Kingston is the largest memory manufacturer in the world, with a 27% worldwide market share, according to iSuppli. It is the beast on the memory market: its 2004 revenue was 231.08% greater than the second largest memory company, Smart Modular Technologies, which has a market share of 8.10%.
Kingston has several factories around the world, and we visited its smallest factory in Fountain Valley, California, USA. On the other hand, in this factory is where research and development is conducted and we had the chance to visiting some of their R&D testing labs.
Kingston production capacity for memory modules is:
- Fountain Valley, CA, USA: 550,000/month
- ShenZhen , China: 700,000/month
- Penang, Malaysia: 800,000/month
- Hsin-Chu, Taiwan: 1,300,000/month
- Shanghai, China: 2,500,000/month
- Total capacity worldwide: 5,850,000 memory modules per month
The numbers above exclude flash memory business.
Even though Fountain Valley factory is their smallest facility, we were simply surprised by its size: so far it is the largest memory manufacturing facility we’ve been to in the USA. In Figure 1 you have an overall look of part of the facility. For you to have an idea of its total size, its packing and shipping department takes a warehouse almost the same size, plus the research and development area and the RMA area that were not shown on the picture below.
Memory module manufacturing process is quite simple and we have already explained it several times. But we will explain once again in case you didn’t read our previous articles on the subject.
The memory module manufacturer can buy the memory chips as a final product from a memory manufacturer like Samsung, Hynix, Infineon, etc; can buy them untested (a.k.a. UTT chips) and test (usually for speed grade) and sort them in-house; or can buy the memory wafer, cut the wafer and pack the integrated circuits by themselves.
Kingston falls in the first option.
The memory module manufacturing process is quite the same for all memory module manufacturers:
- 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.