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A Photo Tour of the Transparent Factory in Dresden [TOC, Photos done]

851039 Views 116 Replies 69 Participants Last post by  Paximus
I have visited the Phaeton assembly plant in Dresden several times, and thoroughly enjoyed each visit. The building and grounds are beautiful, and the whole process of both making and selling Phaetons is totally different than that for any other car in the world.
I have put together some photos, to provide a bit of a 'tour' for folks who have not yet been to Dresden. I hope you find them informative. If you would like to visit the factory, they are very much 'visitor oriented' - the factory is open about 10 to 12 hours a day for visitors, and there are two possible ways to make a tour:
1) For the general public - anyone who is interested in visiting, kids, adults, whomever: There are both guided and self-guided tours available almost every day. There are interpretive exhibits, partially assembled Phaeton components and cutaway models, and even a 6 axis full motion W12 simulator, complete with a visual system, to allow you to 'test drive' a W12 on the autobahn at any speed up to the full capability of the Phaeton. Allow about 4 hours for the visit.
2) For prospective Phaeton purchasers: Contact the reception desk of the factory ahead of time, and make an appointment. A customer service representative will take you on a tour, and assist you in choosing colours and options for your Phaeton. Either before or after, you can browse through the public tour areas mentioned previously. Allow a full day.
The factory is located right in the heart of downtown Dresden, only about a 15 minute walk from the main square (the Church of Our Lady, or Frauenkirche). It is well served by the city public transit system, which stops right at the door. The same tram lines that transport passengers also bring the various Phaeton components to the factory for assembly.
There are a number of very nice hotels quite close-by to choose from, personally, I prefer the Hilton, because of its delightful location right beside the Frauenkirche. The factory has its own website, GLÄSERNE MANUFAKTUR DRESDEN. Click on the little Union Jack flag in the lower left of the main page if you want to view the site in English. In the meantime - here are some photos that will give you an orientation to the Phaeton build process.
The Factory Itself
The factory is located directly beside the Dresden botanical garden, and VW has taken care to make sure the landscaping compliments the park beside it.

The glass building is especially attractive at dusk.

The factory is located at the intersection of Lennéstrasse and Stübelallee, and there is passenger tram service on both of these streets. If you walk in a north-west direction along Stübelallee for one mile, you will be right in the heart of the old city of Dresden. The name of Stübelallee changes several times as you walk along, but it is obvious that it is the same big, wide promenade.

But, that was not a normal passenger tram...
The tram in the photo above is actually the Volkswagen tram that brings parts from the logistics facility to the Transparent Factory. It looks quite a bit like a normal Dresden tram-car, but if you look at the side of it, you can see that it is a 'freighter', not a passenger tram.

The next two photos give you an idea of the architecture of the building. Yes, it is this clean, every day.

Arrival of the carosserie (body-structure)
The carosserie is built in Zwickau, about 60 miles from Dresden, in the same building as the Bentley Continental GT. It is painted there, and then transported to Dresden. This is more or less what it looks like when it arrives, before Phaeton assembly begins.

The fuselage-stuffing process
Each Phaeton is individually hand built. Sometimes two people work on the car at once, but more often, one person works by him or herself. Because each Phaeton is unique, all the parts and components needed to construct that specific car are picked ahead of time in the logistics center, and loaded onto storage modules. You can see two storage modules, there is one in front and one behind each car. The small square station in the right foreground contains specialized tools that are used to assemble the vehicle at that particular stage of its assembly.

Another view of the work area
The word 'assembly line' really doesn't seem to fit here, but there is a moving line. You can see the two tiny seams in the floor, on either side of the car. The portion of the floor inside those seams moves in a continuous loop throughout the work area. It moves very slowly, about the same speed as a revolving restaurant. You don't really notice the movement when you are inside the factory. The semi-circular arcs in the floor sections allow the entire section to slowly swivel to turn a corner.

Early in the 'stuffing' process.
This is a photo of a Klavierlack Black Phaeton, quite early in the build process. Some components have been installed, but work on the interior trim has not started. The running gear has not yet been installed.

Lifting the Phaeton
At some stages of the build process, it is easier to do the work if the car can be lifted up and moved around as needed. The overhead cranes lift the car up, using the same 4 points that the car normally rests on, and the employee can then move the vehicle around as he or she wants. The working environment in this assembly plant has been very carefully thought out - there is no comparison with other car manufacturing facilities.

Mating the body-structure and the running gear.
Once all the wiring, electronic components, and other necessary parts are installed into the carosserie, it is then time to mate the body-structure with the running gear. The running gear is also assembled by hand, and brought to the main production area by an elevator. Little magnetic sensors beneath the wood floor guide the cart that contains the running gear to the correct position beside the overhead crane.

A different view of this work area:

Aligning the carosserie and the running gear
This is the first stage of the mating process - to make sure everything is correctly lined up.

The carosserie is lowered to a comfortable working height
Note that the little electrically powered cart that was holding the running gear in the photo above has now moved out of the way. These carts are quite sophisticated, and move to the correct locations on their own, once the craftspeople are finished with them and initiate the movement process.

Attaching and connecting different parts
Now you can see the advantage of being able to keep the body-structure well above the floor.

The running gear then moves up, once everything is aligned.
(Bet you thought the car was going to move down, right?)

After the mating process
The Phaeton is starting to look a bit more like a finished car. The next major work will be installing the interior trim.

Moving to the next assembly area
Once the Phaeton is on the overhead crane assembly, it makes sense to leave it there until all the required work on the underside of the car has been completed. Once that is done, it will be placed back onto a workstand at surface level, as shown in the photos of the beginning of the process.

Final Visual Inspection
The interior has been installed, fluids added to the car, and the wheels and tires installed. The Phaeton is now moved into the light tunnel for a very thorough visual inspection. The next process after this will be testing the car, on both dynamometers and on the test-track underneath the factory.

And into the storage tower
Phaetons that are built for customers who plan to pick their car up at the factory are placed into the glass storage tower after they have been built, and the complete pre-delivery inspection process is completed. Phaetons that will be shipped overseas go to a different area, to be wrapped in protective packaging. The little courtyard area in the left foreground is part of the public area of the factory. Directly behind it, you can see the assembly areas.
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Re: A photo tour of the Transparent Factory in Dresden (PanEuropean)

There are some additional photos of the Transparent Factory in these threads (discussions) here on the VW Vortex Phaeton forum:
VW Individual Phaeton Interiors - some photos
front quarter panel and ...
Glass Factory in Dresden invaded by Space Aliens...
and, for those of you who may be new to our forum and are interested in learning more about this wonderful car, Welcome! We are a group of Phaeton owners who use this forum to discuss our common interest. We have put together a 'Table of Contents' that provides links to additional photos and discussion about the Phaeton - to view the table of contents, just click here: Phaeton Forum 'Table of Contents' (FAQ by Category). We welcome new members - the only requirement for membership is an interest in the Phaeton - and we won't send you any junk mail, or give your personal details or email address to anyone else.
Phaeton Forum Moderator

Modified by PanEuropean at 3:43 AM 12-22-2005
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Re: A photo tour of the Transparent Factory in Dresden (PanEuropean)

Absolutely phenomenal post Michael. Thanks for those pictures. I certainly believe we own the best built cars in the world.
VW is doing it right.
Re: A photo tour of the Transparent Factory in Dresden (dcowan699)

Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. Credit for all the photos goes to the VW media department at the Transparent Factory.
For the information of those who plan to visit the Transparent Factory in Dresden, below are the hours of operation, and the contact numbers. The staff at the Transparent Factory welcome visitors 7 days a week, just about every day of the year. Children are welcome without age restrictions, and no advance reservation for the tour is required.
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Re: (dcowan699)

Question for Michael. How many cars do they produce a day in the factory. I read the other day , source I can't recall, that they were making 400 a day. How can that be when they've only sold 2000 a year in the USA and probably less than 10000 in Europe?????
Re: (dcowan699)

I don't think they make 400 a day, in fact, I don't think the Glass Factory even has the capability of making that many vehicles. It's not a mass-production facility, everything is hand-built. I don't know what the actual vehicle production is. I seem to recall (I can't remember exactly where I read it, but I think it was VW literature) that there were about 6,000 Phaetons sold last year.
The car that 'looks like a convertible' is actually a Luna Blue car car with the Klavierlack paint finish. I'm pretty sure that if VW did have a prototype Phaeton convertable, they would not leave it out in a public area - and that little forecourt with the three cars in it is a public area of the Glass Factory.
Re: (PanEuropean)

Thank you for sharing these photos.
Do you know if VW has a short film made on how the Phaeton is built and the factory itself? If they do, I think it would be a great marketing tool. Maybe we could post a link to it on the Vortex website.
If not, then maybe they should consider it making a video. This factory is stunning and really shows off the quality and craftsmanship that goes into every Phaeton.
I believe a factory video explaining how the Phaeton is made could be a key selling tool used to enhance the Phaeton sale.
No wonder VW is looking to build the Bentley's there.
My wife and I are planning to go to Scotland late summer, early fall. Looks like I need to plan a side trip to the factory.
Thank you for posting these incredible photos.

Modified by rmg2 at 3:00 AM 2-18-2005
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Re: (PanEuropean)

Thanks for clearing that up . I knew that 400/day was a ridiculous statement. I read that in one of the popular car mags from last month and couldn't believe it. I hope to go to Germany one day and visit that plant.
Re: (dcowan699)

Great post. Makes me want to detour our next trip to Italy.
Re: A photo tour of the Transparent Factory in Dresden (PanEuropean)

Michael: Thank you for all of the time and obvious care that you have put into this post, it is easily the most impressive post that I have ever seen on the Vortex.
Forget the automobiles, that factory has got to be the most impressive piece of German engineering that I have ever seen. The architect and engineers should be very pround of the final result.
I also think that Volkswagen should be commended for investing what had to be a massive sum of money into the former East Germany.
Thanks again for a great post.
Re: A photo tour of the Transparent Factory in Dresden (cxg231)

Thanks Chris, very kind of you to say that. I had fun putting the post together. There is still quite a big gap in the photo-process, I have not yet found a good picture that shows the car in the final testing area, after the interior (seating, etc.) has been installed, but before it goes into the light tunnel. As I mentioned earlier, all the photos are courtesy of the VW media staff in Dresden, perhaps they thought that a picture of a Phaeton in final test - with zillions of cables connected to it, hoses coming out from it, etc. might give people the wrong impression, as if the car was on life support, perhaps.
Below is a photo that a Customer Manager took of forum member David Duty's car, once it was fully built, but just before it went into the final test and acceptance area.
Almost 100% built, but waiting for final testing and quality control to be conducted
The cable coming out from the back supplies positive DC voltage to the car, to avoid depleting the batteries during the production process. The A4 size paper label behind the passenger door identifies this car as a "VW Individual" special order car.
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Re: A photo tour of the Transparent Factory in Dresden (PanEuropean)

Great post! Thank you for these awesome photos.
As a former car designer from Detroit, I can really appreciate the discipline and passion that went into the development of this vehicle. The procurement scope for this program is simply astonishing!! This glass factory is awe inspiring!
In my opinion. German engineering is all about execution, they have executed extremely well on this manufacturing facility. Hats off to the VW production engineering group!
Just out of my own curiosity, do they have classical music playing in the background on the assembly line?

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Re: A photo tour of the Transparent Factory in Dresden (PanEuropean)

wow, thanks for posting...as usual your posts are well laid out and informative. Makes me lust after a Phaeton again.....
Nice post Michael. the photo tour was great. The factory is beautiful.
Re: (The Ninja)

Wow. Although the Phaeton is beyond my means it's very easy to see why people are drawn to them. The assembly area is cleaner than most hospitals and downright incredible to see. I think by seeing that this is truly a handbuilt car the naysayers will respect the value. Is the A8 built at a similar facility?
Your sales professional has access via an internal VW site to show Phaeton customers a short video about Transparent Factory in Dresden. Great stuff.
After looking at Michael's photos, my only thought was that we all need to install Canadian Maple floors in our garages so the Phaeton feels at home
Re: (PhaetonChix)

Sorry I havent been around much guys, but Michael, that is damn good work, again you never cease to amaze me. makes me want to hop in a plane and fly there to go see it in person...wait, I should be in Greece for my honeymoon this fall....hmmm, possible "business trip" write off, I might have to make this one work!
Thanks Michael.

Re: (PhaetonChix)

Quote, originally posted by PhaetonChix »
...we all need to install Canadian Maple floors in our garages so the Phaeton feels at home...

For sure. It is interesting to note that Canadian Maple was chosen for the solid wood floors of the Glass Factory in part for technical reasons: It is one of very few woods that meet the very strict fire regulations governing use of wood in manufacturing facilities. It's also worth noting that the floors are solid maple, not maple veneer.
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Re: A photo tour of the Transparent Factory in Dresden (PanEuropean)

Thanks for the report - that's one pretty impressive car factory!
Re: A photo tour of the Transparent Factory in Dresden (hiegear2)

Are those Peugeot trains??? I didn't realize they made them.
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