I thought it would be fun to show what my “lab” looked like when I first got to China over 5 years ago and it’s changed over the years. I don’t have great pictures of all the spaces but it’s enough to give you an idea of how far things have come.

I spent my first 6 months in China living in a hotel room near Huaqianbei, downtown Shenzhen. It was a great location with easy access to parts, suppliers, clothing, entertainment and food. I spent a lot of time in Huagianbei talking with suppliers and trying to figure out how things got done and also how to get them done. It was a pretty exciting and challenging time. The biggest challenges were not speaking fluent Chinese and not yet knowing how to find and properly negotiate with suppliers.

After about 6 months living in a hotel, I realized I wasn’t going back home anytime soon and rented an apartment. It wasn’t really any cheaper, but it was much more comfortable and allowed me to set up a real office area. I found out you could have things made out of stainless steel for pretty cheap. I drew up some sketches and had a few desks made up to fit the space.

Sometimes my work would overflow into the living room. I would assemble PCBs on the kitchen table and then solder them on a hot plate. It’s always best to use a proper reflow oven but a hot plate is OK if you are careful. However if you overdo the temperature or time you can have premature component failure. I would only recommend a hotplate for prototyping. The biggest issue is that you heat up the components too quickly, and potentially keep them hot for too long.

This was a small space I rented in someone else’s factory. I had enough room for small scale production and the support of extra people when needed. It was really nice to have a place to work that wasn’t in the apartment. Working at home can be great, but it can also be nice to have them separated.

I got the opportunity to move into a more permanent space. It wasn’t much different than my space at home, but the location and access to resources was much better. This was my first workspace there, but I’ve been in this same space for over 3 years now. The parts on the table are the arms from my quad copter that now hangs in my office as decoration.

This is my workspace as it sits today. Sometimes it’s a bit more cluttered, but it’s sure a long way from that hotel room in Shenzhen.