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Raspberry Pi: Inside the Pi factory

The UK computer industry enjoyed a mini-rennaisance in 2012 thanks to the popularity of the $40 Raspberry Pi.

More than 700,000 of the boards are estimated to have sold since their launch in February this year.

Launched to inspire a new generation of children to start programming, the Pi has also won over legions of adult hackers to start Pi-powered projects ranging from home automation to robotics.

This is where life begins for many Raspberry Pi boards, at a Sony factory in Pencoed in South Wales.

The factory has been making the boards since August this year and now produces up to 3,000 Raspberry Pi boards every day. From January next year the factory will step up to 4,000 boards each day. 

A total of seventeen staff work on the factory floor manufacturing and assembling the boards, with one board produced every seven and a half seconds.

Photo: Nick Heath / TechRepublic

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

9 comments
sparkielee
sparkielee

I'll take one please! I usually like my pi a la mode-but let's skip the ice cream this time. It will ruin the circuits! LOL I'm an adult who wants to know more about computers-not just how to use Microsoft Office or how to clean viruses off my hard drive. In fact I'd like several of them. I live in the United States. How do I get one here? sparkie

jimnorcal
jimnorcal

It would be really cool if all their industrial controls were ran by their little product. :)

uksp
uksp

"Of the 150,000 boards the factory has made only six have been returned and only two of those related to a genuine defect." - remarkable considering the staged process.

Cmd_Line_Dino
Cmd_Line_Dino

Lots of automation. 17 people make 3,000 boards a day. Impressive. And I bet there is no issue with the staff talking while they work (see below). Compare to iPhone and iPad manufacture... "You might be surprised to learn that the iPad and iPhone are mostly assembled by hand, not by a robotic arm and sophisticated assembly system. It takes your iPhone 141 steps to get from start to finish. The iPad takes 5 days to be assembled by 325 hands." The above from a Nightline special when they toured a FoxConn plant Each step is some very simple task that a worker does thousands of times per shift AND no talking is permitted. 12 hour shifts with two one hour meal breaks.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

http://www.raspberrypi .org/faqs [i]remember to remove the space from between [b]raspberrypi[/b] and the [b].org[/b] for a working link.[/I] Col

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

The Plant making the PI looks far more like a Prototyping Facility than a Large Scale Production Shop. Foxconn themselves use Robotics to populate the Circuit Boards as it's not possible to do it any other way and from that point on their systems fall down to unproductive assemble methods. However the PI has the same issues with the Hand Placed Components where there is a massive slow down in the production process. ;) Col

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

;) But I'll let you decide what ";)" means - but there is a meaning, if not two, and likely more profound than what you're willing to admit to contemplating. Excessive gobs of (low quality) thermal grease applied to a CPU has a counteractive effect... so it takes a little time and care to do that... Still, let's have our myopic little economy automate and devalue everything, followed by it damning all the "lazy" people, while the companies keep getting taxpayer-funded handouts at "lazy" peoples' expense... yeah, that's the ticket!

lwwarren
lwwarren

If you had viewed the other photos and read their captions you would have seen this: "After the solder paste has been added, electronic components are placed on the board using surface mount technology machines. These machines can mount close to 25,000 components every hour, placing individual components in a blur of motion. Each Pi has 173 surface mounted components, and it typically takes 150 seconds to finish mounting the six boards in a panel. The factory uses three such machines to produce the Pi, one for mounting the underside of boards and two for the top." That sure looks like automation to me... But what do I know... I used to run the systems that operate Netflix's automated dvd handling machines... 3000-4000 units / day isn't the same as the 7MM DVD's per day we were handling when I was there but all that automation was supported by about 1500 people!

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

Was Photo & Caption 8 I think at least that is the only thing that has any reference to hand placed components. Where it clearly says [i]Large components, such as USB ports, are manually inserted into the boards. There are five such "through hole" components in the Raspberry Pi.[/i] So exactly where did I suggest that this was not Automated? And Surface Mount Technology has to be Automated as it's not possible to manually place Surface Mount Components onto the Circuit Board accurately enough to have working boards. Not really sure what you are smoking but can I have some? And it still looks like a Prototyping setup to me not a large scale production facility. Though what would I know. :p Col :D