Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard :: Golden Elite

06-17-2006 · Category: Hardware -

By Tulatin

Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard ECS Up High

ECS Up High

Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard Front gate

Front gate


Unfortunately, due to the wonderful world of archaic memory cards, cheap batteries, and a laptop that runs on abuse, but part of the production process of the PCB has been documented here. What you don't see will be fairly thoroughly described, as so to give you an idea of what goes into each board that eventually will end up on the shelf. Before anything was actually going to happen, though, we ended up being herded into the training room, and tossed nametags with numbers on them, much like the first day's stampede.


Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard Training Room

Training Room


In this room, we received two presentations, both focused on ECS' current manufacturing capabilities, and what they plan to expand to. You'd be surprised to know that before the purchase (and construction to occur on) Golden Elite, ECS could turn out 700,000 Motherboards in one month. With the ability to make every component of every board on site, that number is projected to balloon up to an astounding 4,000,000 motherboards. A month. Does anyone else see how bonkeringly insane this figure is? More to the point however, we were let in on information that the Golden Elite factory grounds would play host to several employee dormitories, factory floors (three floors per building), and even have an onsite customs official, so that shipments could be cleared through in real-time. Along with this, recreation and cafeteria facilities are planned to be built on site, meaning that this massive factory can be self sufficient - housing, feeding, and entertaining their very own brand of locals.


Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard BIG

BIG

Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard Locals

Locals


More to the point though, for us, it all starts with a motherboard - but what does a motherboard start with? Try a sheet of thick aluminum foil that's drilled into hundreds of times by a machine which senses where it's bits need to change, and shifts them accordingly. Usually, each platter will accommodate 2-4 motherboards, dependant on the form factor. Unfortunately, after the drilling, or if a bit becomes caught, the platter might end up rendered unusable. Then again, not all unusable platters are without purpose, as John "Moto" Chow demonstrates how a single taste test can prove a batch good or not.


Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard Blank Platters

Blank Platters

Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard Drill it

Drill it

Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard Unfortunately Dented

Unfortunately Dented

Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard Taste Testing is for only the most dedicated employees

Taste Testing is for only the most dedicated employees


From the drilling stage, the motherboards are taken, and put into a hot press to laminate and strengthen their frame. These machines do their jobs with surprising efficiency, and prove themselves quite difficult to photograph as they whir by. The motherboards go through at least two layers of lamination in order to ensure their rigidity, before they are passed on to the next step.


Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard
Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard
Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard
Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard

Passing this, the holes need to be re-opened with an unseen drilling phase, and the corners of the board need beveling as well as the edges, so to make the boards safe to handle when they're in the final stages (You have no idea how much this is appreciated, for those of us who have been slit open by video cards). This process is done by turning each collection of PCBs four times, routing each edge, and milling the board's lines smooth.


Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard Nice Smooth Edges

Nice Smooth Edges

Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard Courtesy of this process

Courtesy of this process


In order to follow the life of our fledgling motherboard, we had to leave this part of the building and head up a floor, past the area where they make those big open spaces you see on some boards. In this area of the factory, a brightly shining copper plated motherboard is baked in a ferocious oven, blown to cooling, then unloaded - it's traces and drilled holes beginning to show more fervently than before. This copper plating is neccicary in order to ensure that all of the motherboard's traces and solder points are fed with adequate flows of copper. By this point, the sheets are rigid and near mirrored , as the fresh top coat of copper sets its place and pace.


Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard Chemists at work

Chemists at work

Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard CopperPlating

CopperPlating

Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard Baking

Baking

Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard

After this, the wafers (so to speak) travel on to the clean rooms, where technicians check the circuitry against optical proofs, then pass them further onward to be prepared, and screened with the solder mask. This mask gives the motherboard both its colour, and protection against errantly flowing solder, which will result in crossed traces, and a very bad day for an enthusiast.


Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard
Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard
Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard

From here, it's time for the motherboards to get inked, and be baked once again, in preparation for a warm coat of solder to flow down them. Past this point in the factory, and the bored looking quality control lady, there isn't much to see apart from employees reviewing the circuitry of far upcoming motherboards.


Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard Cold Srorage Power

Cold Srorage Power

Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard Inking

Inking

Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard Quality Control

Quality Control

Computex Day 5: The Makings of a Motherboard Previewing the opticals of upcoming boads

Previewing the opticals of upcoming boads


Onto the final stretch, the PCBs are only in need of a top coat, chamfering of their edges, and a good, thorough inspection at the hands of more employees like the one we saw earlier, before they're ready to head on out to ECSM - AKA part two of the tour.