs use igus’ PRT slewing ring bearings to rotate around smoothly, used by the TV show’s ‘singing coaches.’ The coaches will hear the contestants sing – without being able to see them. If interested in working with that contestant, the coaches will rotate their chair around to face them (sounding like any show we have here in the US??) The PRT slewing rings from igus are used because they are almost completely silent, so they will not compromise the sound quality of the TV program, and they are also maintenance-free, so the coaches can turn to face as many potential rock-stars as they want without worry.

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We also had some time to explore a bit of the city, much of which is located between mountains, including the Pao de Acucar, or Sugarloaf Mountain, which rises 1,300 feet above the harbor below.

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If you aren’t feeling quite ready to climb the mountain, you can take a cable-car ride to the summit, where there is a breathtaking view of the City.

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From the top of Pao de Acucar, you can also get a glimpse of the ultimate symbol of Rio de Janeiro, the statue of Christ the Redeemer, located on the peak of Corcovado Mountain.  The 130 foot statue was built to celebrate 100 years of Brazil’s independence from Portugal, celebrated in 1922.  We visited the statue around sunset. The giant amazing statue, coupled with the sky’s changing colors was a sight I don’t think I will ever forget.

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As a tourist in Rio, there are 2 very obvious passions of the Brazilians. Obviously, with the World Cup happening, the first one is football. I found an amazing place to join in the football obsession, at the FIFA Fan Fest at the Copacabana!

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The Copacabana is one of the world’s most famous beaches, and when Brazil’s football team is playing, the Fan Fest extends across the entire thing.

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At the Fan Fest, you can also experience Brazil’s second most notable passion – Samba. Before and after the matches, and throughout the night in the city, you can hear Samba music everywhere. They even have Samba schools throughout the city!

We also came across a Brazilian favela. These neighborhoods are notorious for crime and corruption – until recently many were governed by gangs and criminals instead of Brazilian government. Over the past few years, gangs are starting to be expelled from the area, and local police stations are being built.

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Despite its problems, Rio is a city with many facets, and surely one of the most beautiful cities worldwide.

Soon, we will leave Rio and head South until we reach the Argentinian border.

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Until then,

Sascha

¡Viva Brasil!

Samba, Caipirinha, and soccer. Many would associate all these words automatically with Brazil. Since arriving, I can to you that while I haven’t seen everyone dancing the Samba or drinking Caipirinha, it IS the World Cup after all, and Brazil is futbol obsessed! Everyone, young and old, men and women, even those not interested in the game, all are all a sudden obsessed. I was able to get the full Brazillian experience, watching a World Cup match at a public viewing in São Paulo.

¡Viva Brasil!

The lighthearted atmosphere turned tense when, during the game, Chile caught up to Brazil, leading to a penalty shootout.

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In the end, everyone was relieved and the party resumed after Brazil finally came out on top!

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While the World Cup will be an important part of our Brazillian tour, I wanted to share another “Cup” with you – one that has been hidden and pushed into the background with futbol-mania. Taking place from the 19-25th of July, right here in Brazil is the RoboCup 2014! igus will be taking part in the tournament, running in Joâo Pessoa, putting our robots up against their toughest competition in a number of disciplines – one being Robot Soccer!

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Students from the University of Bonn, teamed with igus, created a humanoid robot that uses a number of igus plastic components created using a laser-sintering process. The plastic bearings used in the robot allow for smooth motions of the robots joints, as well as reducing the total weight of the robot without compromising any strength – a big advantage over the competition!

I have to keep referring to our little soccer machine as “the robot,” as he doesn’t have a name; but you can help change that! We’re having a naming contest for our competitor, pick a name and enter the contest here: http://goo.gl/mkYJ54 Whatever name both igus Germany and the University of Bonn agree on wins a prize!

I’ll tell you more about our robot over the next few weeks as he competes in his own version of the World Cup.

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As I mentioned, I am in São Paulo  at the moment. The city is the economic capital of Brazil, and with more than 20 million people, the largest metro area in the Southern Hemisphere. Unfortunately, our awesome iglide car is still 400 miles away in Rio de Janeiro! The customs in Rio is more specialized on imported items like cars, and so it should be through much more quickly than if we brought it through the São Paulo airport.

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Over the next week, we’ll be hopping on a plane to Rio, and from there we’ll start the tour – driving South to the Argentinean border.

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I’ll keep you up to date, as always!

-Sascha