Japan Press Conference and igus Social Responsibility

This morning we officially kicked off the Japanese leg of “iglide on tour!” igus Japan hosted a press conference at the luxurious Palace Hotel Tokyo, and 32 journalists came to get an up close look at our car and hear about our plans for the tour.

Kunihiko Kitagawa,  or Kenny, which is easier for us non-Japanese speakers, is the Country Manager for igus Japan. Kenny gave the journalists an overview of igus history, our line of iglide materials and products, and the plans for the Japanese leg of the tour.

Japan Press Conference and igus Social Responsibility

A highlight of the conference was the speech from a representative of the German Embassy to Japan, Mr. Sickert. He and the embassy helped us with the complicated registration process of the car.

Sickert referred to igus as a highly innovative company that represents the German “Mittlestand” business model. The Mittlestand is comprised of mid-sized companies that are considered to be the economic backbone of the German economy. Mr. Sickert went on, saying that “With its highly specialized products, sales, and production on several continents, and obvious knack for marketing, igus is a prime example of a successful Mittlestand.”

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After Mr. Sickert’s speech, the press had their chance to ask questions, as well as walk around and take a look at a wide range of igus products on display with information about their uses and applications.

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Following the press conference, we left Tokyo for Iseasaki, where we will begin three weeks of driving and customer visits tomorrow. We are going to explore the entire island, planning on completing a full lap along the coast of the island, about 2,800 miles. For each mile, igus will donate one Euro to a Japanese charity that is helping children affected by the 2011 tsunami.

igus has been coupling with a new charity organization in each country along the tour. While in Taiwan, we partnered with two organizations that help developmentally disabled children and their families, especially regarding education.  One of the organizations, Maria Social Welfare Foundation, came to visit at our Taiwanese Press conference.

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In Korea and China, we donated aid in the form of rice, giving 1 kg (2.2 lbs) for every kilometer driven.  The donations from the Korean leg weighed in at almost 4,500 pounds – almost 4 times as heavy as the iglide car!

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Each local igus branch decides how to best give back to their communities. We like to think that igus stands for not only high quality, but social responsibility as well!

I’ll keep you up to date on our Japanese adventures!

-Sascha

Land of the rising sun

We are staying in Tokyo: The most populated metropolis on Earth. About 36 million people live and work here. Try to imagine half the entire British population crammed into a city about 4 times the size of London… that’s about the scale of Tokyo!

(Photo from Amazing Maps)

Although we were able to get the iglide car through customs quickly, getting the proper permits is a long process, so our official Japanese tour isn’t scheduled to begin until May 28. Before we’re allowed to travel throughout the country, we need a crazy amount of documentation – a parking certificate for Tokyo, dozens of documents covering the retrofit and customization of the car, plus a Japanese inspection and exhaust test. I even had to travel to the German embassy to have my identity confirmed for my Japanese driver’s license. After all this is completed, we should be able to get on the road. In the meantime, the car has taken the stage as the star of our booth at an autoshow nearby.

My first impression of Tokyo is how clean and well organized the city is. You won’t find any dirt in Tokyo, at least not in the city center, and the metro stations are so clean you could eat off the ground.  Every train is exactly on time, and stops so precicely that you can stand on an arrow that says “door 5” and every time, door 5 will open directly in front of you. Perhaps in such a crowded city you need that level of organization to ensure everything runs smoothly. Here I can show you an example of how crowded the city is – the picture below is outside the Shibuya station. Every day, thousands and thousands of people cross through this area.

Land of the rising sun

On one hand, Tokyo is very modern, but you can still see the traditional old-world Japan. I had fun visiting one of the super modern areas, the Akihabara district, also know as the “electric city.” Here I found dozens of anime and electronics stores, like the Sega shop I stopped into.

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Only a few blocks away is the old, traditional area of the city, where the streets are very narrow and lined with traditional Japanese houses. At the core of this area of the city is a large temple. Seeing the overlap between old and new is a very interesting part of being in Tokyo. This photo shows the temple with modern cityscape, including the Skytree Tower in the background.

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At 2080 feet tall, the Skytree is the tallest building in Japan, and the second tallest in the world after China’s Shanghai Tower.

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A colleague invited me to participate in the annual Buddhist festival called Sanja Matsuri. The festival features about a hundred ‘mikoshi,’ or portable shrines, in which gods are symbollically placed and paraded about the streets to bring good fortune to the local residents and businesses. I had the honor to carry one of the shrines, which was incredibly heavy!

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It was only later that I learned what a rare chance I was given. A Japanese visitor told me that it is a very great honor for every Japanese person to participate – and he has never had the chance. What an honor, thank you Japan!

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Since I’m still waiting on all the paperwork, I’ll be sure to show you more of this amazing city!

-Sascha

Taiwan to Japan!

The Taiwanese leg of our tour has come to an end. For two weeks, we’ve been exploring the entire island, driving more than 1,670 miles. One thing I will surely remember, apart from the beautiful landscape, is the amount of scooters on the road! They are everywhere, ruling the street. igus can help increase the lifetime of the country’s most popular mode of transportation. AEON, a well-know scooter manufacturer, relied on igus bearings in the front and rear suspension, as well as the throttle valve of their scooters.

Taiwan to Japan!

The smooth movement of the throttle valve is ensured by two iglide bearings. They can not only stand the heat of the engine without a problem, but are also light in weight and low in price, making them a perfect alternative to conventional metal bearings. iglide bearings are not new to the automotive industry; they are being installed into new cars all over the world every day! The iglide on tour car is also relying on two iglide bearings in it’s throttle valve, it’s worked perfectly now for nearly 100,000 miles, driving through heavy tropical rains in Taiwan, incredible heat through the deserts, and cold temperatures in mountain regions.

Driving through Taiwan, we saw countless rice fields. Driving along the Southern coast they begin to appear, and become larger and more abundant as you head inland – some of the fields are so huge you can hardly see where they end.

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We drove to Kaohsiung, a major port city in Southern Taiwan. There, we had a booth set up at a famous boat show being held. As the last day of the show coincided with Mother’s Day, we had a special area where you could write a postcard to your mom, which even the city’s mayor took advantage of!

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We also paid a visit to a local kindergarten on our journey. A teacher reach and heard about the orange car traveling the world, got the children excited, and they all asked for a visit! More than 130 children between the ages of 3 and 6 were there to welcome us, and even performed some songs and dancing, and loaded up the iglide car with balloons to take back to the office!

https://youtu.be/H4A6HwHtDks

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After our travels across Taiwan, it was time to head to Tokyo!! I said my goodbyes to the car as it was loaded up, I would see it after arriving in Japan and having the proper modifications done (for example, Japanese regulations require the headlights must be moved, among other small changes.). Eventually, we received the proper permits, and were free to start exploring beautiful Japan!!

For now, we are mainly in the igus Tokyo office, putting the final preparations into effect for the tour.

I will keep you updated on our travels!

-Sascha

A Rainbow Village, a mountain pass, and a customer visit

It only took a half-hour or so of driving away from our office in Taichung before it felt like we were in the middle of the rainforest – even down to the signs warning us of killer bees!!

A Rainbow Village, a mountain pass, and a customer visit

Just past the outskirts of Taichung, close to one of our customers, we came across the “Rainbow Village.”

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Several years ago, and 87 year old veteran, known now as Rainbow Grandpa, began painting his small, abandoned village. Out of bordom, mixed with the hope of saving his village, he began painting the walls, the doors, and even the ground. After years of work, Rainbow Grandpa’s plan worked, and his little abandoned village came back to life. In cooperation with the city of Taichung, the village was named a tourist attraction, quickly becoming famous.

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From the colorful Rainbow Village, we headed into the center of Taiwan, where huge mountains separate East from West. To pass these mountains, you venture across the famous mountain roads that lead you up nearly 10,500 feet! We started up the road, and what started out as a sunny day quickly changed, facing us with high winds, heavy rain, and fog – very dangerous on a mountain pass. Our iglide bearings in the car were reliable as always. We had replaced two metal rolled bearings with our plastic plain bearings in the belt tensioner of the iglide car. The plastic bearings allowed for smooth operation of the alternator, even in environments like this!

Not surprisingly, these and the 54 other plastic bearings fared the storm just fine, and we were able to safely pass through the mountains.

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A trip up a mountain like this puts a high demand on your car. Everything needs to work well, as a small failure could have tremendous consequences in a situation like this! The belt tensioner where we installed our iglide bearings, is one component to help your car meet your demands. The tensioner provides the right amount of stress to the engine belts through a tensioner pulley. Doing this ensures other components, like the alternator or power steering, operate smoothly.

One of our customers from the area is a belt-tensioner specialist, and utilize igus products in them. The belt is located on a self-made ball bearing. The ball bearing is located on top of iglide J, which connects the bearing to the shaft. The iglide J supports the work of  the belt-tensioner, while rotating and dampening the vibration. Before the customer had used a different plastic bearing before disovering iglide, but made the switch when he found it had a better wear performance at the high-frequency motions required, and also has a lower coefficient of friction.

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I’ll update you again about the tour, we’re heading North now!

-Sascha

Welcome to Taiwan!

The iglide car has arrived in Taiwan!

Our first stop in the country is Taichung City, in the Western part of the country. Taichung is also the home to our Taiwanese office, where the car and I received a warm welcome. It felt good as always to be reunited with the iglide car; after spending so much time together over the past months I’ve grown attached!

The first day in Taiwan, we were stuck waiting for driving permits for the country, but still managed to explore a bit and have some fun – someone managed to get our dry-tech box away from us and add it as a prize in an arcade machine!

After a day of waiting, we received all the proper permits for the car – the tour can officially begin!

Coming to then end of the South Korean tour

Our journey through South Korea has come to an end. The trip was short – but very sweet! We explored the entirety of the country, and visited many of our beloved customers.

Coming to then end of the South Korean tour

Busan was our last stop in South Korea, the country’s second largest city, and one of the busiest seaports worldwide. Busan is also home to one of our customers, UNICK, a automotive parts specialist. The company’s core is their production and distribution of solenoid valves, which are frequently used to control elements in fluids.

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The valves are supposed to shut off, release, distribute, or mix fluids. For a solenoid valve that is located in the gear shift, they rely on an igus piston ring. The self-lubricating ring ensures a smooth linear motion.

Mr. Park, the Head Engineer at UNICK, said he appreciates the high wear resistance, low price, and the fact that the ring is easy to assemble. He also stressed the high reliability, and mentioned that he hasn’t had any problems so far with igus components.

https://youtu.be/eAEyI6gTvnY

As we had time to spend 2 days in Busan, I had the chance to see what the city is all about. I really like that is it located in a mountainous area at the coast. They are many places where you can overlook the city and the sea. I’ve heard, though, that come summer, these views won’t let you see the sand – just people and umbrellas!

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From Busan, we headed back in the direction of Incheon, located close to Seoul where we have our South Korean igus branch. There, I’ll have to leave the car for a few days again before heading off to Taiwan! On the way back to Incheon, we visited a village completely the opposite of thriving Busan. The village is calm and preserved as a traditional Korean one.

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I want to take this moment to say a big THANK YOU! to my Korean colleagues. Thank you for your great hospitality and support; it was an awesome trip!  The next post will be in Taiwan – I’ve heard the country offers incredible natural scenery like high mountains, canyons, and tropical beaches. I’m looking forward to seeing the iglide car there!

See you in Taiwan!

Sascha

Traveling Back South

We’ve already visited the major areas of South Korea, from beautiful coastlines in the East, to the famous mountain range in the North, and we’ve even made it up close to the dangerous North Korean border. Now, we’re across the country, in the South. On our way, we stopped in for a visit at Hanmac Electronics, one of our South Korean customers.

Traveling Back South

Hanmac molds plastic parts for appliances like refrigerators and washing machines. They rely on igus bearings for a plastic component located at the bottom of a washing machine. The plastic plate contains two rollers that rotate throughout the washing process. keeping water in circulation, and avoiding tangled clothes.

Each of the rollers is placed on a shaft embedded in two bearings. Before discovering iglide bearings, Hanmac had tested several other bearings, but all failed as they couldn’t not ensure fast, constant motions, while being water and chemical resistant. They eventually chose iglide H bearings, which are specifically produced for underwater applications. This was able to free Hanmac from further bothersome, expensive tests.

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Mr. Yong Lee, the Chief Engineer at Hanmac, stressed the durability and chemical resistance of iglide H, as well as his support for igus! He says he is a big fan of our 24 hour or today shipping policy!

https://youtu.be/yY9rTLIaKRE

South Korea is a very modern country with a well developed infrastructure. This is not only nice for relaxing drives in our iglide car, but its good for the car, too! I felt it was time to stress the car a bit more, so I decided to take it for a little off-roading. Of course, the iglide bearings are all used to contend with dirt and dust in rough applications, so they are still in tip-top shape!

For the weekend, we’re planning on staying in Busan. Located in the South of Korea, Busan is the second largest metropolis in the country, after Seoul. Moreover, Busan is the world’s busiest cargo seaport. I’m looking forward to exploring soon!

I’ll let you know what happens!

Sascha

Moving North, and The South Korean Press Launch

Classical music, chandeliers, and delicious food… I’m not talking about a romantic 5-star restaurant, but the Press Conference for the iglide tour in South Korea!

Moving North, and The South Korean Press Launch

Ernie Kim, the Country Manager, welcomed journalists, and kicked off the fourth conference for “iglide on tour.”  Only 3 speakers were scheduled; Hyungtea Kim, the iglide bearings Product Manager, followed Ernie, introducing several applications in the iglide car, as well as presenting our igus range of products. Last but not least, I spoke about the retrofitting of the car, and shared my experiences over the past 3 months (three months already?!?). All in all, it was a great press conference, with even more journalists than expected.

We traveled to the traditional port city of Donghea – home to a beautiful white sand beach that stretches for miles, and many small seafood restaurants lined up along the shore. All our bearings are corrosion-resistant and can stand salty sea water, and we had a lovely view of Korea’s famously pretty seashore.

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From Donghea, we headed North along the coast. The landscape gradually changed, getting more and more mountainous. We stopped to take in some of the most beautiful mountain views I have ever seen at the Taebaek mountain range, located inside a National Park. The distinct shape of the mountains, dozens of waterfalls, and diversity of wildlife makes this area a major travel destination from all over Korea. We climbed more than a mile up the Seoraksan Mountain, one of the most famous in Korea.

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Surely, I don’t need to tell you that the Korean penninsula is split in half by the most heavily armed border in the world; North and South Korea are still at “open war” with one another. After the Korean War in the 1950’s, a mile wide strip of land was established as a buffer zone. Also called the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, the buffer was worked out between the Koreas, China, and the United Nations as part of an agreement. We were allowed to enter the DMZ with the iglide car after a lengthy registration process.

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In the photo above, the barbed wire fence is what marks the border between South and North Korea. Being this close to the fence – such a focus of International Relations and politics – has been one of the highlights for me on the trip so far.

We are currently in Seoul, where you do not get the feeling that there is any threat of an attack from the North. Look a little closer, and you can see that the situation really is quite serious. Just look at this rocket launcher, located on a hill above Seoul, likely serving to intercept rockets incoming from the North.

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That’s all from me at the moment, I will be back with more updates soon.

-Sascha

Now in South Korea!

We’ve arrived in South Korea! I’m hoping our tour of the country continues as smoothly as its started off.  It was a new experience to have the iglide car ready for me to jump in and drive as soon as I arrive – No 2 days spent in the customs office, and no struggle for a driving permit. igus Korea set up a shaman ceremony for the car when we first arrived – complete with a pig’s head. That must have worked to protect us against bad luck!

Since we started our tour, we’ve driven more than 6,200 miles across roads, deserts, through mountains and along the ocean shore. Our iglide car is still running perfectly on the 56 plastic bearings we’ve installed – and we’ve got another 1,200 miles planned through Korea over the next few weeks.

Now in South Korea!

We took off from the igus branch in Incheon the day after I had arrived, and we headed off towards Asan.  After being in crowded China, I’d say that Asan, with its 290,000 citizens is a nice little village. We made a stop at one of our customers, Leepack Co. Ltd.

Leepack is the leading Korean manufacturer for intermittent rotary packaging systems. The company’s product portfolio ranges from filling units and vacuum packing systems to rotary fill-and-seal machines. Because their machines are dealing with food, they need products that are corrosion free. igus products have been able to help Leepack in many ways besides corrosion resistance. Mr Lee, the company’s Vice President, had this to say about what he likes about igus products:

https://youtu.be/0SCdkj86oAc

He also talked about how long his company has been relying on igus solutions:

https://youtu.be/OYgl42o6-xA

In Asan, I went out to dinner with some of the Korean igus team, and I had the chance to enjoy a real Korean barbeque. I loved it! Basically, it is a table filled with meats, vegetables, and fish, with a grill in the center to cook whatever you choose. One of my favorite new dishes is kimchi. It’s a traditional Korean side dish of cabbage soaked in brine and spices. You can eat it with everything – personally, I love it on grilled meat!

As for the tour, we will be meeting up with more South Korean customers and exploring the country over the next 3 weeks, I’ll be sure to keep you updated!

Sascha

Re-introducing the ‘iglide on tour’ car!

Hi everyone! We’ve all been enjoying the exciting journey of our iglide car across India, China, and now traveling onto South Korea. We’ve enjoyed seeing exotic landscapes, interesting customers, and the fun incidents that happen with any road trip, but what about our little orange car?

If you haven’t heard, we at igus are celebrating the 30th anniversary of our iglide self-lubricating plastic bearings. Seeing as this anniversary ties in perfectly with igus’ 50th birthday, we decide to celebrate in style. Our ‘iglide on tour’ car was stripped down entirely, then reassembled before hitting the road, specially retrofit with 56 plastic iglide bearing components to be put to the ultimate test – 60,000 miles in 9 months around the globe.

The bearings our team installed into the car are working in applications from the windshield wipers and window regulators, to the throttle valve and gear shift. From now on, we will continue to follow Sascha and the iglide car on their travels, but also explore more about what those 56 iglide bearings are doing, and why they’re a great solution for cars, trucks, and tons of other applications.

Lets’s take a look at the first place we’re using iglide inside:

Before sending an orange customized car on a 60,000 mile world tour, igus replaced 56 of the car’s standard parts with iglide plastic bearings, including one bearing in the throttle valve.

The throttle takes the place of a carburetor on newer vehicles, and works by directly regulating the amount of air able to enter the engine, indirectly controlling the engine’s charge (the combination of fuel and air).

In the throttle valve, a combination aluminum/plastic bearing from an unknown manufacturer was stripped out, and retrofit with a standard iglide X6 bushing. The X6 material is extraordinarily resistant against high temperatures, and has a lifetime 6 times longer than its predecessor, iglide T500, in high temperature applications. The X6 bearing is able to withstand the long-term application temperatures that a bearing would experience inside the throttle valve. The material is resistant to temperatures of up to 482ºF, and short term application temperatures of 599º are possible. Very low temperature applications are also possible with X6, as low as -148º – much lower than any car would typically encounter. The iglide X6 material also has up to 50% better press-fit with higher temperatures, meaning that it is resistant to relaxation up to 329ºF. At this point, the bearing should be axially secured, whereas iglide T500 must be secured at 275ºF. All plastics will relax once they reach a certain temperature, meaning they will shrink down to the size of the space they are pressed into.

The iglide X6 material is also resistant against a number of caustic materials, most importantly the gasoline and diesel fuels that the throttle comes into constant contact with, and it also possesses a very low moisture absorption rate to minimize the risk of the bearing swelling and eliminating necessary clearance. X6, like all iglide materials, has very low wear and friction characteristics, and is self-lubricating and maintenance-free thanks to the materials inclusion of tiny particles of solid lubricant that coat the shaft as friction occurs.

In this particular application, the bearing in the throttle valve moves in an oscillating fashion against the partner pin which is made from steel. The function of the bearing is to provide the rotational movement of the throttle valve mechanism. The iglide X6 material, like all iglide bearing materials, has been extensively tested in a variety of real-life application settings. The results from these tests have been compiled into an extensive database, which was used to create a lifetime prediction calculator for iglide bearings.

Celebrating 30 years of iglide with a tour around the world

To celebrate 30 years of their iglide plastic bearings, igus is sending its little car on a big trip around the world. Last year, 200 million iglide bearings were installed in cars and trucks, and now igus is truly putting them to the test. The iglide car has been retrofit with 56 iglide bearings in areas including the alternator, gear shift, window regulators, convertible top, pedals, and more.

Starting in India, the car will be shipped across oceans, then drive across countries, stopping along the way at igus customers, subsidiaries, partners, and trade shows, connecting igus worldwide. On July 20th, the car will arrive in the US via Anchorage, Alaska, where it will begin its journey from ocean to ocean on a ten-week North American tour before continuing on to Europe. The tour ends in Germany at the Hannover K Trade Fair, where the car will be stripped down to see how the bearings fared their worldwide journey.

For more information, visit www.igus.com/iglideontour.

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