My weeks at Datel Electronics
Life moves pretty fast around Datel
I have traveled up the country to Stone in Staffordshire for my work experience
The kind people here have allowed me to spend two weeks learning about all types of work and get a true hands-on look at how a elctronics and gadgets production company operates.
On the first day of my work experience at Datel, I was surprised at how quiet it was there, I thought that it would be packed with people, but it wasn’t, it was quite a calm environment. Firstly I was shown around the entire premises by Damon Barwin, who works on computers doing software development and he also maintains the business servers, he is also the IT manager. After he had shown me around he then showed me how the company provides information and how it is stored, and how the company can add support for their products. This is done by basically routers like most people have at home so that they can connect to the Wi-Fi, but obviously on a much bigger scale so that the connection is much better and this allows them to build websites.
After lunch I was taken to Boris, who does 3d design and constructs 3d models to print and injection mould. He helped me design an arcade cabinet to 3d print at home, and after that was designed we worked on something to print at Datel, which was a joy-con grip for the Nintendo Switch, so I could connect my joy-cons to it if I wanted to. The software that we used to design it was a CAD application; it was going to be printed on an Objet30 Pro 3D printer in the next few days.
The following day I continued to design the 3d model of the joy-con controller mount with Boris. The final finishing touches were put on and then it was exported as a file and was ready to be printed.
After lunch, I went into the warehouse and a guy called Sean showed me the printing department/ area where the packaging designs for products was printed on thick paper, it felt like card to me but it was on the borderline of being classified as card, so it was classed as paper. The printer wasn’t what I expected it to be, it was probably as long as a small truck! There were different rollers on top, and each colour that was used in printing, cyan, magenta, yellow and black, were on each roller, which were at least a metre long, and these colours weren’t like ink really, it was more like thick paint that was spread on the rollers. The type of printing that was happening was called lithoprinting, for short.
After seeing that, I was then shown a die cutter, which in short, cuts out the net that was previously printed on the printer, and adds creases wherever the net needs to be folded, after it is put through the machine, it can be turned into a flat package, that just needs to be sealed, and with the products within it. The machines were quite loud and fast, as they were made for rapid manufacturing.
I then started off once again with Boris, as the model still had to be printed, so we went down to the lab, where the 3d printer was, and set it up the print, which took quite a while, as the machine had not been used in a little while, I was excited to see the results when it had finished, as this was an SLA 3D printer as far as I knew, which is more precise and much more expensive than FDM 3D printers, by the way that they work. The machine took about 10 minutes to warm up, then the print started, it was going to take 8 hours to print, so we would have to look at it the next day.
After lunch, I went with another guy called Ian, back in the warehouse, and he took me around the production/ assembly line, where people were soldering and testing things. For the rest of the day I did some stuff on the production line which was quite repetitive, but once you do it for a little while, you get faster at doing it.
On Thursday I did some more stuff along the production line, I went with someone called Kim, who designs packaging for products, and she taught me how to use Adobe Illustrator simply, so firstly I designed a batman logo which is the one on this background; I went through a step by step tutorial and drew it. After that, we made some stickers on a large printer which prints and cuts, the stickers were basically my YouTube logo which was redrawn in Illustrator to improve the quality, and then it was put into special software and printed and cut, so that I would have 54 limited edition stickers! After that I helped cut and stick stickers onto small plastic discs called Nitro Tags. Afterwards we gathered the packaging and the tags and put them through a machine that seals the edges and puts the Nitro Tags in their packaging.
On Friday I went back into the warehouse and did some more on the production line, firstly I went with Hayley who does soldering and I learned how to properly solder, I was surprised at how to solder just went into the place that you wanted it to go. I rarely do soldering at home, at the iron would take about 5 minutes before it would actually melt the solder after touching it, this soldering iron however was instant to melt the solder, I was surprised that I managed to solder a screen on as all of the connectors on the ribbon cable were very close together.
After lunch I went back with Ian and he showed me the injection moulding machine, which was about the size of an average estate car, and seeing as it was for industrial purposes, I was surprised to see it bright green as its main colour. Basically it works by small plastic pellets being fed in through the top via a hopper and the slowly heated up, then it is forced as molten plastic, around a thread, like you find on a screw, but way, way bigger. It was then forced into a metal chamber which was in two parts, this moulding would form the shape, the plastic was put under immense pressure, as it was compressed at 50 tons of pressure, before being instantly cooled, and then the moulding would open up, and small metal parts would prod the plastic shape out of the moulding and into a box which was underneath the machine. It did this very quickly; it was about 1 plastic part every 6 seconds!
The following Monday I met a guy called Stuart who does videos, photography, photo editing and also uses the laser cutters. He asked what I would like laser engraved/ cut on the machines and I chose to cut my YouTube logo and also a Hylian Shield from The Legend of Zelda series. To be able to get them cut though we were going to have to draw over the shape so that the format was correct and also so the on the metal cutter there were no gaps so that the whole thing was connected as one piece, as the metal cutter could not engrave, only cut. So after tracing the shield and my logo in Adobe Illustrator we then exported it as a certain file type that could be read by the laser engraver.
We took it over to the engraver which was ready to cut perspex, and we set it to cut, the machine had to cut it as different layers, so that one layer would be the engraving layer, where all of the details were indented, and the other layer, which would cut last, would be the cut layer, which would go around the edge of the shape and cut it out. We did this with various colours of perspex, such as black perspex, clear red, clear orange and clear, yellow. Afterwards Stuart cleaned the laser cut parts in the lab, just to get rid of some of the debris. They looked awesome and I didn’t think that a laser cutter would be as accurate as it was!
The next day I was back with Stuart as the Hylian Shield was going to be cut on the metal laser cutter! So we took the file over to the metal laser cutter, which was in the warehouse in a separate room, the laser cutter was massive, but still not as big as the lithoprinter, this was about the size of the injection moulding machine. We were in that room for quite a while, as the laser cutter had a lot of settings to adjust, and you had to be quite careful with it, the cutter had a protective screening that it couldn’t cause damage to your eyes. It also had a gas canister on the back of it which was feeding in nitrogen which acted as a cooling agent to cool down the metal while cutting so that there was no distortion, there was also an oxygen canister but that was only used on certain metals apparently as it acted as a catalyst to speed up the cutting, the settings for these canisters had to be just right. After choosing aluminium to cut onto, changing the nozzle and calibrating it for 1mm metal, we started the cut, and from the screening, there were very few sparks, and the first cut was a success, and I was surprised to hear that the metal cutter was more precise than the basic cutter that we had used yesterday. After how successful that cut was, we decided to try and cut a bigger one on 2mm aluminium, which proved to be a lot more difficult, as the laser cutter wouldn’t cut all the way through, so we had so scrap those ones and go back to making bigger ones on the 1mm metal again, so, more adjusting. After some trial and error we got a few different sized shields out of it and just the thought that they were cut from metal made them awesome.
On Wednesday I went into the lab, where they reverse engineer other products and find out what is inside of them, a guy called Sasha took me around the lab for most of the day and showed a lot of expensive equipment and a lot of dissembled printers in the centre of the room. There were a lot of microscopes in the lab and I was shown pretty much all of the equipment and shown how it works, unless of course it took a long time to set up or if it was busy conducting an experiment. All of the equipment in there seemed very expensive, for example, they had 2 electron microscopes that were roughly one million pounds each! So knowing this, I stayed away from them and was very careful when I was near them. I was also shown a comparison of an old motherboard compared to a new chip that does the same thing. On the old motherboard, which was roughly the size of an A5 piece of paper, there were a lot of bulky metal components, and the new version of it was just a microchip, with all of what the old motherboard did crammed into it, which was surreal, as of how tiny the components were inside it, literally a few microns under a microscope! After looking at everything in the lab, we took apart another printer and took out a microchip from a board on the size, then it was taken to a place behind the lab, where the chip was put in a beaker with acid in it that would dissolve the shell of it, leaving the part on the inside, which was silicone. After exposing the silicone, and washing it, it was put through another process and then it was put on a different board using some super glue, it had to be in exactly the right spot, so there was a little bit of trial and error, but after it was put in the right place, he had to very carefully put very thin gold wire on certain pads on the silicone, where the legs of the chip previously were. After doing that and attaching the gold wire to the silicone and the board, it was tested on the printer to make sure that it still functioned, fortunately, it did.
After that, another guy called Mick took me over to a surface polisher, where he showed me how to slowly and carefully take the shell off of a microchip, and expose the silicone, then use finer gradients to make the chip shine and look quite nice as something to have.
On Thursday I was once again with Stuart and he took me to certain areas of the premises and took photos of me in various places which he would later Photoshop to add some cool effects to. After the photos were taken I went back over to the production line and helped test and assemble some parts, after a little while of doing that I went back over to Stuart and he showed me the pictures that he took, he then showed me the process of modifying the pictures to add some interesting effects to them. After that I started working on my website by writing out this writing in a document that can be easily copied.
I started to continue work on this writing, and I then eventually finished it. After it was complete, Damon implemented this writing into my website via a type of code called html, he told me a bit about that and how it worked, also he told me about another code called css which controlled the style of this webpage. He showed me the benefits of using these types of scripting and previewed it as it was being created. Lots of cool effects were added to it, and by the end, after the effects were added, it looked like a professional website.