How Motherboards Are Manufactured

The motherboard (or main-board) is the most important hardware component in a computer. It is a device that has to withstand extremes of temperature and cope with being continuous shutdown and re-started. To ensure that motherboards are capable of coping with exacting tolerances they are developed and manufactured with care and attention to detail. Every component and peripheral device associated with a specific computer is dependent on the motherboard. If it connected to the computer by any means, through a port, expansion slot, universal serial bus (USB) or wirelessly via Bluetooth or infrared it is all down to the support of the motherboard.  There is a lot more to these intricate circuits than meets the eye.  A modern day motherboard is a complex piece of circuitry that deserves further investigation. 

How a Motherboard is manufactured  

The design and manufacture of computer motherboard is a long and complicated process. To develop a new motherboard involves working closely with the chipset manufacturer of the central processing unit (CPU). New high end motherboards are designed to incorporate the latest advancements in technology.  Once the chipset manufacturer and motherboard manufacturer are happy with the design it will go into production.  

The motherboard manufacturer will design several similar motherboards based on the same chipset. The product will have different specifications dictated by their intended price range in the market. In some cases the collaboration of chipset manufacturers will require specific elements or components to be added to the products. Like all industries the overriding factor with regard to specification and components used is cost. The low end or cheaper motherboards seldom contain the latest technology that can be found in more expensive high end boards.  

The actual process of manufacturing motherboards is far more complicated than many people would realise. It would be easy to assume that that these complex  hardware components are built on production lines by robotic machines. In actual fact the process of manufacturing motherboards is only partially automated and relies quite heavily on human labour.  

The first part of the process is the addition of surface mount technology to a blank or a bare printed circuit board (PCB). The   soldering  is automatically achieved by heating the board to melt and re-set pre-applied  solder . Large components are placed into position by human labour before the motherboards are inspected and tested. The circuit board undergoes a series of intensive tests usually inclusive of a burn-in test. This is a specific procedure that recreates extremes of stress that the device will encounter during its lifetime. Once the motherboard has passed quality control it can be packaged ready for distribution and retail. The entire manufacturing process takes approximately 15 minutes from start to finish.  

Central Processing Unit and Chipset Support  

The central processing unit chipset is important because it is an integrated technology. The chipset is optimized to operate with a specific CPU. The chipset cannot be removed or upgraded. The onboard chipset dictates which central processor units are compatible with the motherboard.  

Graphic Chipset Support  

Some low end motherboards have onboard graphic adapters incorporated. In more advanced high end motherboards graphic cards are added by making use of an expansion slot on the motherboard. The current technology is PCI Express (PCIE) which superseded PCI and AGP respectively. A major advancement in motherboard graphic chipset support has been the inclusion of both Nvidia SLI and ATI Crossfire on the same motherboard. This means that the end user has the option of choosing to install an Nvidia graphic card or an ATI Radeon graphic card.  

Bus Speeds  

The term bus is used to describe data transfer architecture within computer systems and electrical circuit boards. It derives from the word busbar which is a strip (or hollow tube) of copper or aluminium used to conduct electricity most commonly in electrical substations. This borrowed and shortened term is now exclusively used to describe the rate of data transfer in a computer system. The bus speed is the calculated rate of data transfer and is measured in megahertz.  

Northbridge Chipset  

Most motherboards manufacturers incorporate Northbridge and Southbridge chipsets into their products. These chipsets are designed to prevent a bottleneck (slow down) in the computers performance during intensive tasks. The layout varies from board to board but in basic terms the Northbridge (also known as the memory controller). In most cases the Northbridge controls communication between the central processing unit (CPU), graphics processing unit (GPU) and Memory. The Northbridge chipset or controller is a very significant component of the motherboard.  

Southbridge Chipset  

The Southbridge chipset is responsible for communication between the slower components on the motherboard. In a typical system the Southbridge controller communicates with the PCI bus, Real Time Clock, Power Management and several other devices.  

To conclude, the continual development and evolution of motherboards makes this an interesting industry to observe.