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Kingston has four factories: Penang, Malaysia, with a manufacturing capacity of 500 thousand memory modules per month; Hsin-Chu, Taiwan, with a manufacturing capacity of 1.7 million memory modules per month; Fountain View, California, USA, with a manufacturing capacity of  800 thousand memory modules per month; and Shanghai, China, with a manufacturing capacity of 2.5 million modules per month. We had the change of visiting Kingston’s bigger factory in Shanghai, China.
 
Kingston memory modules are exclusively designed on their headquarters, in Fountain View, California, USA. This is the same place where memory chips using Kingston brand are packed, i.e., Kingston buys the wafer from a wafer manufacturer, cuts, packs and marks their own brand on the chips. Kingston also use third-party memory chips, like Hynix and Elpida. During our factory tour the modules that were being manufactured used chips from Hynix.

Shanghai factory has eight SMT insertion lines. Kingston is building a new factory where the goal is to have 12 SMT lines to double their manufacturing capacity, reaching 5 million memory modules per month this year.

According to Kingston, they have four factories in order to prevent distribution problems in the case of a natural disaster or fire.

The factory we visited is located on Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone, in Shanghai. Factories located inside this Free Trade Zone don’t pay local sales tax (17% VAT, Value Added Tax) if the product is exported. If the product is sold on the local market, the tax is charged.

Kingston Factory TourFigure 1: Entrance of WigaoQiao Free Trade Zone in Shanghai.

Kingston Factory TourFigure 2: Kingston’s factory façade.
 

Kingston Factory TourFigure 3: Kingston’s factory quality control policy.

Memory modules manufacturing process is similar to the process used on other kinds of boards. The difference is that memory modules don’t have DIP insertion components like connectors and electrolytic capacitors, so the manual insertion stage doesn’t exist. Thus the memory module production is restricted to the SMT line. To better understand the manufacturing process used on boards, read our ABIT Factory Tour article, where we explained this process in details.

Kingston Factory TourFigure 4: Overall vision of Kingston SMT lines.

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One difference between memory module and motherboard manufacturing is that the printed circuit boards (the modules without any component attached) are stuck together on a panel. Each panel has eight modules. After the module manufacturing process the panel has to be cut, so the modules can be tested and packed – and used, of course.

Kingston Factory TourFigure 5: Panel with eight modules entering the SMT line.

 Kingston Factory TourFigure 6: Panel exiting the SMT insertion machine and entering the soldering oven.

Kingston Factory TourFigure 7: Employee looking for soldering defects on the modules.

Before being cut apart, the modues are labeled. The same machine does the module labeling and cutting.

Kingston Factory TourFigure 8: Memory modules after being labeled.

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The next step is to test the modules. All modules are tested using two procedures. First using a machine that does a quick preliminary test, and then a functional test in a real-world environment, i.e., on a PC running memory test software.

Kingston Factory TourFigure 9: First testing step (quick test).

Kingston Factory TourFigure 10: Overall vision of Kingston’s factory testing area.

After the modules are tested they are packed and have their packages labeled. The package labeling is done by a machine, which prints the label depending on the product being packed. After this process the modules, now packed, are put in boxes with 25 modules each. After that an employee checks if there are 25 modules on the box and if the label present on the module package is correct.

Kingston Factory TourFigure 11: Labeling machine.