[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

Patriot is one of the newest players in the retail memory market and their market share seems to be growing. Their factory, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, is smaller than other memory factories we’ve been to, yet they have five full assembly lines – the same number of lines as the old Corsair facilities in Fremont (Corsair has just changed to a new building and they now have six lines). We’ve taken a tour on their factory, which we’ll share with you in this article.

Patriot Memory Factory TourFigure 1: Overall look of Patriot manufacturing facility.

The memory module manufacturer can buy the memory chips as a final product from a memory manufacturer like Samsung, Hynix, Infineon, etc. The memory chips can be bought untested (a.k.a. UTT chips) and then tested (usually for speed grade) and sorted in-house. Alternatively, the memory module manufacturer can buy the memory wafer, cut the wafer and pack the integrated circuits themselves.

Patriot falls in the first option (during our tour we’ve seen a lot of Samsung chips being used). However, for the high-end memory modules targeted to overclocking, the memory chips come to their factory already tested and hand-picked for the highest speed possible, speeds such as 600 MHz and 700 MHz.

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 which 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).
  • Labeling.
  • Packing.
  • Shipping to customers.

[nextpage title=”Applying Solder Paste”]

A machine, using a metallic stencil that has holes in the exact positions that the manufacturer wants to apply the solder paste, automatically applies the solder paste.

Patriot Memory Factory TourFigure 2: PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) come from the PCB manufacturer in panels.

Patriot Memory Factory TourFigure 3: Stencil and solder paste.

Patriot Memory Factory TourFigure 4: This machine applies the solder paste on a panel.

[nextpage title=”Putting the Components”]

Next the components are added to the PCB in a process called pick-and-place.

Patriot Memory Factory TourFigure 5: This machine is putting memory chips on the memory module.

Patriot Memory Factory TourFigure 6: A closer look.

After the components are added to the memory module, the modules go to an oven where the solder paste is melted, thus soldering the components. The set of insertion machine plus the oven is what is called “line”.

Patriot Memory Factory TourFigure 7: One manufacturing line at Patriot memory.

Patriot Memory Factory TourFigure 8: A panel coming out of the oven.

Exiting the oven an employee (usually a woman) is in charge of the visual inspection, where she looks for errors in the manufacturing process.

Patriot Memory Factory TourFigure 9: Visual inspection.

[nextpage title=”Testing”]

The modules are then taken out of the panel and tested. First, 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.

Patriot Memory Factory TourFigure 10: SPD programming and quick memory testing.

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. Patriot has different kinds of machines for this task, the one that will be used will depend on the memory module type.

Patriot Memory Factory TourFigure 11: Memory tester.

Patriot Memory Factory TourFigure 12: Another memory tester.

Patriot Memory Factory TourFigure 13: Another memory tester, this one is used for DDR2 and high-end DDR.

After the modules are tested by a machine, they go to a real-world test, called compatibility testing. In this test the modules are installed on motherboards and then tested.

Patriot Memory Factory TourFigure 14: Compatibility testing.

[nextpage title=”Final Process”]

After the modules pass all the testing stages, they have their heatsinks attached (if the module has one), then are labeled, packed and shipped to Patriot customers.

Patriot Memory Factory TourFigure 15: Attaching the heatsink.

Patriot Memory Factory TourFigure 16: Memory modules being labeled.

Patriot Memory Factory TourFigure 17: Packing section from Patriot Memory.