How come Apple has great build quality products while other brands don't? Manufacturing techniques and their effect on build quality


#1

Hi guys!

Very often when we talk about electronics we bring up build quality. Nothing can be more frustrating than an expensive laptop that starts making creaking sounds over time :smiley: Build quality is most of the times defined by the manufacturing technique used for creating device’s casing. As pretty much with everything in this industry the more you are willing to pay the higher build quality you will achieve. There are a lot of manufacturing process involved in the creation of any device casing such as injection molding, die casting, etc. Today I will talk about the ones used for creating devices body.

I will be updating this thread and adding more techniques over time

1. Die Casting

Die casting is a manufacturing process in which liquid metal is injected under very high pressure into the mold (tooling). You can see an illustration of the process below.

Die casting is one of the most wide-spread and cost efficient techniques used for creating various metal parts nowadays. As every method die casting has its pros and cons.

Devices created with die casting:
Most of the Asus, Acer, Lenovo laptops

Pros:

  • It is the perfect method for producing large number of items as it takes very little time to die cast one part.
  • One of the cheapest ways to work with metal as almost no material is wasted and the process takes very little time.

Cons:

  • Part produced using die casting are more likely to have slight variances in size as a result device will not feel that solid and might start making creaking sounds with time
  • There are way less finishing options for die casted products.
  • Die casted parts are more fragile and are likely to break easier than parts made by CNC or forging
  • Devices designed for die casting are thicker overall as if you make die casted part too slim it would be more likelly to break and suffer more from variances in size
  • Upfront tooling costs are very high.

Below you can see the flow of die casting process.

Step 1

http://imgur.com/ulaYiQc

Step 2
http://imgur.com/xs5iIdI

Step 3
http://imgur.com/wXcebsF

This is how it looks like in real life:

2. CNC

Computer Numerical Control is a technique in which machine converts the design produced by Computer Aided Design software (CAD), into numbers. The numbers can be considered to be the coordinates of a graph that control the movement of the cutter.

CNC process is used to create advanced shapes and products. Have a look at the video below to understand how CNC process actually works. The idea behind CNC is that single block of aluminium transforms into a finished product using quite sophisticated machines.

Devices created with CNC:
Apple iPhone, MacBook, Ipad and Samsung galaxy S7

Pros:

  • Perfect prescion, all the CNC produced parts come out identical as a result device feels very sturdy
  • A lot of finishing options
  • CNC allows using way fewer parts, as a result, making device slimmer and lighter

Cons:

  • Very high cost as even it takes a lot of time for one machine to produce a part also there is a lot of material wasted comparing to die casting

As for Pyramid Flipper:

Well guys, what do you think we will use?!

Ofc it will be CNC! We are creating an elegant solution that will have as little parts as possibles carefully carved from single block of aluminum so that PF will last!


#2

Great post!
Is Aluminium the best material for the device, or is something like the Magnesium alloy of the Surface Pro 4 better?


#3

Cheers Antony!

Basically aluminum has better thermal properties and more finishing options but it is quite heavy comparing to magnesium.

Magnesium is lighter and that’s basically it :smiley:

So we will see what material is better after we know the final weight. If device with all of its battery is getting too heavy we will probably use magnesium.

But currently we are experimenting with aluminum


#4

thanks for this post, i like it. keep them coming!


#5

But if we go for magnesium wouldn’t that decrease the thermal properties and make the chip run hotter overall?


#6

@Konstantinos what do you mean by more and less finishing options? Colours? Matte or glossy?

Great post btw :wink:


#7

Yes exactly ! More colors and materials can be applied in top. Like rubber coating, etc.


#8

What grade of aluminum alloy will be used?
Why I ask You say?
Well, do you remember the bendgate with that iPhone?
:grin:


#9

They could use pure aluminum :wink: but most probably as in iPhones and MacBooks they will use an aluminum alloy and as such depends as you said on the grade of it (think the two used either 6000 or 7000 series).


#10

See:
http://eve.community/t/design-what-will-pyramid-flipper-feel-like-material-color-and-finishing-bank-for/457/27?u=eepi56


#11

I’d say better have it bulkier, but use aluminium to squeeze every bit of performance out of that CPU before it overheats :slight_smile:


#12

Please do not do rubber coating unless parts can be replaced or there are versions without it. It looks and feels great while new, but it is not very durable in terms of wear (peeling and worn Audi cars switch-gear comes in mind as an example) . If anything, and you want colors go for hard anodizing. It deposits color into (not onto) the surface and resists abrasion very well.


#13

Sorry friend, but there is no such thing as “pure aluminum” used in any manufacturing. All are alloys, the most common performance aluminum used is 6061, usually tempered to T6 (this is commonly referred to as aircraft aluminum). There are 7 series, which are the real deal, acting more like steel in durability, but costing way more, and being harder on tooling.
A thing to think about is the anodizing process–only black anodizing actually makes aluminum more scratch resistant!


#14

Source ?



#15

doesn’t aluminum degrade very easy and quick?

my anecdotal experience with apple products

  • Macbook Pro easily dent when hitting something (hitting table corner, etc)
  • iPhone and iPod something-something easily have its back scratched like a cat playing with it.

compared to magnesium (my 15 years old asus laptop and 2 or 3 years old vaio tap 11 tablet/laptop) that able to take a beating. It doesn’t have a dent when hitting something. Its also more resistant to scratches, depending on the finish.


#16

Well, I don’t mind a dent or two if it protects my precious screen. My tablet is aluminium, and when I dropped it on concrete, that made a small dent on the corner, but it probably saved the life of my screen. Because denting absorbs the force of hitting a hard surface - it works kind of like a spring.


#17

Then it depends a lot on material thickness and alloy used. In general magnesium is softer but if it is double the thickness of aluminum…))


#18

Thanks for such a thorough education! Now I am better informed on future purchasing decisions and the impacts of cost vs quality.


#19