The Hardware Hacker
By Huang, Andrew “bunnie”
Book – 2017
Bunnie is a talented computer engineer who studied at MIT. He is is expert at designing hardware and setting up manufacturing processes. And he can write so well!
He talks of the difficulties in getting a product manufactured in China. He was tasked with helping a Chinese company manufacture a product. The people there were so friendly, and so skilled at assembling the components on circuit cards, but the design needs to be completely detailed. If there was a vague detail in the plans, the workers would do their best work but you could end up with 1000 non-functional devices and the cost is on the shoulders of the American client. The solution to this problem was to test the first devices as they came off the production line, and to prepare a test jig so the factory could verify that it was producing working products. With that done, you could expect high quality work at very reasonable prices.
He was in China for weeks on end to set up the testing. This could not possibly be done by email, he had to be in the factory. When there, he got great results.
He talks of how good the Chinese are at working with the CAD plans for devices, possibly adding features, and getting low cost devices into production. The plans get shared in social networks with no consideration for western notions of IP or patents. A factory can be producing a device for a western client during the day, and have a “ghost shift” at night where a very similar product is produced with similar quality levels and possibly a few added features, for sale in Chinese or Indian markets.
Bunnie decided after a few years that he wanted to quit and start his own company. He decided to design a laptop PC with very unique qualities. He describes his designs and the experience of running a crowd-funded business. The company was successful in a quiet way, but he says he much preferred the technical work to managing a company.
Most manufacturing engineers are content to get good at some process or other, but bunnie went a step further. He designed a new manufacturing process, using a flexible substrate for the circuits. He talks of how he came up with the new process, and validated that it was workable. He used this to create microcircuits which hobbyists could work into clothing.
A fascinating read!