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 Post subject: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 8:59 am 
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Location: Hong Kong
Many moons ago, George Miller visited Hong Kong, and we had the opportunity to travel to a few factories together in China. (19-21 July, 2010) I was under bad internet conditions immediately following these tours, and then got busy with work upon my return to Hong Kong. Please forgive me for this delayed trip/factory visit report. I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoyed visiting.

First, a disclaimer. There were occasions I was allowed to take photographs of machines and other equipment, but was asked not to show faces and/or products that were being produced. This is not to hide anything (well, it is) but rather to keep you in suspense of what is coming next. If I did not get verbal permission from the people to post photos of them, they have also been blacked out. I simply don’t believe in publicizing this without consent. Given the circumstances and the fact that I would like to do this again, I will err on the side of caution.

Our visits took place immediately following IPP. George arrived in Hong Kong on Monday, and was to be shortly followed by Oskar. Sadly, Oskar got sick and was unable to make it. That didn’t stop George and I from enjoying a wonderful set of tours.

After sorting out that Oskar was not on his way to Hong Kong, I met George at his hotel and we rode over to meet SmaZ. George got to see Smaz’s workshop and shop. I think George was as surprised as many are when they see the area SmaZ creates such wonderful puzzles in. George took a few photographs for the folks back home and opened his webpage for SmaZ to take a look at.

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He couldn't believe that was where SmaZ did ALL his work!
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We went out for a hotpot dinner after words, and had an enjoyable evening of food and conversation. SmaZ being the wonderful gentleman he is helped George get back to his hotel while I went home. George being the wonderful gentleman he is gave SmaZ a few custom puzzles, and the favor was returned. Luckily I had the puzzle SmaZ wanted to give George, and since I hadn’t even had a chance to play with it yet, I handed it over with pleasure.

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sheriff George! :lol:
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And it begins: "boys and toys and BEER!" :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 9:07 am 
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The next morning I again met George at his hotel and we headed out for Shenzhen. This time we met Uwe and Jing for a train ride to an unnamed factory an hour away. This factory is one of the largest of the OEM producers in China and I have to say, I was impressed, blown away, astounded (add many more adjectives here) by what I saw.

On top of being one of the largest factories I have ever seen, This has got to be the cleanest factory I have ever seen in my life! It was spotless! I can’t say anymore about it, but will let the photos speak for me. I don’t know the names of all the machines, but will mention any I do remember.

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A sports gound in a factory? :shock:
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cooling tanks
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This looks more like a resort than a factory!
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Tempo painting-yes these look like silicon implants upside down. And that's exactly what they are in a round about fashion :lol:
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Virgin ABS

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 9:14 am 
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quality inspection
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spray masks
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This is the only factory I have been in with this kind of safety protection for the workers.
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testing for sea travel.
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an incredibly steady CNC machine (Have I got this right?) George pointed out that the base was at least a foot thick slab of granite!
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contraty to what the sign may say, I saw no one eating anything in that room! :lol:
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Rox the spy shooting from the hip :lol: Yes Oskar it's crooked!
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Uwe inspecting another product being assembled.

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 9:19 am 
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These are molds for TOYS!!!!

Upon completion of the factory, we were shown the factory showroom. There was a girl who’s job I swear was to only replace batteries. This photo is deliberately the fuzzy one to not post pictures of many well known toys. I have to say, I was shocked when I saw a toy I spent ages trying to find for the bug last Christmas in this show room, as well as toys I have sent to all my nieces and nephews over the years. This factory is top notch. For those of you that complain of the price of puzzles, please bear in mind that the toys in that factory showroom retail at a starting price of over US$50!
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We spent a bit of time discussing puzzles that have now been released so I don’t mind showing you the photo of that. Again, please note the blockouts are either products or people not to be disclosed yet.
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And that is the end of factory one. Please bear with me while I edit photos and type up the report. Over these two days we visited 5 different factories-each with its own unique qualities. It was truly a whirlwind couple of days. Even more so for me as I left for the States and my summer holiday on the 22nd of July. Can you say exhausting summer!

The next factory we had the pleasure of visiting created molds for the puzzles! Stay tuned!

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 9:31 am 
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The second factory of this tour with Uwe was to a place that makes the molds. Now this I found fascinating. I learned they use electricity and copper to make a steal mold. For me, it was fascinating because I didn’t realize you could use a soft metal to cut a hard one. That greenish/brownish stuff you see in the photos is oil that is used as a coolant. By the time we got to this factory, it was well past 10 pm. If I remember right, they stayed open so we could take our tour. the photos are dark because of the time of day. My little blue camera didn't do the best job, but it was so much better than my phone :lol:

I will warn that I don’t know what these machines are called, but post photos for your viewing pleasure (envy perhaps?) only. Maybe someone can help to identify them.

But first: the sleeping policeman! :lol: :lol: I woke the poor chap up with my camera flash. :(
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Ok, factory photos. Sorry for that last one, but I thank you for indulging my sick sense of humor!
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this one cuts the molds using a very thin piece of wire.
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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 9:44 am 
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More photos of only heaven knows what-I should have made notes to myself as I was going through these places. But I was just so excited to see these REAL man tools at work I didn't think to do so. :lol:
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copper cutting steal! :shock:
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A cardboard box cutter. Industrial sized. No exacto knives for these boys :lol:
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This one I know. I am standing ON TOP of one of those injection molding machines looking down on the factory floor! This one is huge! It was taller than Uwe. I've never seen such a huge piece of machinery in my life, and Can't imagine how big the piece of equipment was that made this one.

We made it back to Shenzhen just in time to get across the border. I guess I got home around 1 am only to wake up early to meet George and Kyoo for the next days tour to the Hanayama factories.

Like me, you will have to wait another day to see those. It's time for me to hit the hay once again. I hope you enjoyed my first long overdue installment of factory tour photographs.

"Tune in tomorrow — same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!"

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:15 am 
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additional photos of the first two factories can be found here.

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:44 am 
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Very interesting insight Rox, thanks for sharing! :)

By the way, did you (by any chance) see a figure on top of the buildings
equipped with two bright balls?

:lol:


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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 11:07 am 
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Although you clearly can't be specific, can you tell us at least what type of toys are made here? Dolls? Puzzles? I am assuming puzzles, but it could be something else...

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 11:21 am 
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Great story Rox. It's really interesting to see inside the factories.

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 12:35 pm 
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This is AWESOME Rox! I have always wondered about the complexity that is so called Meffert's. I plan on visiting Honk Kong next year for a study abroad!


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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 7:30 pm 
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Dolls, cars, electronics-many many others.
We got to peak in a room where they do the circuit boards for electronic toys. Everyone was in hair caps and gowns. Because we didn't want to get dressed, we didn't go in. At this point I was asked to take no photographs. It was cool to watch though.

Am editing out Hanayama photos now and should be able to post all 3 factories by this evening. (I hope-today is the 12 hour teaching day! :shock: ) If I'm too tired, it will be Thursday I promise.

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 8:43 am 
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Ok, so it's Friday. Better late than never right?

My husband and I met George and Kyoo around 8 in the morning and took a cab to the border. While there we realized that George was an old man :lol: Can you say express lane???? Matt stayed with me through the tourist channel and the crossing was super quick.
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No, I didn't take that photo of the sign that says "no photography" :lol: :lol:

From there we met a driver and headed off for the first of 3 factories. While in the van, George and I spotted a few puzzles and started to play. The first one we noticed we had to take apart :lol:
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this was after all a take-apart puzzle!

Ok, first stop a factory where they make wooden puzzles.

I was overwhelmed by the number of machines, and the types. George was very interested and tried a few and my husband just kept telling me to take photos of everything! Since I don't know what any of this stuff is for, I'll just add photos that might be of interest. No puzzles will be posted. Sorry-strict orders for this part of the trip!
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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 9:00 am 
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Now the one thing that struck me in this factory was how DIRTY it was. To me it seemed like a fire waiting to happen. There were sawdust and wood pieces everywhere! The other thing I noticed was the smell! It was wonderful! The only thing better than the smell of freshly cut wood is freshly cut grass on a rainy spring morning.

I was watching a tangram set being made. There were many people that were working on that puzzle. One person would cut the big chunks, then one to cut the smaller sections. then one to sand each piece. I now know why the prices are so high! Never again will I complain.

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drying racks
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george inspecting a tumbling machine-used for smoothing out the wood.
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silk screening
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The inevitable tea drinking.

The rest of the photos are here

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 9:13 am 
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Our next two factories were a mold making factory and the place they make the Hanayama metal puzzles. Molds and those machines I've shown before, so I'll skip that and leave it for face book. here I will give you photos of those metal mind twisters in their naked states!

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My first toy of the day-taken from the van! There was a bucket of puzzles in there for playing with. A nice way to ride around the Chinese countryside.
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cardboard box cutter
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A spring maker-I've always wondered how they made those things. George said that is what he wants for Christmas!
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I have no idea what this is :lol: But it's a machine!
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something to take the big rough edges off-there were stones in there as well :shock:
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It was either a washing machine or a dryer
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Oh was I wrong! This is me standing on top of a giant machine!
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A shelf in the office
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George prototyped all of those he is holding

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 9:24 am 
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putting packages together
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just a few puzzles!
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ready for packaging
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a machine to cut plastic pieces
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Machine for making the blister packaging
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Cutting the blister packaging
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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 9:35 am 
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that sucker was HOT!
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and Heavy!

And now what (well, Oskar anyway) you've been waiting for: The making of Oskar's designs! (And a few other's because he's made so many it's hard to keep up with them all :lol: )
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another washing machine
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Putting the center bit in
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Mass assembly of a puzzle-don't ask me what that white stuff is, I simply don't know!

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 9:53 am 
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I have come to realize what a lucky girl I am. Not only do I get to play with toys, and meet some wonderful people, I have this great joy of getting to go to the factories. I have got to tell you all, It is an amazing thing to do.

On this trip, Kyoo was a fantastic host. He took us to three very nice, very different factories. had it not been so late, we would have gone to see where they put the plating on the puzzles. I'll save that one for when Oskar does make it to HK.

We got to try out a few prototypes that should be making their way to the marked within a year or so, were given a few puzzles: The double H, a set of keys, the cast quartet, an unfinished nutcase. A couple more, I can't remember, but they are all tucked away safe and sound in my puzzle box! Kyoo gave both George and I HALF of the nutcase. Since my husband chose that one for himself, I graciously handed my half over to George.

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Unpolished keys II
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Unpolished cast quartet.

I learned that when polished and plated these puzzles have a gapof 1-2 microns between pieces. Highly accurate. What was truly amazing is the tightness even before plating. No wonder I have problems with them.

We also counted people on these puzzles and came up with 12 for the manufacturing in this factory alone. Then they are shipped to the one we didn't see. And finally back again for packaging which I believe to be another 6 people. $10-$12 for a puzzle? Cheap by all accounts when you add all the labor into it.

More puzzles can be found here

even my husband enjoyed the day and went home with a few toys of his own (almost as many in this set as I have). Thanks to Stan at IPP, he's now in love with cast puzzles :lol: :lol: I do believe the bug is being circulated through our home!

For anyone interested, the Hanayama puzzles can all be seen here.

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 12:18 pm 
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That really is very interesting. I like seeing how puzzles are manufactured. :)

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 12:22 pm 
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Roxanne, this is wonderful! I am currently taking a course on manufacturing processes and systems, and it is amazing to see the processes used to make the puzzles we all love.

Thanks for the pictures! I would love to see some more pictures of the casting, as that is exactly what we are learning about now!

-π (Eitan)

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 12:59 pm 
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Yikes! One of the pictures looks very much to me like a laser cutter operating with the cover up. The TechShop machines all have switches connected to the lid so it won't pulse the laser if the lid is open, but I seem to see the bright spot of the beam (or the wood it is burning, really).

Remember, don't look into the laser with your remaining eye...

Dave

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:00 pm 
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My God!!!

Can this topic become some sort of sticky? If not, it can easily go to the articles section!!!

:D


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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:57 pm 
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katsmom wrote:
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George prototyped all of those he is holding

Very cool...I actually have two prototypes from the group George is holding: Cast Marble (originally "Trapped Marble") in his right hand, and Cast Hook (originally "Fishhooks") in the back row.

Here are pictures from the Packages Just Arrived... thread. George Miller built everything in these pictures. I really hope some of the other puzzles go into production some day!

George's Trapped Marble prototype is the black square with the red ball at right, which became Hanayama's Cast Marble.
Image

George's Fishhooks prototype is the pair of red hooks at bottom, which became Hanayama's Cast Hook.
Image

This just emphasizes how prolific George's contribution really is: 1 out of every 4 of the pictured puzzles went into production. All of the others would also make excellent puzzles.

I hope more of these prototypes get translated into products!


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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 8:55 pm 
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Dave, that laser cutter was not working at the time we were there. (At least I think it wasn't-is that the one I said cut the plastic?) It was switched on so I could see what it did. Both George and I walked away with a prototype puzzle that was made on that machine. (I can't show it here because it is still in design stages-coming soon to a Japanese puzzle company near you :lol: )

As I look back at these photos and some of your comments, I am remembering bits and pieces of conversations.

Kyoo commented on my comment at IPP of the workers squatting on the floors to do the job. I wonder if I was uncharitable in the first factory tour report I made. He told me there were tables and stools there in the room for the workers, and indeed there were. It seems they are mostly farmer type people and they have a preference for squatting. They wanted to work in what I would consider an uncomfortable position! :shock:

George kept telling me I needed to lower my standards and expectations because China wasn't the US, and people had different ways of doing things.

I was constantly being told to stand a bit back when we were around machines that were working because it was dangerous. But I saw very little safety equipment-in particular in the wood factory. I remember some of those beasts from when I was a kid and my dad using them. When he was out in his man shed, we weren't allowed out of the house for fear he would hurt himself. It seems to me, one small distraction could mean one huge mistake for life.

Some of the metal cutting machines I asked about being open and in one case, "it always is" and in another, it was done so we could see what was happening in a 'safer' way.

I'm not sure that I've changed my opinion on the manufacturing process and the way people work, but I have changed my opinion on what I believe is expensive! I mean, 12 people and up for one toy :shock: That is a whole lot for such a low price!

I can't wait to go on the next visit! I just love this stuff!

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 10:41 pm 
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One of these is my rex cube :lol: funny to think u were probably there when im getting my cube in a week :D

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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Sat Oct 23, 2010 12:21 am 
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VeryWetPaint wrote:
This just emphasizes how prolific George's contribution really is: 1 out of every 4 of the pictured puzzles went into production. All of the others would also make excellent puzzles.


Indeed!!! George also prototyped the Cubedron for me. Then I used his pieces to create my molds.
He is a very trustworthy person and he is not doing this "as a job" (he is doing it for free anyway),
but as a passion of a puzzle fanatic.

Which is why he is one of my favourite friends.

:)


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 Post subject: Re: A LONG overdue trip report
PostPosted: Sat Oct 23, 2010 8:23 am 
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NType3 wrote:
One of these is my rex cube :lol: funny to think u were probably there when im getting my cube in a week :D


Nope sorry, Rex cube was not made in this factory. The one not pictured is not ready yet. Still in the prototyping mode. It seems to be taking forever for that one. I think this is the second set of molds....

But you will see it soon enough! :wink:

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