This post is the second of the Shenzhen trip series. Read more at:
After our successful crowdfunding campaign of the Raise keyboard, we knew that we needed to go back Shenzhen. This time, it was to visit manufacturing companies, metal, plastic, and assembly factories in Shenzhen and in the other major cities in the area.
My main goal for this trip was to find the best partners and high-quality manufacturers for the Raise keyboard and Dygma’s future products.
Back to Shenzhen and the rest of the Pearl River Delta
In January, I went back to Shenzhen and the rest of the Pearl River Delta. It is the area surrounding the Pearl River estuary, which flows into the South China Sea. It is one of the largest urban areas in the world, both is size and population. It’s a megacity, or better yet, a megalopolis!
The Pearl River Delta has opened its doors to the world and has become the world’s workshop for major manufacturing companies.
Daily, thousands of electronic, textiles, plastic products, and a whole wide range of consumer goods are produced there. Much of this production is invested by foreign entities and directed to the export market.
This zone has one of the world’s most successful economies. Its GDP is more than $1.2trn.¹
I visited more than 10 factories, several design houses, and met with prototyping experts, in 4 cities (Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Dongguan, and Guangzhou) in a span of 7 days.
Insights on metal factories
The Raise’s case metal finishing is anodised aluminium. Not only does it make the the keyboard look beautiful, but it gives it a premium-quality finishing. It’s more durable.
I visited different factories of metal processing and learnt about the many alternative ways to manufacture our keyboard.
The level of specialisation you can find in the delta area in incredible. In Europe, it is almost impossible to find a metal factory specialised only in keyboard metal components. In the delta the options are endless!
The Raise keyboard has a combination of metal and plastic materials. I visited many plastic factories, most of which specialized in keyboards and computer components.
Some of those factories specialised only in keycaps, others produced mouse and keyboard enclosures.
One of the most impressive sights was a factory with more than 70 huge injectors with various sizes making different kinds of keycaps:
- ABS one shot
- ABS double shot
- PBT double shot with PC
- Polyurethane covered caps
- Twice shot injection PBT/ABS.
Key cap injection process
Stabiliser injection process
Every component of the keyboard is tested thoroughly.
Testing assures manufacturers that these products are ready for use and shipment around the world.
The testing facilities in a factory tell a lot about how the factory operates. We basically discarded any factory without proper and clean testing facilities.
There are testing machines that simulates repetitive key presses. It tests the durability of keycaps and switches.
Testing machine doing repetitive key presses
All the components gathered from metal and plastic factories are then brought to the assembly lines.
An assembly line is key in the manufacturing process:
- They are incharge of assembling the product.
- They check the quality of the components and make sure they work together.
- They pack the product so it can be shipped.
With a good assembly partner, you can be sure the product you deliver to your customer is always in the quality you have defined, never less.
Quality control measurements
It was important for me to find a company that would be able to meet our high-quality standards at a fair cost budget. I took notes of all the quality control measurements of each factory, and made sure that we would be working with the ones with the highest calibre.
There were quality control measurements in the middle and at the end of each assembly line. The staff made sure the products worked properly.
Woman testing the keyboard
Two testers for keyboard functionality
Getting feedback from the experts
The Raise is a unique creation. I was hoping to get more insight from the experts of the industry. I met with some of the region’s top manufacturing consultancy companies. These meetings helped to improve the quality of the product.
Our product intrigued them. This helped in my learning on how to adapt the industrial design of the keyboard to fit the limitations of manufacturing factories. It took a lot of time and hard work. But being there gave me a more confident perspective on the mass production and manufacturing of a product such as the Raise.
Throughout the trip, I was accompanied by a consultant, Ken. He is a manufacturing expert who also acted as my translator. He arranged some of our meetings and facilitated the processes.
During the factory visits, I would eat lunch out with the companies and our partners at different restaurants in the Pearl River Delta. I tried many different Chinese cuisine. All of them were quite fascinating, especially the seafood dishes.
I had a few surprises with the dishes. I realised that non-spicy dishes in Chinese standards were actually very spicy dishes for me. This was a cultural difference that I learnt quickly.
I also tried to do some touring with the little time that I had. I wanted to make the most out of my trip.
The Pearl River Delta is an interesting place. I cannot imagine that 50 years ago, it was a quiet fishing village. Now, it soaks up a fifth of China’s total foreign direct investment. For China, this zone is crucial. It is an example of the China that works.
This trip was a great technological and cultural immersion. I appreciated the speed of development that this important part of the world has been undergoing. There are many exciting advancements ahead and it’s a wonderful feeling to be part of its prime. This trip has given more validation and support into achieving our goals for the Raise.
We will work closely with our partners. Using all our resources and expertise, we will continue to create the most advanced gaming keyboard in the world.