Corsair Factory Tour in Fremont, CA, USA
By Gabriel Torres on July 14, 2005
We visited Corsair memory factory located in Fremont, California, where they manufacture their high-end memory (XMS series) and server modules. Corsair also has a factory in Taiwan, where their entry-level modules (Value series) are manufactured.
Note: Corsair moved to a new building and their upgrade their factory; we've posted an article on Corsair's new factory.
It is very interesting to note that this is the first component factory we visited in the USA (actually after this one we visited some other manufacturing facilities in the USA from other memory vendors, like PDP Systems, also in the Valley, and Kingston, in LA area). Usually manufacturing facilities for the PC hardware industry are located in Taiwan or China. The idea behind setting up a factory in the USA is to provide a faster response time. For example, if they get a big request from a server memory costumer, they can deliver the requested modules in two or three days – they can simply manufacture and deliver them in this timeframe.
In this factory Corsair also tests the manufacturing process for new products.
Corsair does not manufacture memory chips. They buy memory chips from other companies like Samsung and Micron and assemble their own modules.
The manufacturing process is relatively simple: memory chips are positioned and soldered on modules, which come in panels containing six modules; after this there is a visual inspection test in order to see if the solder was well done; then the modules are separated; the SPD circuit is programmed; the modules are fully tested; and finally the modules are packed.
For chips with BGA packaging (usually DDR2 memories) there is a problem: since their terminals are located under the chip, it is impossible to see if the solder was perfect or not. To solve this problem Corsair uses an X-ray machine to check the position of BGA chips terminals.
When a new module type starts to be manufactured Corsair performs temperature tests with this new module in order to ensure that it follows the technical specifications that were set by the engineers. This test is done inside a thermal chamber where an open PC is installed with the memory modules to be tested. This PC runs burn in tests while the temperature inside the chamber varies between 41º F and 113º F (5º C and 45º C) during the test period.
We also saw how memory modules with stacked chips are manufactured. This technology – only Corsair has this technology, according to them – consists in soldering two chip one at the top of the other in order to obtain a memory module with greater capacity.
We could also see XMS series modules – the one with activity LEDs on top – being manufactured.
The process of attaching the heatsink is very interesting and different from what we though. A machine applies solder paste (which is gray) on the heatsinks. Then the heatsinks are installed on the modules using a press, which is capable of installing 18 heatsinks per round. This press is put inside an oven, which has an internal temperature that doesn’t affect the solder on the modules. Putting the modules in the oven makes the solder paste to act as glue, holding the heatsinks to the modules. This is the reason why is so difficult to remove the heating from those modules and also why there is no kind of screw or hook holding the two parts of the XMS modules heatsinks.
As we said, after the modules are manufactured they are tested one by one. Two tests are performed. A quick functional test in a machine that tests the modules quickly and then a full functional test, where the modules are installed in real PCs and tested.
After being tested, the modules are labeled and packed, being ready to be sold.