The Joys Of Shipping From China

Trucks A few months ago, news of a new PCB fab service headed up by [Ian] over at Dangerous Prototypes leaked onto the Internet. It’s extremely cheap – $14 USD for a 5cm square board with free worldwide shipping. [Ian] admits the boards aren’t the greatest quality, that’s not the point; the site’s motto is simply, ‘No bull, just crappy PCBs.’

What began as an internal website to handle all of DP’s PCB orders was now on the Internet, and orders were flying in. At first, shipping a few dozen PCBs around the globe every week was easy, but since Dirty PCBs hit the big time, customers rightfully or not, started freaking out because of the oddities of Chinese shipping and logistics companies.

[Ian] is using Espeed Post for all their shipping, and if you’ve ever ordered anything from China off of Ebay, it’s possible you’ve had something shipped through Espeed before. Because of the oddities of shipping, and the fact that Shenzhen and Hong Kong are right next to each other, even the people at Dangerous Prototypes don’t know which countries your PCBs will go through on the trip from the fab house to your front door. This has caused much consternation with DirtyPCB customers that don’t seem to realize they’re getting custom PCBs for under two dollars a board, shipped to them across the world in a week for free. Some people’s children, huh?

Things get significantly, ahem, dirtier, when Chinese holidays are taken into account. China has a lot of them, and they’re long. They’re just wrapping up the National Day holiday, 10 days in the first week of October. Everyone is backlogged, and the China/Hong Kong border is the mess of trucks seen above.

If a holiday isn’t bad enough, the new President of China is cracking down on corruption. 500 officials were fired at the largest land border with Hong Kong, due in no small part to vans full of meth and tons of counterfeit currency. Every package leaving China is inspected individually, and shipping times have exploded.

To deal with this, Dangerous Prototypes has posted a big red warning on the dirtypcb site, but experience in dealing with people on the Internet tells them this won’t be a viable solution. They’re now dealing directly with DHL, and are apparently getting priority clearance through customs. It’s not fun, as DP will now have to figure out how to work with DHL’s API. It’s a lot of work and a lot of trouble, but DP still has a few tricks up their sleeve – they’re working on an online schematic entry and PCB layout site and the extremely interesting DirtyCables – custom cables shipped to your door.

Hacking Manufacturing: Ordering a Custom Heatsink from China

a black aluminum heatsink with fins on a green matt

Building a one-off hack is fun. But what happens when people like your hack so much they want to buy it? As many of us have discovered, going from prototype to product can be a frustrating, tedious, and often expensive process. [Nick] at Arachnid labs has documented the process of manufacturing a custom heatsink in China.

While designing the Re:Load Pro, [Nick] discovered that there were no enclosures with integrated heatsinks which suited his application. Rather than design an entire case from scratch, [Nick] used an aluminum extrusion. This is a common technique in the electronics world, and literally thousands of extrusion profiles are available. The problem was the heatsink. Only a custom part would fit the bill, so [Nick] created a CAD drawing detailing his design. Much like the case, the heatsink was an aluminum extrusion. The custom nature of the heatsink meant that [Nick] would need to pay mold/tooling costs as well as satisfy minimum orders.

[Read more...]

Hackaday’s Guide to Shanghai

We happened to be in Shanghai for Electronica trade fair this year and had a great time exploring heavy industrial gear and fantasizing about all the things we could do with it. However, we simply couldn’t ignore the fact that there was a whole city out there that we’re completely missing out on. So after less than a day of being surrounded by businesspeople and Miss Universe-dressed promoters, we decided to pack our bags and hit the streets.

The question was, where should we go? Finding interesting things in a city that keeps shapeshifting (the whole Shanghai skyline did not exist 20 years ago) can be a challenge. Fortunately, our friend [David Li] gave us a list:

  1. Xin Che Jian
  2. Jiu Xing market
  3. Beijing Lu electronic market
  4. Qiujiang Lu CNC/lasercut market
  5. DFRobot.com

…and off we were.

 

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The Gathering: Shanghai’s Hackaday Community

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 12.33.00 AMIt happened! The Gathering crossed the Pacific and landed in Shanghai on Thursday, March 20th. It took place at the venue ironically called ‘Abbey Road’ (it’s the only one we could find on such a short notice) and more than 150 people showed up. The whole scene had a huge Chatsubo feel too it – an eclectic mix of local and expat hackers and engineers, professors, students and all sorts of industry mercenaries from around the world. And everyone with skull-and-wrenches t-shirt or a sticker on.

I can only imagine what Chinese police would think if they happened to drop by. Not to mention if they asked how in the world did all these ‘anarchist’ t-shirts enter the country.

But that’s another story…

We met a lot of exciting people and heard all sorts of weird tales, such as the (off-the-record) one about the real reasons behind certain well-known laptop manufacturer’s batteries bursting into flames. We also got a lot of great advice on smuggling electronic components out of China and other everyday tips & tricks.

d8d27574b02a11e38f1d121190b145cb_8My favorite conversation was with [Alexander Klink] on his research in Denial of Service attacks using algorithmic complexity of collision resolution in (a priori known) hash functions. Though the original paper is more than two years old, its takeaways can still have a huge impact on all sorts of software and hardware devices out there.

The general theme of the night was how exciting it is to live in a place like Shanghai, where rapid urban growth and access to manufacturing resources meets a blossoming technology and art scene. It is even more so thanks to places like Xin Che Jian, which make being a “hacker” a socially acceptable thing on the other side of the Great Firewall.

That said, reading all of Hackaday content still requires a proxy.

Touring Component Markets in Shenzhen

touring-component-markets-in-shenzhen

[Al] recently returned from a trip to China. While there he toured some of the component markets in Shenzhen, the electronics assembly epicenter of the world. While he doesn’t focus too closely on what is actually being sold there, we found his description of the markets themselves and other notable attractions around the area quite interesting.

Shenzhen is different from some of the other component wonderlands we’ve heard about ([Ian Lesnet's] tour of Akihabara in Japan comes to mind). First of all it may be a bit more difficult to get there. US Citizens need a Visa to enter China, and must fly to Hong Kong and take a ferry to the mainland. [Al] reports that the traffic is horrendous and rush-hour can turn a ten mile ride that usually takes ninety minutes into a three hour tour… a three hour tour!

The side affect of the market being out of the way is that the prices aren’t as inflated as they may be in more geek-tourist-friendly locations. That being said it also sounds like the vendors are interested in selling you a few thousand units rather than a single component. Follow the link at the top for the market tour, a stop at Seeed Studios (who will apparently sell you a map of the best markets to visit), and the rest of the attractions that [Al] encountered.

Remote control car that packs its own Beretta

remote-control-car-packs-a-beretta

We’ve never really thought to ourselves “This RC car is fun, but it really needs more handguns”. And if we did, it certainly would not be a built to undertake with students. But to each his own. [Jerod Michel] is a mathematician working in China. He recently built the project seen above with a group of students. Look closely and you’ll notice that the remote control car includes a remote control Beretta strapped to the side.

He doesn’t have a blog post about the project, but you can find a couple of images and his build instructions after the break. The firearm has a motor attached to the trigger that allows it to be fired by tapping into one of the extra channels on the RC car’s PCB. But you won’t just be firing blindly. The project also includes a video transmitter which can be viewed from an LCD screen mounted on top of the remote control unit. There’s even a laser sight that will show what you’re aiming at.

We wonder what the recoil of the firearm does to this light-weight vehicle?

Build Instructions (.txt file)

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Chinese hackerspaces, or, what happens when a government is run by engineers

Government leadership in Shanghai wants to build 100 community hackerspaces funded by the Chinese government. Each space will be at least 100 square meters, open 200 days a year, and come equipped with wood and metal lathes, saws, drills, grinders, mills, and more electronics than we can imagine.

The official government statement (translated here) says the Shanghai Science and Technology Network wants to build a few dozen ‘innovation houses,’ ostensibly to create a breeding ground for new, innovative ideas and to nurture young builders.

The first Chinese hackerspace, Xin Che Jian, opened last year and they’re doing some pretty cool stuff. A RepRap Mendel is already on the build roster (pictured above) along with a few quadrocopters and small racing robots.

As far as what this means for western countries, we’re going to editorialize a little bit and say that government-funded hackerspaces would increase innovation a little bit more than watching our representatives argue about homosexuals or taxes. Who knows, if this Chinese experiment proves successful, it may move out of Asia and onto the Americas and Europe.

via reddit

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