Anodizing Factory & How It Works, ft. Lian Li Computer Cases

by birtanpublished on September 10, 2020

Some components come out with a prettier coat of paint than others like the aluminum yest and cute pet case and some use a simpler paint job when component manufacturers decide how to coat their products they typically choose from anodized ation painting

Electroplating and electro phoretic deposition with costs listed from high to low we've stumbled across Noctua coolers getting coated black in this trip using cathodic electro deposition and we've also seen the robotic arms

Responsible for painting case side panels like the Lian Li panel made for digital storms bolt this tour will look specifically at anodization at a third party Factory that Lee Anne Lee uses for coating it's more expensive components

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Other competitive FP assets gigabytes extreme is built to be a looker for system builders going for extra visual flair learn more at the link in the description below the anodization factory is in northern taiwan the

Factory manager gave us a rundown of the process from cleaning the parts stripping them down with chemicals electrifying them in a bath of acid coloring them and finally packing them back up to be returned to the

Manufacturer be sure to check back for videos on related processes like painting electroplating and electro phoretic coating which are either on the channel or are going up over time our factory tour playlist is linked to the

Description below and contains over 20 factory tours in Taiwan and China like visually the process of analyzing parts in a factory looks similar to electroplating anodizing is fundamentally different in that it

Doesn't involve coating one metal and another instead it's a method of adding an additional oxide layer to the existing metal anodization works on many different metals but is commonly associated with aluminum which is what

This Factory specializes in aluminum forms an oxide layer on contact with air that naturally protects the metal and prevents further oxidation of the metal underneath but this natural layer is extremely thin and

Allow is growing a much thicker protective layer that's easier to dye this is a relatively small factory compared to ones we've toured in the past taking up just a few units on the bottom floor of a block crowded with

Other relatively small businesses including a cardboard box factory across the street the entire factory employs only about 20 workers Lee Ann Lee works with two factories for anodization and this one isn't the largest but it's the

More color accurate of the two and is said to take ventilation more seriously making it better for a tour the first step of anodization is to fix the aluminum parts onto a conductive metal rack two different types of racks are

Used depending on the parts that are being coated titanium racks are stronger and can hold more parts but the conductivity isn't optimal so these are used only for functional parts that are being anodized for protection rather

Than for aesthetics aluminum racks offer better conductivity and can hold fewer pieces and so they're used for pieces that are designed to be seen likely on these external panels of a case any point where the hooks contact the piece

Won't be anodized so the aluminum hooks are custom-made for each new type of part to minimize the contact while the titanium hooks have a more standardized design the factory technicians figure out the best

Spot for each products to attach to the hooks typically choosing unseen locations like inside of a screw hole the hooks themselves are anodized during the process so they won't last forever but they are reusable factory

Technicians bring empty titanium racks back from the packing area next door to start the cycle again aluminum comes in many varieties but the factory most commonly works with 5,000 and 6,000 series alloys when asked if some are

Easier to work with than others we were told that harder alloys tend to come out grayish while softer ones produce a better color due to the change in conductivity will discuss the colouring process in more detail later on once the

Parts are secured to a conductive rack they next have to be cleaned it's critical to the operation that the services are clean and free of any fingerprints or any other contaminants for the rest of the process so their

First cleaned with an oil after that they're dunked in a bath of degreaser for 35 minutes followed by yet another bath of water to rinse off the degreasing fluid and the contaminants that it removed these tanks are held in

The middle of the first room surrounded by a short concrete curve to Holden splashing and overflow from the water rinse tank which is being filled with fresh water constantly the insulated bumpers above these tanks are

Just to hold the metal poles from which the racks are suspended electricity isn't involved until later in the process chemical preparation for the anodization process begins after initial cleaning the seven tanks for this stage

Are lined up against the very back wall of the factory securely away from the entrance the first step is pure water cleaning then the first chemical step is dunking the parts in an alkaline mixture of sodium hydroxide also known as ly or

Caustic soda for about 10 seconds this mixture is kept somewhere between 60 degrees and 70 degrees Celsius and the tanks are visibly steamy producing a vapor that must be pulled away by a fume hood placed specifically over this end

Of the line well I can cause serious chemical burns so caution must be exercised here the lye bath is necessary to dissolve the natural layer of aluminum oxide which lacks the pores required to let oxygen in and grow the

Oxide layer aluminum oxide is amphoteric meaning it can react with both bases and acids sodium hydroxide reacts with it to produce water illuminate and heat sodium hydroxide also reacts with the raw aluminum underneath to produce alumina

And hydrogen gas hence limiting the bath to ten seconds surface finish is determined at this stage to make the end result shinier or duller special chemicals can be used here after the tenth second dip there are five separate

Water baths one next to the other to wash away any remaining traces of sodium hydroxide afterwards comes a mixture containing nitric acid lye does a great job of eating away aluminum oxide but aluminum is commonly used as an alloy

And it may not be as effective on the alloyed metals diluted nitric acid is used to wash away the residue of other metals in the process known as D smutty followed by yet another series of water baths before it's diluted the nitric

Acid is delivered in jugs at 68% concentration any stronger would be considered potentially fuming nitric acid which is bad the time between putting the parts in the lye bath and finishing the last of the water rinses

Is approximately 10 minutes the parts have been completely stripped of any aluminum oxide coating this point so it's vital to prevent contact with air as much as possible there are several standby tanks of water

Here for keeping aluminum parts submerged in case of production lines getting backed up finally anodization can begin as with electroplating the aluminum is submerged in fluid in this case a solution of 20% sulfuric acid and

80% of water that's held between 20 to 25 degrees Celsius there's an electric current passed through it at this point as well the racks containing the aluminum parts are suspended on a metal frame wired up with massive copper

Strips through which the current is passed wedge-shaped copper slugs at the ends formed the contacts a crane is operated manually at a control station nearby and moves back and forth over the tanks to lift to the frames in and out

Of their appropriate tanks there are only four anodization tanks in this line the rest are for rinsing and coloring unlike electroplating the metal to be anodized is the anode of the circuit hence the name the electric current

Splits water molecules into hydrogen and at the cathode and oxygen at the aluminum anode forming visible bubbles and causing the aluminum to oxidize the acidic electrolyte bath eats into the oxide layer without completely

Dissolving it allowing oxygen to reach even deeper and oxidize even more of the metal this also forms a much thicker and more porous structure than would naturally occur the end result is an inflexible oxide crust that's about

Electrically conductive and is less thermally conductive than the aluminum underneath as for power this line of Tanks was running at an insane 25 kilowatts we were told that the actual anodizing process length is 20 to 40

Minutes with darker colors taking longer black takes about 40 minutes white or semi-transparent coats take about 20 minutes and the rest is in between this process can be started from either side of the line depending on logistics each

Day and parts are rinsed six times in water and then colored and ization doesn't directly color aluminum but it does provide a nice open porous surface for dyes to stick to darker colors require a thicker oxide layer and

Therefore more time to be anodized the main production line only handles these two colors black and white as they're the most popular other colors are a smaller batches of parts are done manually and

Smaller tanks lined up alongside the larger ones this Factory offers 30 different standard colors custom colors are also possible but require much more effort the dye tanks are held at 110 to 160 degrees Celsius but only take about

15 minutes to preheat in the morning parts must be submerged in them for 5 to 10 minutes to be dyed after coloring the parts are rinsed three more times in water every step of the anodization process requires a large volumes of

Water which must be replenished throughout the day anodization as compared to painting produces relatively low waste since the aluminum containing byproducts filtered out of the water like aluminum hydroxide can be used for

Other industries and resold the water drains out of a downspout at the front of the factory and surprised government inspections to check the water quality are commonplace we were told that it's easy to meet these requirements at this

Factory because the chemicals used are not too toxic after coloring that comes the quality checking color is checked against a reference to make sure it's within an acceptable range the most common defects come from parts

Moving around or being bumped into each other being bumped into things and damaging the finish if the racks aren't moved carefully the parts can scratch each other easily smaller pieces are easier to deal with while larger ones

Cause more problems the factory can afford to be picky about blemishes because almost all defects can be fixed by restricting the oxide coating and simply repeating the process from square one but if any real serious damage has

Occurred the parts are sent back the customer sends in an exact number of parts for anodization and expects all of them to come back so the factory has to do its best to reclaim every defective part the final step is packaging the

Factory doesn't sell these parts themselves so that means it's securely wrapping up the parts in bulk and delivering them back to their customers like Lee Ann Lee as we mentioned earlier this is just one of several processes

Case manufacturers used for service code depending on the requirements anodization is the preferred process for externally visible aluminum parts but for a smoother and less expensive finish they use electro phoretic coating or for

Vibrant and varied colors they use paint each of those processes has its own interesting difference and we'll have videos on all those factories up as well check our factory tour playlist linked in the description below for more

Of these subscribe to help us out or go to store documents and access and there's access where you can get additional information or products from us thanks for watching we'll see you all next time

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