Hack Chat Transcript, part 2

A event log for Manufacturing in China Hack Chat

From project to product to off-shoring

LutetiumLutetium 07/10/2019 at 20:050 Comments

Monty12:31 PM
@[skaarj] heh, we should talk. Lots of good 3D printing stuff happening there :-)

todbot12:31 PM
Yes, avoid importing into China if you can. Or let your CM handle it

Jesse Vincent12:31 PM
Chinese customs impoumded them.

David Shuman12:31 PM

Jesse Vincent12:32 PM
@David Shuman If you're concerned about the custody chain of critical parts, you can appoint a specific supplier to your factory. Ask your US sales rep for a china sales contact.

Jesse Vincent12:32 PM
Then you can audit purchase volumes and costs. And often get your US negotiated pricing delivered to China.

[skaarj]12:32 PM
@Monty there's a guy here in Romania that invented some kind of 3D printer which kick assss, I forgot its name - but it's not X-Y-Z-based

Kelly Heaton12:32 PM
How often do you travel to China to maintain your relationships there?

[skaarj]12:33 PM
have to go, take care guys

Jesse Vincent12:33 PM
@Kelly Heaton it varies. If things are going well, maybe 2x a year. If things are going badly...more often.

Jesse Vincent12:33 PM
I rarely go for less than 10 days. Longest trips have been over a month.

Kelly Heaton12:33 PM
Can you give us one or two prime examples of "going badly" ?

Jesse Vincent12:34 PM
Oh, you know. Our factory's director of overseas sales embezzled over 100,000 USD of money we'd paid

Jesse Vincent12:34 PM
"Normal stuff" ;)

Kelly Heaton12:34 PM
And what did you do about that?

Jesse Vincent12:35 PM
Seriously though, that's wildly abnormal. Nobody in China believed it because the criminal penalties are 10 years to life in a Chinese Prison.

Monty12:35 PM
Among other things, he wrote most of a book.

Jesse Vincent12:35 PM
We retained a Chinese lawyer, got the factory to sign a new contract assuming responsibility for everything and tried to roll forward.

Jesse Vincent12:35 PM
For a much better told version of this story, go read the last couple kickstarter backer updates I linked earlier.

Kelly Heaton12:36 PM
@Jesse Vincent Will do.

Monty12:36 PM


The Model 01: an heirloom-grade keyboard for serious typists

Keyboardio is raising funds for The Model 01: an heirloom-grade keyboard for serious typists on Kickstarter! With a hardwood body, mechanical switches & custom-sculpted keycaps, it's a dream to type on. It comes with source code & a screwdriver

Read this on Kickstarter

Monty12:36 PM
was that the right one?

Jesse Vincent12:37 PM
Other things that have gone wrong: The factory opened molds before we'd signed off on the design. Our LED supplier decided to retool, resulting in a 4+ month delay in the LED supply, our wood supplier decided not to actually CNC both sides of the wood, figuring they could use a dremel on one side instead.

Kelly Heaton12:37 PM
I've been told that Shenzhen is surprisingly expensive and difficult to navigate unless you know people there. How do you recommend that a newbie get started (in their quest to become a "Shenzhen regular")?

Jesse Vincent12:37 PM
@Kelly Heaton it doesn't have to be expensive. If you want a western quality of life, you can spend all the money.

Kelly Heaton12:38 PM
Western quality not necessary... Local suggestions?

Jesse Vincent12:38 PM
But really, the way to learn is to do. Go. Take the subway. Explore the city. Street crime is basically a non-issue for westerners.

Kelly Heaton12:38 PM
And for women?

duclass joined  the room.12:39 PM

Jesse Vincent12:39 PM
I'm a 6 foot tall dude, so I DO NOT have a reasonable take on how it is for western women traveling alone, but I'm led to believe that it's still generally very safe. I'm happy to try to get you better answers offline.

duclass12:39 PM
The subway is awesome - very easy to use for non-Chinese speakers

doug.leppard12:39 PM
My daughter lived there for three years and always felt safe

Jesse Vincent12:40 PM
I stay in medium fancy hotels (70-100 USD), because western quality beds.

Kelly Heaton12:40 PM
Thanks for that feedback, everyone.

doug.leppard12:40 PM
Except when she had a scooter accident

Jesse Vincent12:40 PM
DiDi, the local ridesharing service is generally quite good. and set up to work for foreigners with built in translation.

Jesse Vincent12:41 PM
@Kelly Heaton Many of my business contacts in china, especially on the sales side, are women.

Jesse Vincent12:41 PM
my old factory's CFO is a woman.

Jesse Vincent12:41 PM
My lawyer is a woman.

daniel armstrong12:41 PM
@Jesse Vincent thanks for the updates on your kickstarter ... i will read them. I also just picked up Bunnie Huang's book about his manufacturing experiences in China. Any other books or resources you would recommend about learning more about Shenzhen and doing business in China?

Kelly Heaton12:41 PM
@Jesse Vincent Good to know.

doug.leppard12:41 PM
BTW their 1st child was born there. My wife went there for the delivery and felt safe.

Jesse Vincent12:42 PM
But I've seen tons and tons of casual sexism and chauvinism. (Though, in an experience I've never had in the west, I've had sales people tell me that I'm really cute at the beginning of a meeting.)

Jesse Vincent12:42 PM
@daniel armstrong Bunnie's stuff is fantastic. And he has tons more experience than I do.

Jesse Vincent12:43 PM
I don't have a lot of good resources. :/

Kelly Heaton12:43 PM
@Jesse Vincent I eat casual sexism and chauvinism for breakfast. No sweat. It's the serious stuff that matters ... sounds fine. Sounds like other places I've been in China.

daniel armstrong12:44 PM
@Jesse Vincent thanks ... I will start reading Bunnie's book after I read through your updates!

Jesse Vincent12:44 PM
Oh. If you've traveled elsewhere in China: Shenzhen is a big, modern city which is more comfortable with foreigners than many other places.

Jesse Vincent12:45 PM
Anybody have a question I missed before?

Kelly Heaton12:45 PM
@Jesse Vincent sounds great! I hope to visit this Fall. You've been really helpful - thanks!

Jesse Vincent12:45 PM
My pleasure

doug.leppard12:45 PM
is it this book

The Hardware Hacker: Adventures in Making and Breaking Hardware

Nicolas Schurando12:45 PM
@Jesse Vincent Thanks for taking the time to share your experience. Would you recommend anything other than the usual dhl/fedex/... to ship samples from the factory?

daniel armstrong12:45 PM
@doug.leppard yes thats it

doug.leppard12:46 PM

Jesse Vincent12:47 PM
@Nicolas Schurando Usually, I want my samples fast and in good condition. I'm usually willing to trade money for time. So FedEx/DHL/UPS are what I lean toward. For cheaper, SF Express is usually cheaper. DHL has a lot of presence in China, so the factory likely can do that quicker and a bit cheaper than FedEx/UPS. For samples, I just ask the factory to tell me the express shipping cost to use their agent. Sadly, my DHL account only has discounts on us-originating shipments.

Nicolas Schurando12:49 PM
@Jesse Vincent Ok ;).

monk12:49 PM
@Jesse Vincent how much 2nd sourcing do you do? (and any fun 2nd sourcing stories?)

Taiwo12:50 PM
@Jesse Vincent what is the smallest amount of units do you advise one to use China for?

Jesse Vincent12:52 PM
@monk - We've had shitty luck with second sourcing on the electrical front. We never found a good sub for the APA102C LEDs that Model 01 uses. Similarly, the AVR MCUs we're using are hard to sub ;) The switches we used in the Model 01 don't have -any- viable subs. On the wood front, we eventually spun up redundant suppliers before deciding that one of them was so much better that we sole-sourced again.

daniel armstrong12:52 PM
@Jesse Vincent Any particular time of the year that is especially good time to visit Shenzhen and explore? I imagine its best to *avoid* Chinese new year?

Jesse Vincent12:52 PM
Partially, this is because we were total newbs and designed with too many sole-source parts.

Jesse Vincent12:52 PM
@Taiwo it depends a ton on the parts and complexity. I've done one-offs and runs of 25 partially or completely in China.

Jesse Vincent12:53 PM
Really, "whenever it's too many to easily build on your bench"

Jesse Vincent12:54 PM
@daniel armstrong Avoid the big chinese holidays. Avoid the few weeks before and after spring and fall festivals. Consider avoiding's just -so hot-

Jesse Vincent12:54 PM
Go when you have stuff you need to or want to do. Check in with the factories you want to visit in advance.

daniel armstrong12:55 PM
@Jesse Vincent thanks ... will do

Jesse Vincent12:55 PM
@monk (You'd better believe that we're being a lot more cognizant of sole-source issues going forward, but there are still critical components we might get screwed on. Our volumes are usually small enough that for ICs, I've been able to pull strings and turn over rocks.)

anfractuosity12:56 PM
what do you use instead of the apa102c now out of interest?

Tomi Piriyev12:56 PM
@Jesse Vincent I use Weerg industrial 3D printing service for case , quality like injection molding. and PCBway PCBA service. and i make the assembly manually in-house in Estonia. I still dont know the advantages of visiting Chine for the manufacturing. do you think i miss something?

monk12:56 PM
right on

Jesse Vincent12:57 PM
For new designs, we've been working with ISSI's controllers and commodity 'dumb' LEDs. I know tons of folks who love a variety of manufacturers' SK9822 LEDs. We had some really weird acoustic noise issues with them.

monk12:57 PM
@Jesse Vincent any idea when your next trip will be?

anfractuosity12:57 PM
gotcha cheers. heh that's v. odd about acoustic noise from leds

Taiwo12:58 PM
How expensive are these fabs?

NikiSchlifke12:58 PM
How do alibaba buying requests plus shipping compare to the deals you get when traveling there? And at which level of complexity/assembly/different manufacturing processes is it advisable to travel?

Jesse Vincent12:58 PM
@Tomi Piriyev depending on volume, CNC plastic or vacuum molding -may- be cheaper than 3d printing. But part of the reason I recommend visiting is to learn about how they make stuff in China purely to learn. But if you have a good process, run with it.

Jesse Vincent12:59 PM
@anfractuosity I mean, the noise went away when we added capacitance as the supplier recommended. But....1 farad of capacitance, which was....not workable ;)

Jesse Vincent12:59 PM
@monk august or september, likely.

monk1:00 PM
Solid. Maybe I'll see you there. ;)

We're coming up on the one hour mark now. I want to thanks Jesse for all this great discussion and insight, and invite him to stay on as long as he wants to if there are more questions, which it sounds like there are. Otherwise, if you've got to get back to work, that's cool too.

Jesse Vincent1:01 PM
@NikiSchlifke I've actually used alibaba for pricing parts while -in- China ;) But, as one might imagine, working directly with a factory sales rep to dial in something where they believe you are a human customer who might have repeated orders is likely to get you a better result than webforms will. But also, I'm not always optimizing for price. I'm optimizing for price performance. I'm willing to pay more to get what I want at the quality I want. And that's a thing where you need to communicate more, rather than less.

Jesse Vincent1:02 PM
@Taiwo That's very hard to answer without a ton more detail about exactly what you want.

Taiwo1:02 PM
@Jesse Vincent Do non-kickstarter products stand a chance? Cost wise

Jesse Vincent1:02 PM
@Taiwo Sure. I mean, you need to have some working capital and then actually sell your stuff.

Jesse Vincent1:03 PM
@Dan Maloney Thanks. And thanks for inviting me to chat! I can stick around for at least a few more minutes.

Jesse Vincent1:03 PM
@monk :)

FYI I'll post a transcript of the chat later, in case anyone missed anything important. And don't miss next week's Hack Chat - Chris Gammell will be talking about Low-Level Analog Measurements:

todbot1:03 PM
Thanks Jesse!