Whether it’s a colorful video game or a medical equipment showing with various values, they all have intricate PCBS and screens covered with firm and attractive cases. Some of these cases come in unibodies made of steel, some are the mixture of steel and fiberglass.
Have you thought about how these doors with smooth rounded corners, flexible locks are made?
To find out how, we at the Localized Manufacturing Project visited SheyMing Sheet Metal Manufacturer in Taoyuan. Joe, an employee and Mr. Changhong Xu (徐昌宏), the owner of SheyMing were there to show us around the factory, and walk us through the making of sheet metal and their adaptation toward the generation of small-volume, large-variety.
Thirty years of focused operation
It’s been 30 years since it was established in 1986, the main business of SheyMing is the design and manufacturing of sheet metal. The kinds of orders they receive the most are the cases for gambling machines, industrial computers and medical equipment. During the meeting in the conference room, we were surrounded by all sorts of cases they have made.
From design to the process
SheyMing has quite a few strengths that are appealing to the makers, otherwise they wouldn’t enter the maker market. The most important one is that they are ready to accept orders of small-volume, large-variety. They have a flexible production process, some of the experienced technicians can even weld manually. Several makers have already approached Joe, and received the exquisite small-volume metal cases they asked for.
For example, the materials SheyMing often uses are galvanized iron, iron and aluminum. There are 2 kinds of galvanized iron, the 430 and the non-magnetic 304. The aluminum can also be classified into the bendable 5052 and the much harder 6061 that is suitable for panels. These are the options the clients have for their products.
They will also discuss the feasibility of every bend and tapped hole (where screw goes in) on the draft. Whether it’s adding or removing unnecessary drill holes, or the smoothing process of the rough surface after punching, SheyMing will always provide practical views and suggestions on the design topic in detail, to fully communicate with the client. They make sure everything is perfectly adjusted first, before doing the sample run.
After introducing the processing features of the sheet metal, the factory owner and Joe showed us around the factory to learn about its process.
Below is the rundown of sheet metal processing:
1. Punching and laser cutting:
Put a piece of steel into the processing equipment, key in the drawing, it will automatically do the punching and remove the cutting according to your drawing. The machines SheyMing uses are TRUMPF a German factory and AMADA a Japanese factory. They are both complex tools that excel at punching and cutting. In case of a large production, SheyMing has another 58 different molds to mass produce through direct impact.
2. Bending and pressing:
This is the step where a flat piece of steel is bent into shape after it’s been cut. The technicians use bending machines to bend the steel pieces into the angles indicated in the drawing. For designs that are too difficult for the machines, they will be dealt with manually with tapping and riveting.
After every component is made, the technicians will manually weld them together to make them rigid. In SheyMing, there are various welding machines, namely the spot welder, the argon welder and the carbon dioxide welder.
4. Surface processing:
After some testing, the almost complete cases will be outsourced to other factories to be painted.
After the surface is processed, the product will be returned to SheyMing for further testing to guarantee quality. Only then will the client receive the product.
In SheyMing, records of quality can be seen everywhere, which reflects their dedication. Factory owner Mr. Xu told us that it is impossible to have 100% perfect quality, and they believe the problem is the human errors, not the machines, which is why SheyMing focuses on employee training, to minimize the number of errors the best they can.
Using small-volume, large-variety to adapt to the new environment
The rise of China has deeply impacted SheyMing. They thought about moving to China, but they have also seen many other factories fail due to their inability to adapt to the local culture. SheyMing cherish the old employees of the past decades and chose to stay in Taiwan.
Choosing to stay means they have to make changes to survive in the market. After considering their advantages and observing the changes in the environment, SheyMing decided to get in touch with the maker community as they started to accept orders. To satisfy the clients with the flexibility of small-volume, large-variety, and through the support of these clients and the community, they explore even more of the market demands yet to be satisfied.
During the visit, we took the opportunity and asked SheyMing a lot about sheet metal and the demands of each of our own products. This means that while SheyMing is proactively exploring the maker market, the makers themselves are also keen on finding factory partners. After this visit, there are probably going to be one or two more startup products that have found the right cases for themselves.
Against the ever changing environment, both OEMs and designers are struggling to find a way out. Through the collaboration between communities, this way is slowing being built, thanks to the power of the Maker Movement.
Both Joe and Mr. Xu the factory owner have showed us their sincerity and practicality during this meetup. In the future, they will gradually become the force behind all makers, with their advanced technology and way of thinking.