The new Mac Pro is an awesome machine for those with several thousand dollars to spend on a computer and a need for all the power that comes with that thermal core, but managing to get one is going to be difficult for the next few months even if you have the credit card ready. Yesterday, Apple announced that the Mac Pro would go on sale today, December 19th. The store went live last night with the Mac Pro shipping the very last non-holi-day of 2013, December 30th.
As we noted earlier today, Apple’s customers in its home state of California awoke to Mac Pros being quoted to ship in February. But it gets worse…
Yesterday during Apple’s iPad Air event, the company officially announced pricing and availability for the next-generation Mac Pro with the completely redesigned high-end Mac shipping in December starting at $2999. Since the new Mac Pro will be one of the first devices assembled in the US under Apple’s new initiative to bring manufacturing of some of its Macs back home, the company also ran a short video showing off the assembly process of the machine.
Today, industrial designer Greg Koenig has provided an interesting walkthrough of the video on his blog AtomicDelights that gives us an understanding of exactly what we’re looking at in Apple’s video above:
Most metal stampings go through one or two die tools to produce the final shape. With the Mac Pro though, the challenge is to produce a massive amount of plastic deformation without tearing, rippling or deforming the perfect cylindrical surface. To do this, the enclosure is drawn through a series of dies that progressively stretch the aluminum into something approaching the final shape of a Mac Pro.
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.
With the Mac Pro, Apple has elevated a relatively low-precision/low-tolerance process (deep draw stamping) used to make my dog’s water bowl and toilet brush canister into the creation of an aerospace grade piece of desktop jewelry.
You can check out the full walkthrough of the video on AtomicDelights here.
From iFixit’s ritual iMac dismemberment yesterday, we learn that the particular 21.5-inch iMac they bought says it was “Assembled in USA”. The moniker isn’t new—we’ve seen it since at least a few iMac models back on the packaging. But as far as we can tell, “Assembled in USA” wasn’t etched in the actual machine’s aluminum, leading people to believe that the iMacs that were shipped were “refurbished in the USA”. However, this forum shows that some were actually assembled and sold new with the “Assembled in USA” label (below—27-inch iMac, previous gen).
Regardless of previous endeavors, Apple is shipping new iMacs “Assembled in USA”. PED at Fortune found one. Jay Yarrow at BI found one, too. This isn’t an isolated incident. We also heard that other new iMacs say “Assembled in China”, as you’d expect.
Still, it makes for an interesting question: Is Apple building some of its iMacs in the United States? Is that percentage growing since it seems much of the first line of iMacs are coming with USA labels?
The “Assembled in USA” label doesn’t just mean that foreign parts screwed together in the U.S. either. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission assumes that a “substantial transformation” must happen in the U.S. for the label to be used.
Specifically, the FTC states that the label “Assembled in the USA” should be the following:
A product that includes foreign components may be called “Assembled in USA” without qualification when its principal assembly takes place in the U.S. and the assembly is substantial. For the “assembly” claim to be valid, the product’s last “substantial transformation” also should have occurred in the U.S. That’s why a “screwdriver” assembly in the U.S. of foreign components into a final product at the end of the manufacturing process doesn’t usually qualify for the “Assembled in USA” claim.
Example: A lawn mower, composed of all domestic parts except for the cable sheathing, flywheel, wheel rims and air filter (15 to 20 percent foreign content) is assembled in the U.S. An “Assembled in USA” claim is appropriate.
Here’s where it gets more interesting. The FTC gives the specific example of a computer manufacture:
Example: All the major components of a computer, including the motherboard and hard drive, are imported. The computer’s components then are put together in a simple “screwdriver” operation in the U.S., are not substantially transformed under the Customs Standard, and must be marked with a foreign country of origin. An “Assembled in U.S.” claim without further qualification is deceptive.
That means one of two things: Either Apple or its contractors have some sort of significant manufacturing operations in the U.S., or it is being deceptive in its marketing (something that sadly, isn’t out of character)…