How Power Supplies Are Made (2020) | PSU Factory Tour, ft. Cooler Master

by birtanpublished on September 29, 2020

our factory tours have gotten increased
in the low level like a painting factory
and a sheet metal supplier but today
we're taking a step back down the
factory supply chain to cover a power
supply Factory this is the first of two
videos we'll be posting on the process
of making a power supply part one this
one is physical assembly and part two
we'll cover R&D for new designs this
Factory is responsible for assembling QC
testing stress testing researching and
developing and packing finished power
supplies for a lot of the brands that
you recognize our host for this one was
Coolermaster which uses this Factory
it's a source a lot of their power
supplies Coolermaster and many of its
competitors who also use this factory
work with the factory during the early
research and development stages and
provide an idea of what they want we'll
talk about that process in the second
video but they also use this factory to
do the final assembly and testing of all
the power supplies going to market all
the way down to shrink wrapping the box
before that this video is brought to you
by the new be quiet straight power 11
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Coolermaster was our host for this tour
but they're just one of many clients to
this factory which has requested to
remain unnamed there aren't many power
supply factories and most of them are in
China although this one is in Thai net
on the southern end of Taiwan this PSU
factory does a lot of R&D and testing
but as far as assembly goes it mostly
takes partially completed kits from
factories in China and then adds the
rest of the assembly what we can say is
that they manufacture Coolermaster power
supplies among other products and that
they employ 120 sales and office staff
and 80 assembly workers at this location
although it was quieter than usual
during our visit because of supply chain
issues from human malware the factory
produces power supplies for a lot of the
other brands that you're familiar with
too but those weren't
assembly during our visit the first step
of assembling a power supply is the
service mount technology or SMT line and
automated an optical inspection line we
didn't see this happening because it's
done at factories in China but we have
extremely thorough coverage of the SMT
process at multiple factories in our
previous tours last year most recently
we looked at it at gigabytes Taiwanese
motherboard factory from nanping wrote
from our tour in 2019 this is the same
process for motherboards as it is for
power supplies so we'll recap some of
that content briefly before getting into
this specific factory's work Bayer PCBs
are loaded onto a line and solder is
screen printed onto pads as a paste the
PCB is purchased from an entirely
different factory that will need to tour
separately the application of the solder
paste is then inspected optically using
Aoi machines and if it's done correctly
the PCBs move on to a pick and place
machine where SMDs are loaded onto the
board the pick-and-place machines are
the most fun to watch they're like a
Gatling gun or a machine gun that's fed
a reel of ammo and punch down onto the
board they can knock out most parts in
under a minute
although the boards have to go through
multiple pick-and-place machines in a
specific order the largest components
are typically added last as the bigger
cylindrical capacitors or other large
parts get in the way of the machine when
it's placing smaller parts it can work
more efficiently if those large objects
aren't on the board for it to work
around earlier because it'll have more
room to move some boards have thousands
of service mount and through-hole
components on them so this process has
to be automated and has to be precise
programs for each product being made the
machines use reels of small components
often measured in 10,000 units at a time
and our programs to eat components and
spit them back out onto the PCBs Ram
SSDs motherboards power supplies and
video cards are all made this way the
boards are next loaded via conveyor belt
into a reflow oven to melt the paste
into liquid solder which hardens into
strong joints we have footage from MSI's
factory in 2019 where you can see the
parts moved over a lake of molten solder
with the legs dipping into it a literal
brick of solder is loaded onto a scale
which is then slowly dipped into a
molten lake over time as
the weight changes it gets increasingly
lower and melts for a q-see of potential
defects with solder each of these bricks
is marked and tracked with a number if
the manufacturer has a supplier level
defect with a solder they'd know exactly
which power supplies or motherboards in
this footage we're made with that brick
of solder so they could easily pull
those units from the line or recall them
and then make any claims they might want
to make with the supplier after all of
this more automatic optical inspection
is involved circuit testing is done and
any manual effort is done for video
cards and motherboards that include
placement of heat sinks or some large
components that sometimes have to be
done by hand often including CPU sockets
for power supplies that include internal
heat sinks for parts inside of the unit
or some of the larger components if you
want to learn all the really detailed
processes for service mount technology
and the lines that manufacture the PCB
is before this factory is put into play
then watch our gigabyte factory tour
video that's linked in the description
below we cut it short here just for a
quick recap before talking about the
rest of the power supply manufacturing
process and left out a lot of the finer
details that can be found in our
previous coverage we won't know exactly
how closely this company's process
matches gigabytes until we get an
opportunity to visit their China factory
but SMT lines are standardized and
mostly all the same arrival in Tainan is
point B in the power supplies journey
the power supplies are in pieces and
shipped as separate cases fans and guts
from China partly for quality control
reasons and partly to meet tariff
requirements this factory needs to
provide about 35 percent value on the
product to help offset tariffs impact
and so it handles the remainder of
assembly testing and R&D some parts like
the chassis come from lower down supply
chain companies although Leanne Lee to
our knowledge doesn't supply this
factory with cases its factory would be
a good analog to how these are made as
another breakout let's look at some of
that chassis components for any product
are made the same way as a computer case
just out a smaller scale you've got two
extremes for this on one hand
Coolermaster is highly automated Factory
in Hawai Joe China is one of the most
advanced we've ever seen it's got rows
upon rows of fully automated arms that
move and place metal from
one punch or stamp to the next they get
pressed bent and prepped for assembly or
painting in these lines on the other
hand Lian Li is highly manual factory
gives it much more flexibility for rapid
change orders but it's obviously slower
that factory has manual bending machines
laser cutters that deal with finer
details and punch machines that rapidly
riddle the panel with holes and make
large cutouts like for a power supply in
the back of a case you can watch our
recently endly metalworking video linked
below for more information on this
individual process once the case and
parts have been delivered to the thai
nan psu factory before anything else the
barcode of each power supply is scanned
this is wired to a diagnostic computer
for a simple software test every power
supply is associated with an ID and the
factory in China extensively tests the
power supplies and logs data using that
same ID both factories link to each
other using a software solution called
shop floor for testing and logging
throughout the factory running on good
old Windows XP tests done in Taiwan
other than burnin are just a double
check and make sure that nothing has
been damaged during transportation
anything damaged or failing QC is sent
back to the factory in China before
going any further the power supplies
must be reassembled this is simple work
and only requires a small line of
workers some glue down internal
components some screw and fans some
apply warranty stickers and some
assemble the finished unit testing for
the fans has also done here to make sure
they turn on and spin this floor can
spend up at least four more lines of
assembly stations but only one was
operating for our visit that's because
this was filmed in early March when
China was still reeling from factory
shutdowns due to the pandemic the layout
of this room is flexible and there's
plenty of space to set up more lines
when the supply stabilizes we were told
that this one line can process about 80
units per hour the ubiquitous green
coatings on the conveyor belt and on the
floor are an ESD resistant material that
we've seen in many of our previous
factory tours while the half gloves are
to protect to the power supply casing
from fingerprints as much as possible
while still allowing dexterity
electrostatic discharge is taken
seriously in these factories because it
is one of the more common killers of
components when you're dealing with
millions of units for this reason the
factory controls it with the green
coating you see
everywhere at the end of this line is a
high potential or high pot tester again
the PSUs are thoroughly tested before
they're ever since in Taiwan so this is
really just to double-check the results
from the other Factory three quick tests
are performed here to ensure IEC
compliance the factory manager mentioned
the IEC standards six two three six
eight and six zero nine zero six in
particular if you'd like to read on
those although more tests also get done
two of these are a high amperage test at
8 volts and 25 amps and a high voltage
test at 1,800 volts and 10 milliamps if
the power supplies fail these or the
earlier softer tests they're shipped
back to the original factory for repair
every single power supply must pass
through this assembly and testing line
and the issue to pass or fail after
verification comes the brand new test
burn it burnin is almost exactly what it
sounds like heavily loading every power
supply and raising its temperature for a
worst-case scenario stress test to check
the traces on the PCB and general
reliability at this point in the process
the company already knows that the fan
and the board should be able to handle
the spec because it's gone through R&D
so it's just making sure that each
individual unit works as designed mid
tier units like the ones being tested
during our visit the cabinets were
marked 500 watts are run at 40 degrees
Celsius in the cabinets while higher-end
units are tested at 50 degrees Celsius
with big air ducts above each cabinet to
exhaust the heated air and maintain a
constant temperature 80% load is applied
to all rails simultaneously for the full
duration of this test there are two
banks of burning cabinets with 80 power
supply bays per side for a total
capacity of 320 units each Bay has an
800 watt maximum so higher wattage power
supplies take up two Bay's and have the
capacity of the cabinets if testing 800
watt or 1000 watt units for instance the
factory might cut down to 160 units or
fewer partly to ensure that they don't
trip the breakers at peak one side of
this cabinet consumes about 63 kilowatts
and multiple cabinets are present one
for each brand each brand gets its own
positioning so companies who aren't
Coolermaster are also in the same room
hundreds of kilowatts are consumed here
at any given time the cabinets can test
both 110 volts and 220 volts so each
batch of power supplies is tested at the
voltage of its target market 110 for the
US for example and 220 elsewhere every
single production PSU goes through this
testing process for one to two hours
while in development units get tested
for 24 hours if you've purchased a
coolermaster power supply there's a good
chance it came through here and a lot of
other brands that we can't name also but
there's a really good chance that power
supply you've purchased recently has
gone through this line the modular PSU
cables used in the cabinets aren't the
ones destined to ship with the units
they're just part of the jig that each
PSU is connected to testing of the real
cables happens in China and they're
supplied by an entirely different
third-party supplier from either of
these factories if you want to see how
some of the cables are made you can
watch our USB type-c cable factory tour
from last year the test jigs also
contain temperature sensors and
diagnostic LEDs from one point of view
this process inherently wastes energy by
having a bunch of power supplies burn
power without doing real work but it is
trying to prevent our maze which would
be a bigger waste still we were told
that the cabinets can recycle 60% of the
energy used by storing it in a battery
and then converting it back to AC power
through an inverter this is one of the
most important engineering feats in this
building because it cuts massive power
bills down significantly because the
power supplies have been so thoroughly
tested before hand only one to two
percent fail at this stage in the
pipeline which can also be due to sensor
error with false negatives regardless of
whether the power supplies pass or fail
the burnin their next stop is the chroma
tester to ensure that they still
function and check for any failure
symptoms that might be present chroma is
just a brand name and the chroma testers
are actually racks containing several
machines and load generators including 8
chroma brand electronic loads per rack
the bottom rack of four loads is higher
wattage and the top one is lower wattage
you can it easy to plug and test power
supplies without reconfiguring the loads
each time multiple racks are set up
across the room so that technicians can
quickly process the big 320 unit batches
that come out of the burning cabinet
this station is where efficiency and
voltage ripple are tested
in towns ATX 12 volt standard for
voltage ripple is 120 millivolts
but these power supplies are tested to
achieve 60 to 80 millivolt ripple
tighter than the requirement laid out in
the spec failures over voltage ripple
are extremely uncommon this is something
that's been resolved in the development
stage and voltage ripple should remain
constant among power supplies that have
been verified functional up to this
point the efficiency ratings listed on
the side of the power supply on the
sticker gives some idea of what the
efficiency testing is checking for but
the chroma tester is even more thorough
than that checking against a spec
provided by Coolermaster additionally
testing is brief in spite of all of this
with workers taking about 30 seconds per
power supply as we watched each brand
goes through its own conveyor belt of
chroma testers about 200 feet away from
the chroma tester line is the QC and
packaging line the PSC is our visually
inspected one last time and the cables
are bundled up with twist ties for
shipping stickers are applied and
fingerprints are wiped off and this must
be done manually because precise
placements of the stickers is required
and the power supply models being
packaged change one to two times per day
and even more than that when there are
supply-side issues Automation isn't
flexible enough to be practical in this
case the brand sticker the product
information label the barcode and
additional warranty seals are all
applied including the ones that we don't
like and that requires a lot of
flexibility the barcode allows tracking
the power supplies entire testing
history for RMA purposes and previous
automatic optical inspection photos from
the SMT line give a reference of what
the board looked like before the user
got it this helps the factory if it's so
desired to figure out if an RMA was the
users fault or in issue at the factory
level the extensive QC in both China and
Taiwan is reliability purposes as well
as for preventing the RMA s but
customers end-users like our audience
will still often blame the power supply
first when troubleshooting how returns
are handled differs based on the
companies selling the power supply but
this Factory does no refurbishment on
site and Coolermaster does no first
party refurbishment anymore instead
coolermaster often cross chips a known
good unit to the customer right away
because without it you don't have a
working computer at all and the returned
units functional or not are gathered up
and sent to China to be sold to a third
party for
testing who may choose to refurbish and
resell them or maybe put them in another
system we asked whether the factory
would cut down on its expensive QC
process if customers like Coolermaster
didn't ask for all the extra steps and
we were told no testing any less
thoroughly isn't worth the liability to
have a customer again not an end user
but a power supply manufacturer yelling
at the factory over failures so they'd
rather spend the time dealing with the
overhead multiple power supply makers
have told us in the past that psu
failure is relatively uncommon most
customers return them because the fan
isn't spinning thinking that it's dead
when it's actually a feature a lot of
others return units because some other
part failed and the power supply gets
blamed first many years ago of course
there told us that a lot of its
legitimate RMA's are from dead roaches
and ants getting zapped in the power
supply and either bridging parts or
causing airflow issues our hearts go out
to the RMA team dealing with that
although there's no refurbishing done
here there is a minor repair station
with some soldering equipment nearby
this station is used mostly for auditory
issues which means a cable bumping into
a fan blade and rattling if there's any
problem too serious to be fixed by
moving or gluing down a cable the whole
unit gets shipped back to China for
repair once power supplies are fully
tidied up and covered with stickers they
move down the conveyor belt to be
packaged in a bubble bag and boxed with
their cables and accessories cables and
transformers used in the power supplies
are manufactured in China rather than
Taiwan but material shortages may change
this as well labor cost is one of the
biggest differences bagging and boxing
is also an entirely manual process which
is expensive but automation isn't worth
the risk of scratching the power splice
again the products being packaged to
change constantly so flexibility is key
this is the same thing we talked about
with Lee Emily's case factory versus
cooler masters they specialize in
different things automation is great for
high-volume but bad for on-the-fly
changes since it requires reprogramming
that can take days of doing and testing
manual labor is bad for huge volume but
great for making smaller orders rapidly
and making quick changes to those orders
completed packages are weighed at the
end of the line 20 packages are weighed
beforehand to find the average correct
weight and every
after that must fall within a 20 gram
range of this number to confirm that no
cables are missing the scale is
connected to a light green is good
yellow is too light and red is too heavy
there are four kisi lines at this
factory alone ten total in Taiwan and
twenty in China where the primary QC
process takes place there are at least
30 QC steps per power supply mate which
helps illustrate why power supplies have
one of the lowest actual failure rates
out of all the components in the
industry if you ever think your power
supply is dead
try troubleshooting everything else
first because there's a good chance that
it's not finally the packaged power
supplies move on to the shrink-wrap
machine by the time we reached this
point our host had learns to anticipate
us asking what every single machine
costs so he volunteered that the rapping
machine and the oven together cost
approximately 1 million NTD new taiwan
dollars or about 33,000 USD at the time
of writing this machine consists of a
conveyor belt that carries boxes under a
frame holding a plastic sheet which is
wrapped around the box and heat sealed
into a loose back the box then travels
into a 160 degrees celsius oven where
the plastic bag is rapidly heated and
shrinks around the box our hosts opened
the oven for us to get a better shot but
it most normally operates closed to
retain the heat this whole process takes
seconds and the shrink wrapped boxes are
immediately cool enough to handle that
concludes the physical assembly and
testing process for power supplies and
part 2 we'll explore the deeper Rd side
of how power supplies are designed and
the lab where prototypes are tested
before production subscribe to catch
that video and check our entire Factory
tour playlist below for more of these
types of videos go to and we fund them
through viewer donations like yours or
you can go to store documents nexus
dotnet if you'd like to help us out and
get something in exchange
thanks for watching we'll see you all
next time

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