Kingston Technology Factory Tour in Fountain Valley, Calif.
Welcome sign on Kingston global headquarters building
Before Gigabyte’s Open Overclocking Championship 2009 North America Regional Final this weekend, Kingston invited several members of the media to tour their global headquarters and manufacturing facility located in Fountain Valley, Calif. Kingston’s public relations manager David Leong and Louis Kaneshiro, senior technology manager, started the tour at their headquarters building. They gave us a brief overview of their operations as well as an "off the record" sneak peek into some projects coming down the pipe this year.
Entrance to Kingston manufacturing building
After a short visit to Kingston’s headquarters building and getting our visitor's badges, we moved across the street and donned white lab coats to tour their manufacturing factory. This facility is where they research, develop, test, fabricate, package, and ship Kingston's DDR3, PC100, and other legacy product lines.
The first section we toured was on the second floor of the manufacturing factory. We were not allowed to take photos in this area, but we can say this is where they house their technical support team and quality assurance labs for value RAM and server-specific RAM, PCB designers, and other engineers who create their product line.
Partial view of Kingston shipping department, quality assurance, and RMA divisions
Next, we moved back to the first floor and went through the entire process of how Kingston creates their memory modules. Here’s a down and dirty run-down of how their memory modules are fabricated:
- 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).
- Shipping to customers.
This photo shows a couple of the actual plates Kingston uses to fabricate all of their DIMMs. Kingston keeps an archive of all their plates so they don’t need to recreate them for future use.
Kingston analysts test each memory module before it can be approved for consumer use. This section in the photo above manages testing for all of Kingston's DDR3 modules. After testing, each module is sent to packaging, labeling, and shipping.
The testing section has hundreds of test systems where Kingston employees check each module individually. This looks like a tedious process, but Kingston also said they can check multiple batches at one time too. Kingston has multiple sections for each type of module, including some legacy versions like PC100.
After the memory modules are tested and confirmed, they are sent through special labeling and packaging machines that print the memory specifications directly onto each module as well as puts them in their retail or OEM packaging.
Here are a couple boxes of Kingston modules ready to be shipped.
Overall, the tour lasted about one hour and gave us an in-depth look into the entire fabrication process Kingston Technology uses to create their DDR3 and other legacy modules.