The Birth of an Abit NF7 - A Factory Tourby Kristopher Kubicki on June 11, 2004 10:12 PM EST
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SMTAnd now, the part that we have all been waiting for - the birth of an NF7. Unfortunately, the unison of science and art comes particularly unceremoniously in crates of 1000. Since Abit has no PCB production facilities, four- and six-layer motherboards are shipped from out-sourced facilities, pre-traced and pre-painted. Abit Taiwan designs the PCB and sends the schematics to an OEM factory. The factory manufactures and delivers the PCB to Rolly. For a quick primer on how the PCB is constructed, check out the primer that we gave in our ECS factory tour last year.
Before walking onto the SMT lines, we are presented with a small office that controls the CAD/CAM devices on the floor. This mission control board shows when each machine was last tested, from where and when the PCB for that production came, and other process vitals.
Above is an Abit NF7 PCB as Rolly receives it. These boards have already been drilled and have passed electrical quality assurance tests at the OEM. The Rolly facility will mount components via SMT, manual labor and then package the board at this facility.
SMT is a term used frequently in any sort of electrical assembly. It stands for "surface-mount technology". As motherboard speed increases, their feature set and complexity increases even faster, although disproportionately . Motherboards like the NF7 have upwards of several thousand integrated circuits (ICs) under a millimeter in length, soldered onto the traces of the motherboard. Although labor is cheap in China, such precision and finesse are required to place delicately the thousands of resistors, ceramic capacitors and other integrated circuits (SMDs) that only a preprogrammed machine can accomplish. Below, you can see one of Abit's two-years-old SMT machines placing components on the NF7 PCB.
A colleague of mine recently described SMT as "a high-powered machine gun spitting ICs onto a board with insane precision." There really is not a more accurate description. Since SMDs are stamped onto the board at such high speeds, they are loaded into the SMT machine using a special tape feeder. This is very similar to the manner in which ammunition is fed into a machine gun. Below is a quick video sample of how the entire process looks in real time.