/>
X

Join or Sign In

Register for your free ZDNet membership or if you are already a member, sign in using your preferred method below.

Use your email Use Linkedin Use Facebook

Manufacturing a ruggedised laptop: photos

Ever wondered what goes into a ruggedised laptop? Panasonic invited ZDNet Australia on a tour of its manufacturing and testing facility in Kobe, Japan, to show what it puts its machines through.

|
michael-11.jpg
|
Topic: Laptops
pana1.jpg
1 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

An oversized mock Toughbook breaks through the floor of Panasonic's factory. While the company makes a consumer line of laptops, it only sells them to the Japanese domestic market. Meanwhile, its enterprise line is typically only sold overseas.

pana2.jpg
2 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

On the assembly line, motherboards need to be laser etched to create QR codes to manage the production quality.

pana3.jpg
3 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

The blank board starts at one side of the machine, and passes through a series of rails between each machine in the process.

pana4.jpg
4 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

After the paste is applied to the board, another machine places the necessary components on the board. The components are packed in plastic sleeves, which are delivered like belt-fed ammunition to the machine. There are two separate machines for differently sized components, with the first for the smallest ones, like resistors, and the second for larger packaged chips, like graphics processors.

pana5.jpg
5 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

After the components are placed, they are sent into a furnace to solder them into place.

pana6.jpg
6 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

Further components are soldered to the board before it is ready for testing.

pana7.jpg
7 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

Two types of automated testing take place on the production line. Soldered connections are checked by shining a laser on the joint and verifying that it reflects the beam at the correct angle. Any variance indicates that the joint isn't consistent with ordinary processes.

The second type of automated testing involves comparing a picture of a board in production with a master copy.

Humans are still involved in the process. Factory workers connect the board to a diagnostics station and test every function on the board to see if it works correctly. Panasonic has a rejection rate of about eight boards per million.

The company is beginning to roll out automated diagnostic testing of its boards, also. A robotic arm takes production boards, and checks that they are working as expected.

pana8.jpg
8 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

Once tested, the boards are drilled and cut to shape.

pana9.jpg
9 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

From here, factory workers push the boards from their cut-outs, and they are assembled by hand. The factory has about 340 employees in its Kobe factory, which is spread over 27,000m2.

pana10.jpg
10 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

The assembled products are then set up on racks for testing. USB sticks containing diagnostic software check that the machines are working correctly.

pana11.jpg
11 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

In many cases, the machines are built without keyboards in place as it is not known what part of the world they will be shipped to. Panasonic has four configuration centres located in the US, the UK, Canada and Australia, in which region-specific parts, such as keyboards, are installed before final shipment.

pana12.jpg
12 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

To ensure that the device meets electronic emissions standards, Panasonic also tests machines in its anechoic chamber.

pana13.jpg
13 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

In the building, an antenna detects any electronic interference from a set-up 10m away. The triangular panels on the walls serve to dampen any external sources of noise, and the entire building is iron clad to isolate it from the outside world.

pana14.jpg
14 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

The machine being tested is also rotated to measure any interference that might be directional.

pana15.jpg
15 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

As no one can be in the chamber at the time of testing, security cameras allow operators to see what is occurring within the chamber from the attached monitoring room.

pana16.jpg
16 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

Back in the factory, and on a separate floor, Panasonic also conducts testing of its products through a variety of machines.

pana17.jpg
17 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

One of its tests is to cause sudden changes in temperature to test how durable the machines are.

pana18.jpg
18 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

Air takes a relatively slow time to change temperatures, so the company also does testing using hot and cold liquids to increase the temperature "shock" that is applied to the test subject.

pana19.jpg
19 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

When it comes to physical shock, Panasonic has two machines in its factory to test drops of up to 5m. They are tested on wood and concrete and across 26 points on the product — all six faces, 12 edges and eight corners.

pana20.jpg
20 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

Panasonic factory planning team manager Harry Hiroshi Yamaguchi explains how its high-density "super foam" provides hard drives with physical shock protection. The company claims that it can reduce impact shocks from 2000G to less than 270G.

pana21.jpg
21 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

To ensure that its waterproof design holds up, the company blasts test subjects with water from every direction at 10L per minute. While the standard for water resistance testing specifies a 10m duration, Panasonic conducts the test for 60 minutes.

A drip test, which it advertises as conforming to US military-standard MIL-STD-810F, specifies a 15-minute test, but Panasonic conducts it for 12 hours.

Panasonic said that the reason for exceeding the minimum standards was because the standard values didn't reflect real-world usage.

pana22.jpg
22 of 22 Michael Lee/ZDNet

(Credit: Michael Lee/ZDNet Australia)

In the case that a customer does have to return a product, Panasonic also destroys the hard drives where necessary. The drives are crushed and the platters drilled to make it highly unlikely that any data will ever be read from them again.

Michael Lee travelled to Japan as a guest of Panasonic Australia.

Related Galleries

First Look: New Surface PCs include Android-based Duo 2 [in pictures]
thumbnail-72371d1d9eb043bcb3986b87c5b47dc7.jpg

Related Galleries

First Look: New Surface PCs include Android-based Duo 2 [in pictures]

First look: Apple's 'Spring Loaded' event [pictures]
apple420-01.jpg

Related Galleries

First look: Apple's 'Spring Loaded' event [pictures]

Silicon Mac first look: Everything unveiled at Apple's 'One More Thing' event [pictures]
nov10-apple-silicon-event-01.jpg

Related Galleries

Silicon Mac first look: Everything unveiled at Apple's 'One More Thing' event [pictures]

Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise
Windows running on Chromebooks

Related Galleries

Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise

YubiKey 5C NFC: The world’s first security key to feature dual USB-C and NFC connections
YubiKey 5C NFC

Related Galleries

YubiKey 5C NFC: The world’s first security key to feature dual USB-C and NFC connections

Toshiba laptops through the ages
screenshot-2020-08-11-at-11-52-27.png

Related Galleries

Toshiba laptops through the ages

Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3NXC
Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3NXC

Related Galleries

Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3NXC