Shenzhen Adventure Day 1
07 Jun 2015
The flight to Hong Kong was not bad at all! I think I slept most of the way. On
the flight I watched Chappie – definitely go see it if you’re a Die Antword
Upon arrival, I met up with Sean Cross and another student from the program. We
took a taxi & the metro over to Shenzhen.
We quickly checked into our rooms and then, after getting frustrated with the
internet, I went to sleep.
Shenzhen Adventure Day 2
08 Jun 2015
I woke up around 7:30AM, although I didn’t have to be up till 9am. Checking
WeChat, I saw that another student was up and wanted to grab breakfast at 8am.
I responded, then got ready, and then headed out. However, I couldn’t find the
other person so I walked around a bit. I was, at this point, phone-less so I
had to run back up to my room to check messages and communicate. After finding
the other person, we went to a bakery cafe around the corner. I had a really
great “french toast bread”. Talking to the other student, it seemed that my
internet woes were not shared; indeed, trying her connection yielded great
bandwidth, even over vpn. Grumble grumble, I hope I can get mine fixed up a
At 10am we all met up and went to a Japanese super market and got some basic
supplies (bananas, instant oatmeal, and soap for me). This place has a lot of
Western goods which is very nice, but was a little bit pricey.
We then dropped off our bags back at the apartments and headed back out. We
stopped for lunch at a nice restaurant in the mall. I knew eating was going to
be really really hard for me, I was pretty worried. If you don’t know about my
eating restrictions, they’re relatively simple and I’m basically not picky at
all. I used to be vegetarian for a number of years, but I relaxed it for health
reasons. Now I try to avoid “sentient” animals. This basically entails to not
eating any mammals whatsoever and avoiding other intelligent animals such as
octopi or crows. I’m basically fine with any chicken or scaly/bony fish dish.
The other constraint is that I keep somewhat Kosher, so I try to avoid
shellfish. I made peace with the fact that I would likely have slip ups over
the trip. After one meal, let me say this: It’s looking tough. In China, pork
isn’t a meat. It’s a seasoning. Almost everything has pork (and a lot of things
are probably cooked in it regardless). Although there were a lot of things I
couldn’t eat, I ended up being able to have a really awesome ma-style (more on
that in a second) fish stew and spicy potatoes. Ma is a special type of
peppercorn which is really spicy, but also numbs your mouth so you can’t feel
it. It’s almost impossible to get in the States and it is awesome. I’ll have to
look into importing some back for personal use. The other really great thing is
Tea, the whole meal was cup after cup of delicious barley (I think?) tea. I
drank like a gallon of it (although I sweated that out later – Shenzhen is
HOT). When the waitress is pouring you tea, you are supposed to knock on the
table to say thanks. After the meal, the restaurant is supposed to give you tax
voucher slips. I still don’t get this all the way; probably because it makes no
sense. Basically, restaurants pre-pay their tax by purchasing these tax-bills
that they give to customers. Because they can get reimbursed for over
purchasing the tax forms, they would rather not give you them (to under-report
taxes). So instead they will offer you a drink at the restaurant in lieu of tax
form. To combat this, the government added a scratch off lottery ticket onto
the tax slips to incentivize people getting them. To me it seems like a double
down on a broken system, but who am I to judge? Definitely makes taxes more fun
than the states!
After lunch, we went to hackerspace we’ll be calling home briefly to check it
out. The person we needed to talk to was on lunch break, so we went off to do
other things. I don’t think words can do the next part justice.
The electronics markets in Shenzhen are insane. There a skyscrapers on which
each floor is filled with vendors hawking components. The scale is enormous,
and the prices are dirt cheap.
Two floor, red floor, blue floor…
Reels of 10,000 components can be had for less than it would cost to buy 5 of
them at Radio Shack. There are also these incredible “recycling” markets which
take old devices and tear them down and sell the parts. Walking around you can
see people sorting parts from devices. When you go to the next floor, they will
sell a slightly more put back together version and so on and so forth until you
can get ‘new’ devices. It’s hard to explain the bizzareness of these markets.
You can find phones, for example, in the shape of soccer balls, cars, miniature
iphones, phones with a reading light, phones with massive batteries to charge
other phones, and everything else under the sun. I just don’t get who makes the
market for these devices given that you never see them, and even the locals
seem to not have seen them either. For instance, I picked up (along with
several of the other students) the miniature iPhone which runs full android,
has 3g, and works quite well except for the fact that it is tiny as hell but
locals were just as amused as we all were at them.
Tiny phone, but runs full android and has 3g!
Following the tour of the markets, we went back to the hackerspace, did our
errand (getting access cards), and then headed over to dinner with everyone
involved in the course. We went to a fancy Chinese Restaurant (that’s what it
was called) and had an all out feast with all the people supporting the course,
including John Lee (the owner of AQS, a big manufacturing company). This went a
lot better for me than lunch, although I couldn’t eat most things, two of the
guests were very kind in helping me order some tasty foods – having to explain
my dietary preferences is always a challenge, but they were very gracious. I
also had to explain some of my other prefernces, but you’ll have to ask me in
person for that story!
There is an interesting drinking culture. I’m not sure I fully understand it
yet, but I drank a lot of beer and baijiu (a really great shot alchohol that
varies from either a sour candy/apple juice taste to pretty close to whisky).
At this point, I started to get pretty tired (as were the other students) so we
headed home. I took a quick shower and then passed out for 2 or three hours and
woke up to write this blog post. I also learned some chinese expressions that
might come in handy tomorrow…
“Wo chisu. Wo ju-ro nieu-ro be-lay guo-mean.”
I am a vegetarian. I am allergic to pork, beef, and shellfish.
Shenzhen Adventure Day 3
09 Jun 2015
Today was mostly an “in house day”.
We had a lecture from Bunnie on the course and then we worked on getting our dev environments set up.
Shenzhen Adventure Day 4
10 Jun 2015
Today (Day 4) was awesome, we toured various manufacturers to see the “end to
end” development of a device. I’ve broken out the blogposts on each factory separately.
We went out to lunch with some of the guys from one of the factories to a local
place. The food was great, but a little unfilling as all I had was plain
veggies. Luckily, I decided to keep a jar of peanut butter with me at all times
so I had a couple spoonfuls in the car for protein. I was most intrigued by
eating Gingko in a dish. It’s a kind of “creamy peanut” texture, with a
potato-y taste. There were also these guys sitting near us who had the most
incredible raspy voices, they were speaking an unknown local dialect and were
basically shitfaced at noon.
Jon Lee rejoined us for dinner which was awesome! Of course it meant getting
somewhat inebriated again (this time, baijiu and budweiser bombs). Again, they
made sure there were plenty of options for me to eat which was great! The
restaurant also had these amazing pots of tea, I drank a large volume of that.
I was particularly excited to eat a whole water chesnut (never seen them not
Shenzhen Adventure Day 4
10 Jun 2015
This was fun! At the injection molder they had a massive pile of not being run molds
and about 20 machines which were cranking out parts. We got to see our mold for the class pried apart which was cool.
Molds are super complicated; I didn’t have an appreciation for how hard they are to make before.
Here’s a run down:
- Tolerances are ridiculous. They need to be airtight metal with no gaskets so that the plastics don’t leak
- For nice looking parts, the molds need to be basically mirror finish.
- Molds can be made from Aluminium for lower cost but they basically don’t do it in China because Steel is cheap enough there.
- A mold will run about $5000-$10000 USD for a reasonably sized design, and can do about 500,000 casts. This is mostly the price of the steel
- You can modify your mold by welding on a block of steel and then re-carving out the features
- Designs with overhangs or other features are much more complicated to build because the mod needs to essentially unfold itself to be able to release a part
- A mold has a couple key properties, the points where the pins push the cast out and the fill points. Based on these, the finished product will have different flows of plastic through it which could cause different knit points (where two flows meet) or flow lines (artifacts of the plastic’s path). The points where the pins push out are those raised disks you sometimes see on plastic objects.