Corsair New Factory Tour in Fremont, CA, USA
By Gabriel Torres on September 30, 2005
Corsair has recently moved to a new location in Fremont, California, and we had the chance of visiting their new facilities and compare it to their old factory we had the chance to visit in the beginning of this year. They are now in a bigger building, with one more production line (six lines, previously they had five lines), a new memory chip testing and sorting machine, more memory module testing stations and much more space for inventory, packing and shipping.
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.
Corsair is both in the first option (during our tour we’ve seen a lot of Infineon and Nanya chips being used) and second option, since now they have the testing and sorting machinery. This machine is usually used for sorting memory chips for high-performance memory modules, where they usually work overclocked.
As we have already mentioned in other articles covering memory module manufacturing, the memory module manufacturing process is quite the same for all memory module manufacturers:
In Figure 2 you see part of one of the six manufacturing lines available at Corsair. The very first machine on the left side applies solder paste to the memory module printed circuit board (PCB). The second machine is placing small components like capacitors and resistors on the memory module, while the third machine is placing the memory chips on the module. After passing through these machines the memory modules go to an oven where the solder paste will melt thus soldering the components.
This four-machine set shown on Figures 2 and 3 is what is called “manufacturing line” or simply “line”.
After coming out of the oven, the memory modules are taken out of the panel and have their SPD chip programmed. Then the memory module is tested.
The testing procedure has two steps: quick testing and functional testing.
The SPD chip is programmed and the same machine performs a quick test. As we mentioned, SPD (Serial Presence Detect) is a small chip located on the memory module that holds working parameters for the memory module, like timings.
Then the modules are automatically tested by a machine that checks if the memory is fully functional and working under the parameters set by the manufacturer, like timings and speed. Corsair has different kinds of machines for this task; the one that will be used will depend on the memory module type.
Depending on the memory module type, Corsair can also use an even faster procedure, where the memory modules to be tested are put in a machine that loads and tests them automatically, as you can see in Figure 8.
After a machine tests the modules, they go to a real-world test, called functional testing. In this test the modules are installed on motherboards and then tested. Here is one of the major differences between Corsair’s old factory and the new one. They developed a new system. Instead of heaving one keyboard, one mouse and one video monitor connected to each motherboard, they are using a KVM switch, which allows several computers to use the same keyboard, mouse and video monitor.
Corsair uses RSTPro 2 board from Ultra-X to test their memories. This board built-in software starts testing the memory automatically when you turn on the system, so the systems don’t need a hard disk drive to work.
Memory modules from XMS series have heatsink, so they need to be attached, of course. The process of attaching the heatsink to the XMS memory modules is quite interesting.
The heatsinks are inserted into a metal frame (see Figure 13), and then thermal paste is applied on them (see Figure 14). Then, the memory module is placed on the heatsink, and the other side of the heatsink is placed on top of the memory module, forming a “sandwich”. A latch makes pressure in order to make both sides of the heatsink to stick on the memory module (see Figure 15). The metal frame is then inserted into an oven, where the thermal paste will melt, “gluing” the heatsink to the memory module. After that the modules are removed from the frame and sent to the labeling station.
Another new acquisition at Corsair is an automated labeling machine, shown in Figure 16. After the modules are labeled, they are packed and sent to their warehouse. On the warehouse, employees check customer’s orders, get the items ordered from the inventory, and send the order to the shipping department through a conveyor.