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Going up close at the Meridian Audio factory (pictures)

A factory tour of the high-end British audio company Meridian.

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Geoffrey Morrison
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No photography

I have a feeling I will not be obeying this sign.
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Factory

Surprisingly quiet, actually.
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Blank board

Here's the base circuit board. Several small ones, actually. Onto this, the P&P machine (next slide) places the components that turn this simple board into something that actually does something.
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P&P

The P&P (pick-and-place) machine. This is also called an "SMT component placement system." The reels in the foreground hold components like capacitors, resistors, IC chips, and so on that get placed onto a base circuit board.
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P&P closeup 1

Multiple little robot arms place the components on the board.
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P&P closeup 2

Here's an even closer closeup of the Pick-and-Place machine.
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P&P in standby

You can't open the protective cover of the P&P without it going into standby (for safety reasons, obviously). With the cover open, and the machine static, it's a lot less creepy. Notice the reels of components on the lower right.
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End result

Here you see a completed board (though to be fair, not the same one we started with).
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Optical check

This is the first stage of the multistage QC process: an optical check. The big box on the right (with the tray open), is basically just an ordinary optical scanner (or, if you like, a fancy camera). Software checks the image of the board placed in the tray against a stored master image. It compares dozens and dozens of individual points for variation. This could be as simple as a component placed in the right direction, down to actual serial numbers and product names on chips. If it senses a discrepancy, it flags the item for a check by a human.
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Handmade

Even with the complexities of these circuit boards, there are still some parts that are, for various reasons, better for a person to install.
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Continuity

A additional check is for continuity. The board is placed on this device (this one is a demo, the real one is a machine), and it checks to make sure all the electrical connections are working. Check out the next slide for the bottom, it's really cool. Also, check out this video to see the machine in action.
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WIRES!

This is the underside of the continuity checker you saw in the last slide. So many wires.
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Performance testing

The final stage in QC testing is actual performance testing. After running in the board (soaking), for 24 to 72 hours, the performance is checked against a reference.
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USB DAC

The Explorer DAC (digital-to-analog converter), which Steve Guttenberg checked out, is entirely made in this factory.
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Speaker cutaway

Meridian makes speakers, too. Here's a cutaway of one of the towers. In addition to incredibly rigid wood layers, you should be able to make out a thin piece of metal in the middle of the sandwich. Solid.
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Anechoic

Anechoic chambers are as cool as they are creepy.
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Listening

In this beautiful and acoustically excellent listening room, the final testing gets done.
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Theater

Meridian also sell high-end projectors, including a 4,096x2,400-pixel-resolution, 4,000-lumen monster.

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