A Look Back at Manufacturing

The past couple of years have been a wild ride.
Thanks to your support, we were able to transition from cozy office
space to roomy warehouse to take our computers to the next level. And
while we have more amazing projects in the works, we wanted to take a
moment to appreciate the hard work and popcorn-fueled energy that’s gone
into manufacturing our desktops.

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Our
Production and Assembly Teams are at the forefront of our manufacturing
journey. On a daily basis, we see them put effort and care into each
handcrafted system. As we grow, we’ll continue to upgrade our
manufacturing equipment to help reduce their workloads and improve
efficiency. For example, creating bend lines on the chassis with our new
laser-punch combo machine has eliminated the need to draw those lines
by hand, which allowed us to cut down on the time and effort it takes to
build each machine. We were also able to lower the price of Thelio as a
result of the new process.

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Manufacturing
in-house empowers us to iterate on our ideas. When we wanted to more
accurately gauge fan noise on our machines, we built a soundproof room
for acoustics testing. (It looks like a Rubix cube.) Within weeks, we
had exponentially reduced noise levels on Thelio, Thelio Major, and
Thelio Massive.

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One
of our first challenges in iterating Thelio’s design was to prevent
shipping damages. Components would shake loose during shipping, and
heavy GPUs sometimes sustained damage from the journey. In redesigning
the GPU brace, we were able to support more of the GPU’s weight and keep
it from jostling around inside the chassis. Shrinking the drive cage,
meanwhile, secured the 2.5” storage drives against Thelio’s lid. These
improvements have gone a long way towards reinforcing Thelio in transit
from our planet to yours.

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The
man behind these changes is the fearless John Grano, our Mechanical
Engineering Lead and designated laserman. John keeps Thelio
performing at its best. Preventing throttling is one of his top
priorities, as it ensures your high-performance components can perform
to their greatest potential. One of many fixes was to add “feet” to the
chassis, which widened Thelio’s base and allowed us to stabilize the
chassis and cut additional ventilation ports into the design. We’ll take
a more in-depth look at Thelio’s thermals in next week’s blog.

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With
industrial design and production in the same office, we applied these
changes within days of completion, if not hours. Once we have 100%
confidence in any design improvement, we apply that to our production
line to improve the experience for as many people as possible.

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Keeping
industrial design and production together also opens up the door for
experimentation. In our latest endeavor, our CEO Carl Richell and many
others at System76 had a lot of fun trying out new color options for
Thelio by staining the birch veneer. We released three of these colors
last week: Neptune Blue, Martian Red, and Dark Matter. You can see these
for yourself on our website, and learn more about the staining process on our blog.

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As
we move into manufacturing laptops, the factory will provide an ideal
environment for research and development. We now have the resources to
create more accurate prototypes in-house to get an up close look at
various materials, chassis builds, keyboards, and more, empowering us to
create a computer fit for the incredible creators, makers, and builders
of the world.

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Each
day at System76 presents new challenges to overcome and new
opportunities to dive headfirst into open source innovation. Despite the
aversion among U.S. companies to manufacture domestically, it’s
actually really fun. We’re excited to delve deeper into manufacturing
computers, and we can’t wait to show you where our adventures take us.

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