ECS Factory TourKash - July 3, 2008
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The Motherboard Assembly plant was the first facility we visited, but it is actually the second half in the process of creating a motherboard.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted to a spacious lobby and an iconic red carpet.
The very first thing we had to do upon arriving at the facility was cover our shoes so as not to bring any contaminants into the assembly lines.
Like at the PCB Production plant, we were ushered into a conference room and given a presentation.
The room had a cabinet on one wall which contained several awards that ECS has won over the years. It was quite an impressive display.
Here are some of the highlights from the presentation:
- ECS was founded as a motherboard company in Taiwan in 1987
- ECS has 20,000 employees worldwide
- ECS has manufacturing facilities in China, Mexico, and the Czech Republic, with newly opened offices in Koreo and Russia
- ECS sells approximately 2 million motherboards per month, and is ranked #8 in BusinessWeek's InfoTech 100
- The Motherboard Assembly facility has six floors, three of which are dedicated to production lines
As we walked onto the production line floor, there was a sign that specifically pointed out that the products ECS manufactures are Lead free
Motherboard assembly is essentially like any other product that is put together on an assembly line, such as cars and retail computers. Here is the start of the line looking toward the end.
The PCBs are brought in from the PCB Production facility and loaded onto the assembly line.
First up is the Screen Printing process, where the traces on the motherboard are printed.
Once the traces are printed, the board moves on to the next step, where circuits and chips are added to the board. This was a very neat process, as you can see from the pictures. The chips come in rolls and are literally picked up by a robotic arm and printed to the board. It was the rolls that were most intriguing.
The resulting "chipped" board is inspected numerous times before moving on to the next step. It is first hand tagged as it comes out of the machine, and is then inspected by a computer that checks for visual alignment of all parts of the motherboard. It is then manually inspected by a person once the computer has deemed the board to be perfectly aligned.
The next part is where one really gets the assembly line feel. There are a row of workers who plug in various components on the motherboard - DIMM slots, I/O connectors, etc. - as the board rolls past them. The final person on this part of the line secures the components by tapping all of the parts in.
The board is then fed into a very hot machine, essentially an oven, containing molten solder. This is where all of the components that had been added in the previous step are soldered onto the board.
Once the board is out, it gets cooled and is then inspected and wiped down by hand. A worker then cuts off any excess solder on the bottom of the board.
The next step involves manually installing the Northbridge heatsink and the CMOS battery.
The next step is the one I was most impressed with. Each and every board that ECS manufacturers is tested to make sure it works. Now, the boards aren't simply tested to see if they POST, but are actually tested to the point of booting into Windows itself. I've gotta admit, this is spectacular quality control. It is no wonder ECS is the number one motherboard manufacturer in the world.
The final step in the process is boxing. For OEM boards, they are wrapped in foam, placed in anti-static bags, and then places into boxes. Retail boards get a little more attention, as they not only get the wrapping, but they also get all of the fancy packaging before getting loaded into boxes.
That wraps it up for motherboard assembly. The final leg of this tour brought us to the R&D and Testing section.