30Jul 2014

Video Series - Touring Factories in Shenzhen

During the month of July I was visiting Beijing and had an extra 10 days to spare. What to do? Well it took me less than a few minutes to decide to go the wonderful city that is Shenzhen...

Shenzhen Assembly Line

Shenzhen is the geek's paradise and can be described as an awesome concentration of very different companies, all within an hour cab ride from your hotel. If you ever go there, I highly recommend you to have a look at Ian's article to get practical informations. Shenzhen is located in the south of China, right next to the border with Hong Kong. I therefore decided to spend my first day in this former British colony to buy myself a nice camera to bring back cool videos of my adventures.
On my second day, my product assembler was kind enough to organize a visit of the PCB assembly line he always uses. For those unfamiliar with the different steps and machines involved in such a place, I'll have you look at a great article from haxlr8r that does a good job at explaining what it takes to make an assembled board (required to understand the video below).
After wearing the mandatory jacket, hat, shoe protections and making sure that all the PCBs I was going to film were my assembler's I was allowed to enter the assembly line. I was pleasantly surprised to see that all the machines were quite new and very fast. I was told that the work schedule was composed of two 9 hours shifts in order to bring assembly prices down. As you can see in the video embedded below, this company can produce projects in different quantities. In the first part you can discover a (nearly) fully automatized assembly process, typically aimed for 1k+ quantities. In the second part you will see (very) large work spaces for manual labour. Dozens of people would typically sit next to each other to manually assemble small quantity projects but also make the final device testing.

Later that afternoon I decided to show unannounced at Seeedstudio's door. Luckily enough someone I had been working with for quite a while was here to make me tour the two floors the company owns. Seeed Studio was created in 2008 and its Chinese name is “矽递“ (Seeed). Funny thing: these two characters respectively mean “silicon” and “pass/spread”! At its beginning Seeed had only 2 employees, 6 years later they now have about 190 employees in 7 departments. They moved to their current location in 2011 and turned their old office into the “Chaihuo Maker Space”, the first maker space in Shenzhen. I'll let you guys visit their website to discover the different services they offer: PCB production, laser cutting, 3d printing, assembly services... Until recently they were actually using the assembly line shown in the video above. Have a look at the video below to have an inside view of the company!

Our last factory visit is a CNC shop. They are the ones who produced the Mooltipass prototypes cases, some being made of aluminum while others of ABS. I realized they were actually located in Shenzhen a few days before arriving there. For information, I had selected this company for my small production batch simply because their quote was the cheapest. Given that I had been warned by my assembler a few days before that "dirty" companies were deliberately placed outside of Shenzhen center, you can imagine what was my state of mind after a one hour cab drive...
But once again I was pleasantly surprised by being welcomed by friendly faces in a nice work environment... skipping over the fact that the floor was quite wet because of the typhoon approaching weather. As shown in the video below, I was able to film many CNC machines running at the same time to (once again) keep costs down. After this visit they even invited me for lunch!

Stay tuned for more videos and please contact me if you want to embed these ones in your website.... ;-)

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