Developed on Hackaday: Discovering Shenzhen and its Companies

Assembly line in shenzhen

Two weeks ago we showed a first demonstration video of the offline password keeper (aka Mooltipass) the Hackaday community had been working on for the last 6 months. We received lots of interesting feedback from our dear readers and around a thousand of them let us know they were interested in purchasing the device. We agreed that preferential pricing should be offered to them, as they have been supporting this community driven project for so long.

For the next few days I will be touring Shenzhen and finally meeting the persons who have been assembling my electronics projects for the last 2 years, including the Mooltipass beta testers’ batch. I’ll also meet with Ian from Dangerous Prototypes, talk with the people behind the Haxlr8r program, visit Seeedstudio offices and a CNC shop. If everything goes well with the camera I just purchased in Hong Kong I should have nice things to show you. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below in case you’re in the area…

Developing the Grillino in 24 Hours

grillino

[Mastro Gippo] hit Shenzhen back in April and organized a challenge for himself: could he develop an electronic device from idea to product in only 24 hours? The result is the Grillino, a simple clone of the Annoy-a-Tron: a small, concealable device that makes chirping sounds at random intervals. It’s name was derived from a mix of the Italian word for a cricket—”grillo”—and, of course, “Arduino.”

Shenzhen was the perfect setting for his experiment, especially because [Mastro Gippo] was in town for the Hacker Camp we mentioned a few months ago. The build is pretty simple, requiring only a microcontroller, a battery, and a piezo speaker. What follows is a detailed journey of dizzying speed through the production process, from bags stuffed full of components, to 3D-printing a test jig, to searching for a PCB manufacturer that could fulfill his order overnight. Video and more below.

[Read more...]

Shenzhen Tour and UnHuman Soldering Classes with DP

dp-hacker-camp

If you’re free the first week of April and don’t mind sitting on a plane for a looooong time you should check out the Hacker Camp that Dangerous Prototypes is planning. We’re sure you remember [Ian Lesnet] who is a Hackaday Alum, creator of the Bus Pirate, and geeky world traveler. Now’s your chance to try out what to him is a way of life.

The event is April 3-5 in Shenzhen, China. Although marketed as a “Hacker Camp”, to us it sounds more like training for those interested in running hardware companies that use the Shenzhen manufacturing district as the anchor of their supply chain. Part of the prep-work for the trip includes submitting board files which will be fabbed and ready for you on the first day. [Ian] and his crew will be your guides for the culture of the area; complete with meals and bar time. But there are also soldering workshops as part of the package. Don’t pooh-pooh the idea. This is unhuman soldering… BGA and QFN soldering instruction from the people who repair cellphones and other microelectronics.

This [Rick Steves] style adventure is the first that we remember hearing about that targets the open hardware community. But we must admit, it sounds like a lot more fun than a European river cruise!

[Thanks Akiba]

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.

MIT Media Lab’s month in Shenzhen

mit-media-lab-month-in-shenzhen

When you’ve got a month worth of blog postings it’s pretty difficult to choose one photograph that sums it all up. This one shows the tour group from MIT Media Lab in ESD garb ready for their tour of Okano SMT and Speaker Factory. It was part of a tour of Shenzhen aimed at bringing graduate students up to speed on what it means to manufacture products in the city. Luckily, Freaklabs member [Akiba] was one of the staff members of the program and blogged extensively about the experience. At first glance his page full of post abstracts looks really boring, but click through because both his recount and the commented images associated with each day are fun and fascinating ways to tag along with the group.

If you’re really good with faces you can pick [Bunnie Huang] out of the lineup above (he’s the third from the right). He had the original idea for the program and brought aboard a few others to help make the thing a success. The group toured a wide range of factories and parts markets in the city. This included your traditional electronics manufacturing venues but there was even a side trip to a diaper and feminine napkin plant to see the non-electronic factories in operation. In addition to tours there were lectures by industry members like HAXLR8R, a group that specializes in helping start-ups navigate the manufacturing jungle.

[ch00ftech] Visits a Shenzhen Market

On a business trip, [ch00ftech] visited a Shenzhen electronics market and documented the trip. Some of the attractions included multiple Apple stores of questionable authenticity, stores selling PC components with no manuals, drivers, or packaging, and a variety of LEDs and lasers.

[ch00ftech] showed off the loot from the trip, including breadboards, perf boards, LED matrices, and an RFID reader all for very low prices. There’s also the Class 4 laser pointer that cost about $120 and has a power output of “between 500 mW and 8000 mW.” Given the 500 mW power restriction on lasers sold in the US, it’s fair to say that this thing should be handled with care. Hopefully the included safety classes actually block the specific wavelength of the laser.

The staff in these stores were very knowledgeable and knew part numbers and inventories by memory. One of the biggest surprises was just how low the prices were.  While Radio Shack has started to carry some more parts for hackers, it seems that nothing stateside can compare these Chinese electronics markets.

Getting your stuff built: how to shop, conduct business, stay alive, and eat your way through Shenzhen

This is [Bob Baddeley]. He’s an EE with an idea that started as a fun project until someone said “hey, that’s cool”. He started thinking about what it would take to launch it commercially and before he knew it he was involved in a startup accelerator to help him assemble what he needs to make his idea into a business. He spent several weeks in China learning about manufacturing and posted copiously about it.

We’ve seen other engineering trips to Asia, but [Bob's] experience living there provides a different perspective than a quick trip would. He posted about the thing’s you’d expect, like touring a short-run prototyping facility. But he also talks about the rigors of being a pedestrian in a place where legged transport is marginalized by the gas and pedal powered vehicles that are crammed into every square-inch of the city. In the image above he’s walking on the highway (for some inexplicable reason; deathwish?).

He also got to do a lot of fun stuff. He met a ton of folks, like [Bunnie Huang], [Ian Lesnet], and the team over at Seeed Studios. He even took his protoype to the local Maker Faire. It’s a scoreboard which can be controlled from your smart phone. [Bob] tells us that he didn’t get much interest showing the face of the device as seen in that post. But when he turned it around to show off the point-to-point wire porn he was mobbed by interested hackers. Guts!

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