Inside The Beep Factory

When we first met Beep, a wireless audio system created by ex-Googlers Daniel Conrad and Shawn Lewis, it was still in prototype stage. Now, almost six months later, the team is preparing to assemble their first mass-produced units deep in the heart of San Francisco tech territory. They gave us a tour of their small facility and, more importantly, a peek at their manufacturing methods.

Read on for descriptions of each step and a short video on how Beep got things done.

Close Panel

Step One: Everyone On The Same Page

This whiteboard holds the key to Beep assembly. It doesn’t look like much but it’s clear that they built this thing for ease-of-manufacture, an important hardware consideration.

Applyin' The Lube

Here we see a little graphite going onto the spinner. The graphite tends to stay in one place on moving parts and allows for smooth plastic-on-plastic action.

Adding The Knob Weight

The knob weight adds heft to the knob itself, ensuring that you get a solid feel from what is essentially a polycarbonate housing. These little tricks allow hardware to “feel” better in the hand.

Look At That Beautiful Board

Beep built custom boards for their device. In this step they’re attaching the board to the housing.

One Weird CE Trick

To complement the wheel weight – and to ensure the Beep doesn’t feel like a hollow shell – the team adds an internal weight over the main board to add heft to the device.

Hand-crafted

You’ll notice one thing about this assembly: it’s all done by hand. The vast majority of CE final assembly is, in fact, done by human beings. While pick-and-place machines can build main boards every second, the boring stuff like screwing in screws and closing up cases is all done by hand. Is this changing? Absolutely. The big guys like Foxconn are already replacing handwork with robot work, much to the chagrin of the employees.

No Disassemble

Seeing all these parts arrayed out like this shows you how much work and thought goes into making your own hardware. It’s not easy, but it sure is fun.

The Final Product

These near-final models are ready for a color coating and to be stuck into a box. It doesn’t take long to make each unit but building these definitely takes time. It’s a testament to the openness of the Beep team that they let us look so closely at their assembly process.

The Entire Process