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Branded USB Memory Sticks : The Manufacturing Process Explained

Posted by USB2U on 26th June 2009 | Permalink

Custom USB Flash Drives from USB2U

It seems that USB memory sticks have been with us forever and its hard to imagine life without these ubiquitous devices for home, work and educational use. They have also become a leading promotional tool for many organisations, which in turn drives their proliferation into the market.

Anyone considering buying branded USB Memory sticks will typically deal with a local specialist rather than deal with the manufacturers in the Far East and of course being a little biased we’d suggest you use USB2U. As a specialist supplier of branded USB Memory sticks over the last 7 years we have an excellent track record of delivery some great USB solutions to thousands of large and small companies and schools in the UK.

USB2U (and hopefully other local suppliers of Branded USB Memory Sticks) manage the entire end-to-end process, but more importantly we ensure that the manufacturing process is fully audited and of a high quality.

So what should you be looking for when selecting a supplier? Of course price is important, but this alone should not be the primary driver. A small saving may be a false economy if end users start to experience problems when using the Branded Memory Sticks. Think of the reputation risk and the inconvenience of getting these replaced.

Whilst there is no substitute to full due-diligence, there are some simply things you can do to sort the wheat from the chaff when selecting a supplier.

•    First ensure there is a contact telephone number on the web site and speak to a representative.
•    Check they have a proven track record by contacting previous clients.
•    Ensure they only use new branded USB Flash Memory, e.g. Samsung.
•    Ensure they are working from a business premises. There is a growing trend for individuals pertaining to be companies, but working from home without the infrastructure to support you if things go wrong. An easy way to check this is by using Google Earth.
•    Finally do not pay for any part of the order until the goods are ready for despatch.

Once you have selected your supplier it’s worth understanding the manufacturing process. On the face of it you would assume that the manufacturing process for Branded USB Memory sticks would be simple. However, pulling back the veneer shows a complex and challenging process.

The vast majority of Branded Memory Sticks are manufactured in China and Taiwan.

There are 3 hardware components that make up a Branded Memory Stick:

•    The Flash Memory Chip, which comes in various memory sizes from 64Mb to 16Gb.
•    The PCBA Board which houses the Chip, Electronics and USB Connector
•    The casing that houses and protects the USB Memory Stick. These come in a myriad of shapes, materials and designs.

USB2U (or other local supplier) will be contracted to the factory that will purchase each of the above three components and then assemble them. A reputable and experienced factory will typically follow this process:

1.    They will purchase the Flash Memory Chips from companies such as Samsung, Hynix, Micron, Intel or other OEM brands. Ensure they do not use B grade or recycled flash memory (its common and worth checking).
2.    All flash memory chips are QA tested before attaching into the PCBA
3.    Any data that needs to be pre-loaded (presentation file, sales PDF’s etc) onto the USB Branded Memory Stick is typically loaded at this stage.
4.    The assembled units are then once again QA tested and a “screen grab” of the data and how its shown/structured on the memory stick will be sent to the client for sign-off.
5.    The factory will purchase the housing from dedicated housing manufactures. Again whilst certain models look the same from an image there are often difference in the type of material is used so it may be worth getting a physical sample
6.    The next step is for the factory to screen print, emboss or engrave logos onto the shell of the USB Memory Stick. This can be a long and drawn out process if completed by hard, however most of the larger factories have fully automated printing processes. A proof (often a photographic proof) will be sent to the client for signoff.
7.    The factory’s production line is then responsible for inserting the PCBA into the housing.
8.    Once the units have been assembled a full QA is again undertaken.
9.    Any accessories are added to the USB Branded Memory sticks, e.g. key rings.
10.    Finally they are packing into gift boxes or bubble bags.
11.    A courier picks up the goods, which need to be cleared through the originator’s and destination customs controls

This entire process can take between 7-14 days

Once the Branded USB Memory Sticks arrive with your supplier they will then undertake their own QA process before dispatching these to you.

Remember if you wish to purchase direct from the Far East, manufacturers are desperate to secure new business and will offer heavily discounted rates by cutting many of the quality corners mentioned above. They will expect money upfront before production commences and some of them will not be that forthcoming if things turn turtle…so buyers beware!


Promotional USB Memory Sticks – A Glossary Of Terms

Posted by USB2U on 25th June 2009 | Permalink

If you are thinking of purchasing Branded USB Memory sticks, then the terminology and industry jargon used can be daunting and confusing.

To help demystify the purchasing and manufacturing process here’s a glossary of terms, which should help.

Artwork: This needs to be provided so the USB Memory Stick can carry your logo and/or marketing message. There are many different file types in which artwork can be saved as. The preferred formats for the printers or factory because they provide the sharpest print are ai (adobe illustrator) or eps (photoshop) and, ideally, these should be in a vectorised format. Please see our Guidelines page for more info: Click here.

Auto Run: An autorun facility allows files to be run automatically as soon as the USB memory stick is inserted into a USB port on a PC. This is useful if you want to take the user directly to your own promotional video for example. A note of caution though – if you do want the recipient of your USB Memory stick use it over and over again “auto-run” files can be off putting as they won’t be able to access their data until they have waited for the autorun to run! For more information, please see our Data Load page: Click here.

Data Encryption: This is software that can be added to your Branded Memory Stick. It allows any data on the stick to be fully encrypted (scrambled). This means that if you lose the Memory Stick it would be very difficult for anyone to access the data held on it without the appropriate password. For more information, please see our Data Encryption page: Click here.

Data Load: If you have files or data that you want to provide the user with then this data can be loaded during the manufacturing process. The data can be supplied in any format with the most common data formats being MPEG’s, PDF’s and Powerpoint Presentations. Any loaded data can also be protected so that the user cannot delete it. For more information, please see our Data Load page: Click here.

Drive Partition: This creates two virtual “drives”. It can only be done during the manufacture process. One drive partition can hold data that cannot be deleted (protected) and the other can be for saving and storing data. For more information, please see our Data Load page: Click here.

Embossing: Sometimes knows as “stamping” this technique adds a logo onto Leather USB Flash Drives. Please refer to our Branding Options: Click here.

Engraving: This is the process of adding a logo onto metal USB Flash Drives. The results can be fantastic. Engraving is very durable and is the recommended option for branding on all metal cased USB Memory sticks. Please refer to our Branding Options: Click here.

Full Colour Print: A process that allows full photo quality print rather than simple “spot colour” print. Not available on all models of USB memory stick or from all suppliers but if done correctly the results can be stunning. Please refer to our Branding Options: Click here.

Silk Screen Printing: The most common method of printing onto USB Flash Drives. This option usually offers up to 4 colours to be printed to 1 position. Sometimes know as “Spot Print”. Please refer to our Branding Options: Click here.

Carabiner Keyrings: Also known as snap link, snap hook, D ring or ‘biner”. These function like a climber’s carabiner. Great for attaching onto bags or laptop cases. Unlike most small key rings they are also big enough to carry a brand or logo.

Lanyard: a cord with an attached hook that is used to hold the promotional USB Flash Drive. Sometimes know as neckties.
Memory: You would usually refer to the memory of a promotional USB Flash Drive simply as ‘memory’, but others terms use are ‘capacity’ and ‘storage.’

The memory sizes come in a range if different sizes. They double up as follows, 32Mb, 64Mb, 128Mb, 256Mb, 512Mb, 1Gb, 2Gb, 4Gb, 8Gb, 16Gb 32Gb and 64Gb.

1GB of memory is the most popular size but its useful to know exactly how many files this would hold.

Some technical jargon:
•    1024KB (kilobyte) = 1MB (megabyte)
•    1024MB =1GB (gigabyte)
•    A good quality photo is about 100KB
•    An MP3 music file is about 3MB upwards
•    A document file can be anywhere from 25Kb upwards

Mock Up: An image illustrating the USB flash drive with your logo file. A further proof would be provided prior to production.

MOQ: Minimum Order Quantity

Pantone Reference: All colours have a specific reference will allows printers to match any logo colours. These 3 or 4 digit references must be provided with the artwork.

Proof: This is a visual of the chosen Flash Drive. It details the layout, size and colours in the logo. It is important that the proof is checked closely.

This is the term used to label a drive letter on a USB memory stick. For example rather than having the generic ‘removable drive’ title, you could add a company name or short message.

Universal Serial Bus. This is an industry standard introduced to allow peripherals to be used across all desktop and laptops.

USB Flash Drive: The most commonly used term but others include:USB memory stick, USB pen drive, USB key drive, USB jump drive, USB thumb drive and USB drive.

USB 2.0: The main primary difference between 2.0 and the previous standard of 1.1 is that the 2.0 USB Memory sticks are faster. USB 2.0 averages a data rate of 480 Mbps (megabits per second) while USB 1.1 only hits 12 Mbps, which make 2.0 about 40 time faster. All new memory sticks should be USB 2.0.