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ECS factory tour

How a motherboard is made

FOR YEARS, ECS HAS churned out budget motherboards destined for pre-built systems and value markets. Recently, however, the company has expressed a keen interest in building high-end boards for gamers and enthusiasts. This interest manifests itself in the new "Extreme" motherboard line, which taps the latest chipsets from ATI, Intel, and NVIDIA, and has many of the features and capabilities one might expect from a high-end enthusiast board.

While we were in Taiwan covering Computex, ECS whisked us away for a quick tour of its manufacturing facilities in China and showed us exactly how these motherboards are built. We saw it all, from traces being etched onto individual PCB layers, to the mounting of surface components like DIMM slots and capacitors, all the way through testing and retail packaging. Join us as we walk through ECS's Golden Elite Technology campus and witness the birth of a motherboard.

Golden Elite Technology
ECS's Golden Elite Technology center is a brand new facility located in Shen Zhen, China. The facility's actually only an hour and a half drive from Hong Kong, a location that allows ECS to easily ship products by land or air to the rest of the world.

Currently, Golden Elite has 1,500 employees, but that number is expected to grow to 5,000 by the end of the year and 8,000 by the end of 2007. There's plenty of room for ECS to expand Golden Elite's facilities, as well. The campus sits on a lot that measures 372,720 m² roughly the size of 69 football fields. Phase I of the facility is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year and offer a whopping 200,000 m² of floor space, with an additional 180,000 m² of floor space coming online in Phase II by the end of 2007.

With such a massive facility at its disposal, ECS will be able to build everything from motherboards to complete systems in one location. Even motherboard PCBs are manufactured on-site, giving Golden Elite the ability to assemble a complete system from the rawest of components. Component suppliers are close, as well. Travel time to ECS's PCB and passive component suppliers is about a minute, and its connector suppliers are only 15 minutes away.

In addition to the close proximity of its component suppliers, there are other benefits to the Golden Elite plant's location. Building in Shen Zhen, China gives ECS access to government tax reductions and exemptions in addition to R&D subsidies. The facility itself is a bonded factory, which allows ECS a level of autonomy for land use planning, construction, and even in-house customs. After the hoops we had to jump through just to get into China, it's easy to see why ECS wants to handle customs in house.

Golden Elite's motherboard manufacturing facilities are capable of building four- and six-layer RoHS-compliant boards. Currently, the plant has 16 active lines producing 800,000 motherboards per month. By year's end, ECS expects to have 32 active lines producing 1.6 million units per month. Production is expected to scale to 2.4 million units per month by the end of 2007, when ECS bolsters the number of active lines to 48.

As one might expect, the facility conforms to ISO 9001 and 14001 quality control requirements. In fact, Golden Elite also meets to the now-defunct MIL-STD-105E military quality control standard.