Trip to Dongguan & Shenzhen: R&D and factory visits

During Spring Break, I traveled to Dongguan & Shenzhen to visit a couple of factories. Now, before I talk about the journey there, I want to say that this was very jam packet trip, and that this post is probably going to be super long. Enough prefaces, on to the real stuff.

KSFO: I never realized how beautiful SFO was at night.

SFO at 21:13 Fri, Apr 19, 2019

The lighting looks awesome!

To Dongguan:


Since Dongguan does not have it's own airport, and it was easier to enter from Hong Kong, we traveled on Cathay Pacific's CX851 from KSFO to VHHH (SFO -->HKG). The last time I was on Cathay Pacific was about 6 years ago. So this was a very exciting flight, also this is my first time on the A350.


Was not able to get a clear shot at the gate, and the Jet bridge's tinted windows did not help...

My flight on Apr 20 was on one of Cathay Pacific's A350-900s. In this case, it was a 2 year old (Nov 2016 delivery) A350-941, with a registration number of B-LRJ from Hong Kong.


Here is a better photo of the same aircraft:



Before I continue talking about the aircraft, I just noticed that the "At a glace" widget on the Google Pixel (Pixel Launcher) now shows when the airplane is departing and what gate it is at! Google fetches all this information from Gmail, it looks for the confirmation email from the booking company and adds all the information to Google Trips and Google Assistant! Super cool!


Everything was new on the A350. I feel like that the A350 is a pretty good alternative to the 787, I mean that was kind of the goal of Airbus, especially with the A350-1000 XWB family. The in seat entertainment system and the lighting system made the aircraft feel really modern.

The lighting is one of the best ones I have seen. Here is a video of the "wake up" light sequence, from dark to lights on.


The in-seat entertainment system was great too! The display is the biggest one I have seen. The airplane also has two exterior cameras, one behind the nose gear, and the other near the tip of the vertical stabilizer. This provides live views of take off and landing. I also mounted a GoPro to the window, however, the take-off footage is unusable as it was pitch black outside when we took off, but I do have the landing footage!


I also discovered that the in-seat entertainment for Cathay Pacific runs on Android! :) Here is a photo of the "background apps" page on the entertainment system. I don't know if this applies to all other entertainment systems on Airbuses, or its just Cathay's paticular system. I know that the Boeing one runs on Linux not Android... Interesting...


The only complaint I had about this flight was the WiFi. I tried to buy WiFi to get some work done, however, the website was slow, and often crashed which resulted in errors. This caused a bit of confusion on whether the payment went through or not, so at the end, I just gave up on the WiFi, because I did not want to risk making 5 payments and end up not having WiFi. The WiFi was provided by Panasonic Aero (Avionics division). Here is the link to their in-flight WiFi product page: https://na.panasonic.com/us/industries/avionics. I still feels like GoGo does WiFi better then any other provider (look at our return flight's WiFi). I had a similar experience on United with their own system, however, GoGo has always worked.

The error I got when I tried to pay for WiFi through Paypal. Bank card also did not work.


After arriving at Hong Kong, I took a bus to Dongguan. Nothing fun here, buses are pretty boring.

Product developement:


I am developing a product to solve the USB - C Hub problem on the MacBook Pro. The idea of carrying an USB - C hub with me everywhere is crazy. However, getting this product manufactured and shipped to Amazon FBA was harder then I thought. This quick idea spiraled into a multi-month long project. We started contacting factories before spring break, and I got to go visit them during my spring break.


These factories include molding and CNC metal manufacturing factories, electronics chip factories, and painting factories.


Designing:

Oh the desiging... So even before I got to visit the factories, we had to get the designs of the product out. First, we drew out the designs on paper. I expected this, as we had to have a design before manufacturing. Also, I expected to bring the design in to CAD, it can't just be something on paper. So we got a designer to port the design on paper into CAD. Everything up to this point has been expected and pretty standard.

Now, here is where it gets crazy. Then, when we brought the CAD to the molding factory, they said that our design won't work, as the designer was not familiar with modern manufacturing, and whatever is in the CAD could not be made into a mold and mass produced. So, we hired an industrial designer to port the CAD design by the first designer to another CAD that fitted the modern day molding and manufacturing standards. However, the story does not end there...


We then brought the new CAD to the electronics manufacture to make sure that their electronics could fit into the metal casing of the product. Which, take a guess... Obviously did not work out. The electronics manufacture, being a big manufacture, pointed out multiple issues in the CAD and the design, and said that the metal casing was not going have enough space to mount the PCB. Now we had both our industrial designer and the electronics manufacture's structural and electronics designers working to revise the CAD to a point where everyone could accept the designs.


Then we brought the newly revised CAD design back to the molding factory, and they again pointed out issues. So we ended up getting everyone, the industrial designer, the electronics manufacture's designers and the molding factory's designers involved to revise the design.


After the designs were revised, we brought the prototype made by the molding factory to get painted. Which reviewed more issues, however those were not design issues. It was the number of layers of paint, which was not hard to fix.


The designing process really surprised me, making a product was really harder then I thought!


Molding & CNC Factory Tour:

While we were discussing plans for the mold, the factory owner brought me on a factory tour. The pictures below are of the factory's mold construction floor. This is where the molds and prototypes are created. They will later be cut and edited on the second floor. I totally did not think that a mold was needed for my product, the mold made designing a lot more complicated and will definitely make initial manufacturing harder.


Although the words "made in China" does not mean much to the average consumer, it can really mean a lot. Since, there are different types of factories in China, there are the small and dirty ones, and the big and professional ones. Below are two completely different factories, both of which are molding & CNC factories, and both can produce products with "made in China". However, which one would you prefer? Would you want the item you are holding to be made in the factory on the left or the right?



Product Development & R&D:

After the short factory tour, we went back to the office of the molding factory to discuss how the mold is going to be made for the project. There were quite a lot of issues, and we spent the rest of the afternoon, about 4 hours in a meeting, discussing how the product will turn out, and how the molding will work. Developing a product is really not an easy job...


Electronics Factory Tour:

Since the product I am developing has electronics embedded into the product, we visited an electronics factory to try to figure out how the electronics part of the product is going to work. This electronics factory is one of the largest in Dongguan. The first thing I noticed was that the security was ridiculously tight compared to other Chinese factories, everyone had to leave their ID at the registration desk, and pick them up after you have visited the factory. With other small Chinese factories, you could walk into the factory and no one will notice.

These are SMT placement machines for placing electronic components onto PCBs.


Google Maps in China:

I was really surprised at how good Google Maps worked in China! So the person driving us to the factory tour had his phone die during the navigation. This caused him to miss a turn and we ended up in an alleyway. We did not have the exact address of the factory, although we have been to it the day before. So while my dad was busy trying to find the address and input it into a Chinese navigation software called AMap, I got out Google maps and checked my timeline. I found the rough location of the factory from the day before, then roughly set a pin on the map and started navigation to that pin. For about 5 minutes I was giving directions while my dad scrambled to find the address. Eventually he did find it and the Chinese navigation software had the same route as Google Maps. I was amazed at how well Google Maps worked in China, despite it being banned in China. I figured they probably just outsourced the Chinese maps part to a Chinese company, but I am not sure. However either way, it worked way better then I thought. Here is a picture of the alleyway (Chinese alleyways are a lot tighter then most US alleyways.) It is crazy how a blocked provider can still get updated maps data!

This is considered a wide part.

A picture of Google Maps planning out our route inside of the ally.



ShenZhen Seg Electronics Market (Huaqiangbei):


The ShenZhen Seg Electronics Market is one of the biggest electronics markets in the world. It is part of what is called Huaqiangbei, a street full of electronics and tech stores. From Huawei, Apple, Lenovo to small chip & board storefronts. The Seg Electronics Market is just one of many buildings that contain hundreds of small electronics storefronts. Huaqiangbei has literally all the electronics. Any electronics you can think of, you can find here on this street. Here is a picture of the Seg Electronics Market from the inside, it has like 12 floors, and has about 50-100 stores on each floor.

This isn't even the top floor! It is ridiculous. Also another good thing about this place is that most things are really cheep, there are somethings that are the same price as Amazon like WD Hard drives, and Nvidia Graphics Cards. However, I bought a Infrared Thermal Gun for 30 RMB which is like $5, this compared to Amazon's price of $11.45 (exactly the same item, looks the same, has the same buttons, same layout) makes the Chinese one a great deal! I also bought a Caliper in China that costed 88 RMB ($13), and the ones on Amazon averages between $20-30. Also the great thing about these electronics markets/wholesalers is that you can "negotiate" for discounts, which I did. So I got the Caliper cheaper then the original price. The only bad part about these shops are that there can be tons of fake products, so one really has to know what they are looking for to shop here. However, despite this, I feel like these shops are great to get cheap, but useful electronics.

As I mentioned above, Huaqiangbei is not only this building, here is map of the whole street, the number of buildings with the extreme number of shops can be a bit overwhelming. It took us a day to finish the looking at every floor in the Seg building.

Every one of those blocks is a building with a few hundred shops. It is crazy.

Electric cars, taxis, buses - China & the Environment.


Although there is still HEAVY pollution in China, it seems like people in China, especially government officials, have realized what is going on (finally...) and started to push for electric vehicles. It is pretty amazing to see so many electric vehicles in China. The funny thing is, they don't even look like electric vehicles until you realize they have a green plate, meaning they are electric. Electric vehicles get special incentives in China, particularly it is easier to get a license plate (normally it is like a lottery.) Most of these vehicles don't have some futuristic design, and vanity plates. (Unless it is a Tesla, or a sometimes a BYD. BYD has gotten on board with the semi-futuristic design, especially with the interior screens)

Photo credit: Bloomberg | I could not get good shots of the electric vehicles. Really hard to get good shots in a car when its moving or in a hotel where they are calling all the taxis for you... Sorry!

These buses don't look futuristic, they are just buses, they look and are no different from gas powered ones except they are electric. A car does not need futuristic designs to be electric! Sure I love the futuristic designs, but not every car should be designed to look like a spaceship.

Back at the airport again - The return trip

We returned to San Francisco on Cathay Pacific's 777-300ER from HongKong to San Francisco. Here is a picture of the 777-300ER I took back to SFO:


3 year old 777-367ER - Registration: B-HNR | VHHH --> KSFO | Picture credit: RAFAL KUKOWSKI JETPHOTOS

More pictures:

Also, if you look near the landing gear, you will see the alignment lines for the airplane. This makes it so that a particular type of airplane parks in the exact same spot every time so it does not stick out at the back and affect traffic. You can also find out what types of airplane this particular gate can accept just by looking at the different models at the different marks. Here is a close up picture of the alignment marks:

While I was at the airport waiting for our flight to board, I saw Cathay Dragon (Cathay Pacific's domestic airline)'s "Spirit of HongKong" A330-342 with a registration of B-HYB. HongKong registrations are so weird.

Here is another one from JetPhotos:

Credit: TY PANG | JetPhotos.

This airplane is 23 years old! This is the only plane in the world that has this livery! Cool!

Anyways, I also have video my flight taking off, which is below.


I also decided to try to purchase WiFi again, and it worked! :) This time WiFi is provided by Gogo in-flight. This time it works perfectly. Although the speed is not the greatest, and you are certainly not going to be able to watch 1080p videos with this, it is usable for Google & email. Which is most of what people need the internet for.

Here is the original link: https://www.speedtest.net/result/8215377615


I was also able to share the WiFi I purchased and give the network to other people. Essentially meaning that other people could also have WiFi without paying just by joining the hotspot my computer created. This is pretty awesome for sharing the WiFi with the rest of the family.


I also want to point out that the 777 has a very strange overhead storage compartment design, however it makes perfect sense. The whole panel that houses the oxygen masks, the lights and the overhead storage compartment are slanted. This is apparently to give the passengers more headroom, so they don't feel like they are crammed into a box with a really low ceiling when seated. Which is true! The cabin magically felt a lot more open with this design than the A350. Amazing! It is these kind of design quirks that make airplanes so interesting!

The jet lag was real this time, I did not even adjust to the Chinese timezone before I had to fly back, so at the end I was kind of stuck in the middle of this timezone adjustment thing... It took a while to adjust back to SFO time, but it was worth it for all the new experiences! Here are some additional photos I took during the trip that I did not really talk about:


These are photos of ShenZhen taken from the top floor of our hotel.

"Chinese Construction" is real! :) Photo of a subway line getting built. Also taken from the top floor of our hotel in ShenZhen

Sunrise taken from my flight to Hong Kong

Clouds and sunrise, taken from my flight to Hong Kong


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©2018 by Jim Fang.