How PC Case Panels Are Made: Raw Metal Factory Tour in Taiwan, ft. Lian Li

by birtanpublished on October 2, 2020

We thought we'd found the limits of viewer interest when he posted our tour of a screw factory last year as poor Freight it was more of a screw shop than a screw factory then we toured a cardboard box Factory and that too got great viewer interest now we're touring a metal supplier that makes the sheet metal's it used by case manufacturers to build their enclosures we've toured a lot of case manufacturing facilities in

The past some of them are highly automated like cooler masters seemingly endless lines of fully automated robotic arms that move punch and rotate panels and some of them are more manually intensive Lian Lee's Taiwan based factory fits in the middle it's got a mix of machinery and manual work from long term machinists with finely tuned skillsets today we'll be talking about

How the metals are made and processed for case factories with a unique view of Lian Lee's processes start to finish before that this video is brought to you by the new be quiet straight power 11 platinum power supply series available from 550 watts to 1200 watts the new straight power 11 is Platinum certified operating more efficiently than before reducing the heat and lowering noise

Levels as a result the be quiet street power 11 platinum is up to 94.1 percent efficient and meets the new low power standards of just 0.16 watts when in standby learn more about this high-end noise focused power supply at the link in the description below before we start a quick reminder that we have an entire factory tour playlist where you can see over a dozen different factories for

Computer hardware and the related supply chain factories that's linked in the description below if you want to catch up on it we previously toured the Emily's Factory in 2018 and will link that below if you want additional manufacturing towards from this facility for this one though we're showing some new stuff from the raw materials Factory and the processing of those materials

Into case panels by Lee Ann Lee the machines will show in this tour include 4,000 watt laser cutters surface grinding and smoothing machines NCT punch press machines bending machines metal cutting equipment and cranes that carry 20 tons of metal around the one thing that all of the case factory is big and small have in common is that they don't actually make

The metal like anything else companies like Coolermaster and Lian Li two opposite ends of the spectrum require supply of metal and their metal suppliers yet require a supply of reels of metal which at some level ultimately goes back to a foundry we'll get there eventually but in today's factory tour we'll be talking about how PC case metal supplies are

Made and delivered to the factories that make the enclosures you all know in order for everything to remain economical volume has to be high for every link in the chain and that's best maintained by getting a metal supplier to feed all kinds of factories it could be cars computer cases or air conditioning and inducting companies but piling together all the customers is

What drives down the cost for everybody well first arrive at the each one UN steel factory where the Emily soars is its metal for panel manufacturing 20n makes SCCC steel aluminum stainless steel and other sheet metal suspect for its customers which not only include obviously Lian Li but also storage and transportation companies R&D companies mechatronic companies and even other

Factories the factory makes hot rolled steel coils and sheets cold rolled steel sheets coated steel coils and aluminum in coils or sheets its materials include automobile high tension steel structural steel coil and sheets commercial steel sheets galvanized steel aluminum and Colour steel coils and more the steel factory is located in shita Taiwan located about 20 minutes northeast of

Taipei or at least the central area and it's between Kylan and Taipei the factory is a third party that liyan Lee buys its metals from so this isn't a facility that Lee and Lee owns but that's normal Lee and Lee helped us confirm some information with the factory that we suspected might have been true it's busier than ever and that's because a lot of the restricted

Supply coming out of China has experienced slowdowns and limitations due to a return to work force that's less than typical as we said before in other videos the reasoning for increased business for some factories in Taiwan is because of something that starts with a c and rhymes with demonetised but you get the idea the particular metals factory we went to here it takes pride

In quality over quantity boasting higher quality metals then it says it's competitors in Russia or Korea most commonly would provide of course any factory would say that it has the highest quality but this really seemed to be a sticking point for this one when asked why we were told that it has to do with the metal purities and the

Ductility of a metals that are sold here the start of this process involves delivery of metal a process we didn't capture since it's on a fixed schedule but trucks bring giant metal reels to the factory each way in a staggering 6 to 20 metric tonnes the factory processes 300 vetrix tons of metal per day between us twenty four primary machines from what the factory described

To us the Taiwanese government helps regulate the pricing of raw materials by either selling the metal directly to the factory or by authorizing a third-party vendor to do so given that these reels can weigh up to 44,000 pounds or 20,000 kilograms some special equipment is required to move them around large ceiling-mounted claws feel like a macrocosm to Taiwan's

Ever-popular claw games except with a greater chance of a payout the ceiling-mounted claws suspended high above the floor between beams that are about three meters apart each a hook on the end of the chain carries a remotely operated orange clamp that grabs the metal reels all controlled by an on the ground operator who follows the claw around with a remote control the

Operators have to remain close to the crane for multiple reasons mostly related to safety and each crane operator must be individually certified in order to drive it the crane can handle up to 25 metric tonnes and the factory has a total of 33 cranes in operation the claws place metal reels into a carrier mounted on the floor at which point a sunken carrier emerges

From below the floor level to pick up the reel and carry it to a spindle for the first machine an operator brings the reel over to a padded spindle and hammers the straps off of the coil following which an arm lowers its wheel onto the top of the coil from the machine at this point the coil can be fed into the leveler the operator physically looks at the reel for any

Obvious defects on the outer wall since this is the section that was exposed during transit and so it's the most likely to have damaged the inner wall should all be fine after this point the operator can start the leveling machine the process is mostly automated from here until the reel runs out this leveling machine uses what is

Functionally a massive hammer and that'd be the size of the entire sheet just to flatten out the metal it then uses a blade to cut the metal to size and pushes forward each cut sheet once done the sizes programs for each customer so lien Lee's sheets will be programmed based on what's being made at its own factory and that programming will also change based on the machines that Lee

Ann Lee is using so it's not just about the product that's being made and how big the sheet might need to be for a panel but also about how much excess they want of the metal sheet so that they have room for error or cutting tolerances with their own equipment the first and last cuts are inspected by the operator for quality and any rejects are ejected off the back side of the machine

Onto a cart that will later dump the bad pieces into a bin any bad metal found in this process is thrown into a container that's later sold in bulk to a different company this reduces waste which is something we're told the Taiwanese government has become very serious about but it also adds another revenue stream since other factories can make use of metal with blemishes on it that might

Not be acceptable for a customer like Lee Ann Lee but could be fine for something that's more industrial anything that's unusable completely will be melted down by that buyers foundry if it's a material that hasn't been contaminated the good sheets of metal are pushed by the blade and sent down a conveyor belt to a collecting bin where 100 of them at a time will stack up

Within their packing materials namely an unbuilt cardboard box and some plastic wrap once 100 sheets stack up regardless of the size of the cut they'll be extracted by a forklift we didn't get to see the forklift in action but they're pretty standard transport vehicles and you've likely seen one before the ones used by this factory carry anywhere from 2 metric tons to 10

Metric tons the forklift stacks them on the factory floor near the exits with each pile 1.8 metres high and eventually those are loaded onto a truck each of these leveler lines is about 45 metres long and was built in place when installed they're capable of cutting metals up to 13 millimeters thick although case manufacturers rarely go

Above 2 to 4 millimeter panelling and even that isn't that common steel paneling is typically closer to 1 millimeter also in this building a mini leveler is used to cut smaller panels on an as-needed basis these would be used for mini ITX cases for instance or just for customers outside of the computer hardware industry the coils are initially cut at

The large leveler that we already saw and then they're brought over it's this smaller one to be cut across the other axis and to meet the spec for the customer an operator sits on either side with one on the reject side and they're responsible for a QC and sorting of good and bad sheets and the other on the accept side where they load them into the machine the mini leveler can cut up

To three millimeter thick metals and up to four feet wide for the metals we didn't get an opportunity to see the metals testing area due to NDA's in place with the customers but the factory also performs hardness testing and materials testing Ericsson surface testing and salt spray testing we do happen that footage of a salt spray tester from another facility that be

From cooler masters a IO Factory which we recently talked about in our animatics ELC coverage as well and it's the same idea as they're the ones at the AI o or CLC factories are used to test corrosion of metals and durability and longevity in a an aged simulated environment just at a much smaller scale than what this factory would be doing finally all of the stacks sheets are

Loaded onto a shuttle truck and between all of these operations this factory again goes through about 300 tons of metal per day through about twenty four major machines and that doesn't count all the transport vehicles transport equipment and the cranes the metal is next brought over to Lee Emily's case panel Factory a couple of cities over where it processes the metal into actual

Panels for the cases for the Emily's Factory we'll start with how the metal supply is used at the local facility we should also note that Lee and Lee has factories that works within both China and Taiwan as Lee Ann Lee splits manufacturing between them based on a few requirements networking equipment that Lee Ann Lee might om for routers or switch suppliers for instance is often

Made in Taiwan as the networking companies update their gear so often every six months to a year so that manufacturing the case has near where management lives reduces the time and the way spent on sampling periods solve a higher-end parts that are more mission-critical are also kept solely in Taiwan where the company has some of its

Best trained long-term employees this is pretty standard for the industry especially for companies that are headquartered in Taiwan when we tour gigabytes SMT lines and motherboard factory last year we learned that the company keeps some of its highest end or most mission-critical parts at the nanping Road Factory locally where management can keep a closer eye on

What's going on and where staff have more years of experience to recap the case factory and where it's metal supply is eventually used we revisited Lian Lee's factories across the street from its headquarters in Taiwan and looked again at what we saw in 2018 with Roman Deir Bauer this factory manufactures panels and pieces of the chassis for assembly elsewhere and still has to work

With multiple other factories in the chain to source things like front panel headers and cables screws and hardware and manpower to actually put the paneling together this one specifically handles panel bending or punching laser cutting cleaning and has a couple of other smaller steps like an assembly line upstairs where people will manually package the accessories kits for the

Cases that you buy from Lee and Lee relating to today's story specifically stacks of sheet metal stacked again 100 units high can be found at MCT machines and at laser cutting machines which eventually make their way down to the bending machines or the cleaning machines the numerical control turret punch press is a massive piece of equipment that's brought in in pieces

And assembled in place it's bolted to the floor because at 400,000 USD each some extra precautions are needed to ensure no damages caused to the machine to the building or to the operators next to the NCT machine is a cabinet full of tools with varying hole sizes Lian Li is punch brass can cut up to 70 different types of holes once fully loaded with these tools with cuts pre-programmed on

The machines computer each of the tools is used to create a different type of cut and all of that programmed in ahead of time a door to the punch reveals where the tools are loaded by technicians although the company tries to only manufacture one panel type at a time to keep the efficiency high this means that they can program it and then it's mostly automated the tools

Are precision made in Japan and they have a tolerance down to 0.02 millimeters for the cuts this machine is significantly faster than the laser cutter although both can do the same thing at different efficiency or quality levels the punch machine will always have slight gaps at worst 0.02 millimeters wide from one punch to the next where the metal is less even this

Might show up on a CPU cooler cut out for a motherboard tray but this is minor and not relevant for what Leonie calls B phase components things that are internal where the cuts are basically unseen the punch makes the most sense for all of this stuff if absolutely necessary pieces could be filed down later but they're typically taken straight out of the punch and sent to

Bending the laser cutter meanwhile is able to cut through material up to 16 millimeters thick and it makes clean smooth cuts that are ideal for exterior panels Leonie used this laser cutter in our 2018 tour to make some of its aluminum frames for the Borah fans because the laser cutters precision allows things like fine bezels and varying Heights to easily be cut into

The material rather than making a whole bunch of custom tooling the laser cutter has a few downsides though and the first is that in order to cut a small hole or a circular shape at all the laser would have to go about the entire circumference of the hole rather than punching it straight through this would take a long time of cutting a lot of screw holes or mesh holes for instance

So it's avoided for patterned designs or for things like mesh where you'd rather go to a different supplier or a different Factory the second downside is that the laser uses 4000 watts of power and requires a liquid nitrogen tank big enough that kingpin would be jealous and although Ellen's who is relatively cheap in Taiwan it really starts to add up when you clean a 4000 watt device with

It after these panels are cut and the NCT or the laser machine is done with its job they're moved over to a cleaning machine that removes debris and if needed polishes the exterior of the panels for outward facing paneling we asked if this machine had a particular name because the Chinese characters for the station simply called it the rubbing area which wasn't that helpful that's

Still better than when Coolermaster took us to its screw class to be fair this equipment is used to clean the exterior of panels with water and friction on the first pass through the machine water is cycled over the panel to remove looser debris leftover from the cutting process and the second pass uses rollers that can move sides aside or simply spin front to back depending on what's being

Made these are basically fine grit Sanders and they have to be changed every three days to keep the necessary grit for the panel finished water runs across the surface of the panel the whole time that it's being sanded down so that the senate away particles can be collected and brought away from the final product all of this debris is brought down to a bucket at the bottom

Of the machine the bucket has several filters in it and it cleans and recycles the water to the extent possible and reuse it in the machine cleanly eventually has to purge or refill this to keep things operational because there's some natural evaporation over time or some loss from some of the spray another alternative path for the panels rather than going this route

Might be to go over to the bending station for internal chassis walls the bending machines are loaded with a bending stabilizer and a blade each with a precise angle cut into it for guidance of the bend this allows Lian Li to tweak steel panels into the correct shape for interior cased components like motherboard trays and networking equipment although this can be automated

And is automated in most factories in China including ones Lee Ann Lee works with Lee only here uses a manual process for its Taiwan facility that's because this Factory is more of a boutique shop that spins up for more limited quantity projects or projects that might need rapid or regular changes like it's networking clients who need to make regular fast changes to their cases that

Means cost is higher for the customer but that turnaround time is significantly faster and changes are easier to be applied since programming and tooling aren't required for every single step of the way also there's some logistical advantage if it's in Taiwan for companies that might assemble the rest of the product here that concludes our tour of how raw materials are turned

Into case panels we have more steps of this process and others coming up like a video on how the panels are painted and coated but you can also check our factory tour playlist below for more videos in this series we've previously covered two other case factories in depth where you can find some of the most impressive automated factories we've seen many of

In a way Joe or Schengen and that's as a good counterpart to this more manual shop based approach subscribe for more as always support us via at patreon.com slash gamers Nexus or store document sexist on net to help us out with these expensive tours and factory coverage and we'll see you all next time

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