This past July, Zach and I visited The Public Radio's antenna supplier in Shenzhen. I had only a vague idea of how antennas were made, and it was interesting to see the process in person. It was also fascinating to see a shop that relied so much on manual and mechanically driven machinery.
A few observations:
- This shop manufactures a variety of parts, with the defining feature being that they're made of tubing. For our antennas, the process works basically like this:
- Tubing is bundled together with zipties and cut to length by wire EDM.
- Tubing ends are swaged in/out.
- Sections are assembled into a single telescoping unit
- Meanwhile, end fittings are manufactured from solid stock. This happens either on the automatic turret lathes, or on single-operation manual machines (lathes/drill presses).
- End fittings are installed on the telescoping antennas, again using swaging/forming processes.
- The whole operation was decidedly low tech and manual - almost disturbingly so. It would seem very difficult to control quality - which I guess should be expected when you're looking at a niche, and rather inexpensive, commodity product.
A few of the photos have notes on them - click to show.