A Closer Look at Apple's Mac Pro Production Process
During yesterday's media event, Apple played a video highlighting the production process for the upcoming Mac Pro, a machine that will see Apple bring Mac production back to the United States and is already seeing over 2,000 people in 20 states working on the project.
The video showed a number of steps in the production process, taking an initial chunk of aluminum and sculpting it into the shape of the Mac Pro enclosure before subjecting it polishing, anodizing, and other steps. Brief segments also provided glimpses of the massive heat sink in production and chips being placed on boards to be installed in the machine.
Product designer Greg Koenig has offered an expert overview of what exactly is shown in the video, explaining for the layperson the tools and processes Apple is using. Koenig notes that the "big story" is Apple's use of hydraulic deep draw stamping for the Mac Pro's enclosure, a process that stretches the initial chunk of aluminum into the general shape of the enclosure.
Deep drawing is a process that very efficiently produces a "net shape" part. Apple could have just chucked a giant hunk of aluminum in a lathe and created the same part, but that amount of metal removal is extremely inefficient. Deep drawing efficiently creates a hunk of metal that is very close to the final shape of a Mac Pro in just a couple of operations. After that, the Mac Pro enclosure is lathe turned to clean up the surface and achieve desired tolerance, polished, placed back in a machining center to produce the I/O, power button and chamfer features and finally anodized.
Koenig goes on to share a number of stills from the video with captions explaining what is going on in each step, including lathing, polishing, grinding, protective film application, I/O cutout milling, and anodizing.
Other stills capture production on some of the other parts of the new Mac Pro, including bead blasting of the main triangular heat sink, pick-and-place assembly of circuit boards, and parts delivery for final hand assembly of the machines themselves.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that Flextronics is in the process of hiring 1,700 workers at its facilities in Austin, Texas to work on a "next generation desktop computer". That computer is presumed to be the Mac Pro, given that Apple had previously revealed the machine would be assembled in Texas, Apple and Flextronics had previously been reported to be working together on the project, and Flextronics' Austin facilities are only a mile from Apple's large and growing operations campus in the area.