Super Talent is a spin off of MA Labs distributor. In the past, MA Labs manufactured “generic” memory modules to be sold through their distribution channels, but two years ago they decided to separate their memory manufacturing operation into a new company, Super Talent. Super Talent manufactures both memory modules (including some very high-end models, by the way) and USB flash drives. We visited their manufacturing facility and bring you a tour to their factory.

We were quite impressed, since they have 10 SMT manufacturing lines. Just to give you an idea, Corsair manufacturing plant in Fremont has six lines while Patriot’s has five.

Before going further, let’s explain briefly how a memory module is manufactured.

The memory module manufacturer can buy the memory chips as a final product from a memory manufacturer like Samsung, Hynix, Infineon, etc; can buy them untested (a.k.a. UTT chips) and test (usually for speed grade) and sort them in-house; or can buy the memory wafer, cut the wafer and pack the integrated circuits by themselves.

Super Talent falls in the first option, and we’ve seen a lot of Samsung chips there.

The memory module manufacturing process is quite the same for all memory module manufacturers:

  • Apply solder paste to the memory PCB.
  • Put the components on the PCB using a technique called SMT, Surface Mount Technology. This process is also known as pick-and-place.
  • Send the modules inside an oven, where the solder paste will melt, thus soldering the components.
  • Visual inspection.
  • Remove the memory modules from their panels (before this process the memory modules are stuck together in a panel, each panel holds five or six memory modules), a process also known as depanelization.
  • SPD programming and quick manual testing (SPD, Serial Presence Detect, is a small EEPROM chip located on the memory module that stores the memory module parameters, such as timings).
  • Memory module testing.
  • Functional testing.
  • Heatsink is attached to the module (if applicable).
  • Labeling.
  • Packing.
  • Shipping to customers.

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The memory module PCB (printed circuit board) can be designed by the module manufacturer; can be manufactured by the module manufacturer using the standard JDEC design; or it can be bought from another company already manufactured. Super Talent, like the majority of the memory module manufacturers, falls into the last option, buying the PCBs from Brain Power.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 1: Brain Power PCB box.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 2: Memory module PCBs inside the box.

As you can see, the memory modules come stuck together in units called panels. After being unpacked, the memory module PCB panel goes to a machine where solder paste is applied, using a metallic stencil that has holes in the exact positions that the manufacturer wants to apply the solder paste, as you can see in Figure 3.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 3: This machine is applying solder paste on a panel.

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Next the components are added to the PCB in a process called pick-and-place. This is a two-stage. First, a machine install small components like capacitors on the memory modules. Then the panel goes to another machine were the memory chips are installed. In Figure 4 you see a complete manufacturing line. The big closed machine on the right-hand side is the oven, while the machines on the left-hand side are the SMT insertion machines (pick-and-place).

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 4: One SMT manufacturing line.

In Figure 5, you can see the second SMT insertion machine on the line. A robotic arm gets memory chips from the chip tray (black, at the back) and places on the PCBs that come through a conveyor (no PCB was inside this machine when we took this picture).

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 5: Inside the second SMT machine on the line.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 6: A panel entering one of the SMT insertion machines.

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From the second SMT insertion machine the panel goes to an oven, where the solder paste is melted, thus making the components to stick to the PCB.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 7: Oven.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 8: Panel coming out of the oven.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 9: Panel at the end of the manufacturing line.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 10: Another panel coming out of the oven.

Each line manufactures a single product type. Figures 8, 9 and 10 were taken at the end of different manufacturing lines.

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After the module is assembled, each module is removed from the panel (depanelization process) and the module SPD chip is programmed and an automated quick test is performed. After than, the module goes through a more extended test, where it is installed on a real motherboard and test.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 11: One of the testing areas at Super Talent.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 12: Testing.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 13: Testing server modules.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 14: Another testing area (yes, where it used to be a hallway).

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As for USB flash drives, they have first their plastic housing attached, then they are tested.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 15: USB flash drives being assembled.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 16: USB flash drive area (yes, another adapted hallway).

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 17: USB flash drive testing set.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 18: USB flash testing. Look how they are using old CDs as mirrors to check the USB LED activity.

Super Talent also has a sealed room for RoHS testing, i.e., to check if their products meet the European environmental legislation. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of this room, all we know is that Super Talent invested half million dollars building it.

The last step is packing the products and shipping them to Super Talent customers.

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Super Talent has an in-house engineering department for projecting new products. The PCBs used on USB flash drives are designed in-house.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 19: Super Talent Engineering Department.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 20: This engineer is designing a USB flash drive PCB.

On Figures 21 and 22 we could see some tests being conducted with FB-DIMM modules.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 21: FB-DIMM testing.

Super Talent Factory TourFigure 22: FB-DIMM modules.