Day 3: ABB’s fab and more

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Our third day in the Czech Republic started in Karlovy Lázně, the biggest music club in central Europe. Enjoying the music and showing off our dancing skills, we experienced the real Czech nightlife in the five story club. After some sleep, we woke up at 07:30 in the morning, packed our bags and left for our breakfast location at the restaurant, which was a ten-minute walk from the hostel. At 09:00 we checked out, filled the mini vans and left the hostel for the excursion of the day.

Our last excursion in Prague was to the semiconductor department of ABB, a power and automation  technologies company. The semiconductor department produces high power semiconductors, like thyristors and diodes, all meant for industrial use. An example of this is the welding diode, of which 50% of the world production is done at this fab. We also found out that the Furnas substation in Foz do Iguaçu, which we visited during the Prosperando Study Tour to Brazil during the summer of 2014, was a customer of the high power semiconductors of ABB.

After a short introduction and a movie on the activities of ABB, we got a tour around the fab. What struck the eye was that a lot of the work is still done by hand. This is due to the fact that at this ABB fab they do not trust to use machines; machines would break down relatively fast, compared to the relatively low production numbers (10,000-15,000 per month). Also, when such machines would break down, ABB would need people from abroad to fix the machines, as the expertise is not present in the Czech Republic. Another striking thing was that the ovens and machines that were used all had names. Next to that, the chips are made on small wafers of around three inches diameter, which they make themselves, and sometimes even do not need to be cut, as the chips might be just as big as the wafers.

After our visit to ABB in Prague, we drove to the city center and tried to find a parking spot. When we finally found two for the mini busses, we had two hours of free time to get some lunch, after which we gathered at the sun-drenched Old Town Square. There we met met Adam, who guided us through the city centre of Prague. He told us a lot about the city, the nazi and communism history, and he also told us a lot of other facts. For example, the Czech Republic has become so atheist that a lot of churches have had a new function. Of the four churches around the square, one is used as a concert hall, another one as an exhibition hall, and a third functions as a bar today. We also saw the filming locations of XXX and the last scene of Casino Royale, as well as the ‘5th most disappointing tourist attraction in the world’, as Adam called it: the astronomical clock of Prague. It was a very nice tour with our guide Adam. He told everything very enthusiastic and full of passion, and as he studied in Edinburgh for six year, his English was very pleasant to listen to.

After the city tour we had some time off again to have dinner and enjoy the last moments in Prague. At 20:20 we left Prague for a two hour drive, including stops at the KFC and McDonalds, to our next destination: Brno! We’ll stay there for around two days, visiting a couple of companies and awaiting some surprises by the organizing committee.

By Mark and Lisa