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Hardware Linux

Inside the Raspberry Pi Factory 120

Posted by samzenpus
from the take-a-look dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Here's a photo walk through of how Raspberry Pi boards are made at a Sony factory in South Wales, UK. The factory says that the multiple automated and manual checks have meant that only two of the 150,000 boards made there have been shipped with defects."
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Inside the Raspberry Pi Factory

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  • only two of the 150,000 boards made there have been shipped with defects

    1 of 5 of the boards I ordered recently was defective. It has the "can't keep the USB running" error. They were the 'Made in China" versions. Hopefully the Sony-made ones will be more reliable.

    • by Yetihehe (971185) on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:47PM (#42171525)

      If it's only one of five, it would be extremely interesting for RPi team they are actively working on solutions for usb problems (there were several found and some corrected already). Could you help them and write your experiences in this thread [raspberrypi.org]?

    • by paskie (539112)

      About 30 boards (ordered from European Farnell, IIRC all made in UK) went through my hands in the past few months; I had no problem with any of them.

      I would be the first to point out some dubious design choices and other not-so-good things about the Raspberry Pi, but myself I can't complain about defective items at all.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday December 03, 2012 @02:10PM (#42171883) Journal

        While I can understand why they went with a cheap, standard, connector(rather than yet-another-goddam-slightly-different-barrel-plug), I suspect that the rPI support guys are cursing the day that they chose a USB socket as a DC-in jack.

        To put it politely, the quality of USB chargers and powered hub wall warts is excitingly variable. If you are trying to run an ARM SoC, a USB ethernet controller, and possibly a couple of other downstream devices, all with just a +5 rail of potentially erratic specs, that isn't good for reliability. By going with the USB socket, they opened the field to every last dollar-store iCharger knockoff and its creative interpretation of what +5vDC looks like...

        • by paskie (539112)

          Yes. I think key in my good experience with RPi is that for all of them, I'm using the same type of uUSB PSU. It is actually a rather cheap OEM part, but it works reliably and I think many of the experienced problems with RPi stem from bad PSUs.

        • by mspohr (589790)

          " the quality of USB chargers and powered hub wall warts is excitingly variable"

          I have had some exciting times with USB wall warts... melting is not too exciting but when you get flames it can get very exciting.

        • Is there a way to test what power supplies are good for the Pi with a multimeter? Have any links to known good chargers?
        • by thegarbz (1787294)

          The problem is quite real but you're mad to think that this is exclusively an issue of the USB connector. Barrel plugs come in about 6 different standard sizes with no standard voltage for a certain plug.

          By going with a common DC jack you not only open yourself to the same shoddy Chinese powersupplies as the USB chargers (my favourite of which was a 5V 2A charger without a heatsink which nearly melted supplying only 600mA) but you also open yourself to the risk of people plugging the wrong voltage charger i

          • Oh, don't get me wrong, I think that the USB connector is definitely the best of the (mostly bad) options. The bottom of the market in wall warts is fairly dreadful no matter what shape the connector is, and even people without access to a geek's-giant-bin-of-parts at least probably have a few of this flavor.

            The one really unfortunate side effect(although probably unavoidable at this price point) of going with USB is that it means +5v input(maybe a hair higher, quite often lower if the supply is drooping) f

            • by thegarbz (1787294)

              Actually when you think about it they didn't get this quite as wrong as you think.

              The vast majority of USB wall warts on the market are designed to deliver a far higher load than any USB socket. It's the whole quick charging issue. The USB2.0 spec does not allow drawing 1A from the socket, a usb wallwart does, and this combined with some load sensing circuitry is precisely why phones charge much faster when plugged into the wall. The most common USB wallwart variety is in excess of 800mA, and very few peopl

        • by dasunt (249686)

          To put it politely, the quality of USB chargers and powered hub wall warts is excitingly variable. If you are trying to run an ARM SoC, a USB ethernet controller, and possibly a couple of other downstream devices, all with just a +5 rail of potentially erratic specs, that isn't good for reliability. By going with the USB socket, they opened the field to every last dollar-store iCharger knockoff and its creative interpretation of what +5vDC looks like...

          Agreed. I picked up a microUSB "travel charger" for m

          • I power mine off the USB "service" socket on the back of the TV. Runs Wifi and a 16gb pen drive perfectly.
    • by Vicarius (1093097)
      In one of the images (#11) in the article you can see screenshot of the "Automatic Inspection" software. It says that the defect rate is over 1%, i.e. for 150,000 units it should have been more than 1,500 defective units. Of course, they did mention that it was "shipped" units they were bragging about.
    • by mspohr (589790)

      One of the two boards I ordered was DOA. The little red light would come on but nothing else... no boot, etc.
      The other board worked fine with the same memory card, cables, power supply, etc. so it had to be the board.
      Nice to know that I had the only 1 in 150,000... maybe I should try the lottery.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Since when do they ship in a clear plastic case as in the article?

    • Must only be for the ones manufactured in the UK. I got a Model B from Newark Element 14 just last week, but mine was a "Made in China" model and did not come with the case. Same box, however.
  • From TFA only 2 bad boards so far? http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=20657 [raspberrypi.org] - see this problem on as detailed on rpi site.
    • by csumpi (2258986)
      Make that 3. Mine was also not able to keep any USB connection alive, but I didn't return it.
    • by dlinear (1053422)
      I just hopped onto the Raspberry Pi bandwagon. I received two boards over the weekend (made in China) and both can't keep the USB/Ethernet on... I'm the last post in the parent's link.... It's very frustrating (even for an experience electrical and computer engineer) and I hope that they can get their quality control under ... control. I'd hate to see something as awesome as the Raspberry Pi ruined during it's early life because of poor hardware manufacturing. Without RTFA, I expect this recent post is to
      • by psergiu (67614)

        Get a DC Volt-meter.
        While RPi is running and accesing USB devices measure between TP1 & TP2 points on the board.
        If the voltage is near or below 4.75V or near or above 5.25V the fault resides in your power supply.
        The ideal powersupply should be a clean 5.1V one 1A or more - as you have some voltage drops over the polyfuses.
        I have two "original" 256Mb RPis Made In China and all the common USB issues i had were fixed with better power supplies (old 5V,2A PSP power brick & 5V,3A DC 7~24V to 5V step-down

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Only 2 so far from the Sony factory in the UK, none of the boards made in China count towards that total.

  • Better "inside" view (Score:5, Informative)

    by iONiUM (530420) on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:12PM (#42171113) Homepage Journal

    I think this: post from Pi [raspberrypi.org] is a better "walk-through", as it includes descriptions as well as pictures.

    But, that's just me.

  • Ordered two from RS early October, along with peripherals. Other parts arrived with back order notice saying they would ship 26th November. Still hadn't arrived today so phoned RS who said shipping date was now 22nd December (a Saturday?). I'm sure the Raspberry Pi folk are a very nice group of people but honestly they just come over as a bunch of enthusiastic amateurs when it comes to global fulfillment.
  • by gmarsh (839707) on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:40PM (#42171443)

    Because in my experience, the yield from the chinese Model B factory is 50%.

    My first RPi is currently tied up in a work project, so I ordered another model B from Newark. It came in and I fired it up yesterday, no LEDs or any signs of life. Dead.

    Then I noticed the main BGA in the center of the card looked a bit askew, looked closer and noticed the BCM2835 was missing. The Samsung DRAM that ordinary sits on top of the '2835 was soldered straight onto the PCB. I understand the part shooter fucking up once in a while and missing a chip, but the board shouldn't have made it out of the factory.

    C'mon. I'd rather pay a few extra bucks for something that's most likely going to work, than do what I'm doing now and spending even more bucks mailing the fucking thing back, and crossing my fingers that the replacement works too...

    • by lattyware (934246)
      The ones from the English factory are Model Bs.
    • That's because there is no foreigner on the ground in China checking quality. This is a common greenhorn mistake made by people who have no idea what they're doing sourcing from China, and who think it's too expensive to pay airfare, hotel, and salary for one of their staff to go over. You're going to get defective products, either because the factory is actively cheating you, doesn't understand your requirements, or just doesn't care. Chinese factories will do good work but they need supervision. If th
  • I'd never have ordered mine if I knew Sony gets something from making these.
    • by Jeng (926980)

      Manufactured by Sony, but not designed or modified by Sony.

      I'm ok with that, I would actually prefer a Sony model vs the Chinese manufactured model.

      I do not like Sony in the least, but all they are doing here as far as I can tell is putting it all together and they do do that well.

    • Sony is a big mess of a companies. It is a hydra moving in three directions. Most people are upset with Sony Music over the root kit thing. Or they are upset with Sony Computer Entertainment for removing linux from the PS3. Sony Corporation is the company likely making the Pis. Sony Mobile(formally Sony Erickson) makes Android phones. Each of these companies are headed by different people.
  • Who read this as saying, "...the factory says that the multiple automated and manual checks have meant that only two of the 150,000 boards made there have been shipped DUE TO defects" I mean, could explain the supply problem. Much more plausible that the entire world is being supplied by a half-dead 89 year old electronics engineer hand-building each one, occasionally losing his glasses between runs, with a crappy 1960's era Radio Shack soldering iron...

  • I don't see how the Raspberry Pi can compete with similar products like the MK808 or UG802. For $50 you can buy a cheap android on a stick PC loaded with built in features, and fully capable of customized the ROM. They have twice the computing power of the Pi, so why are people still interested in the Raspberry?
    • by lattyware (934246)
      Android isn't a desktop operating system.
    • by Narishma (822073)

      Because it's cheaper, has a huge community and doesn't come with Android.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Can you run Debian on it? Does it have GPIO?

      • by na1led (1030470)
        You can run Ubuntu, and perhaps other distributions. Besides, do you really need GPIO when USB will do? It just seems like a lot of hyper for nothing, when there are tons of similar boards already available from places like Alibaba. What can you do with the Raspberry Pi that can't be done with similar products?
        • by Hrshgn (595514)

          How would USB be a replacement for GPIO?
          GPIO are useful for interfacing with low level components such as switches, LED, LCD etc. Using USB for this would be overkill.

    • I don't see how the Raspberry Pi can compete with similar products like the MK808 or UG802.

      The other vendors aren't spamming all over tech sites.

      (The Raspberry Pi people just take a really good system on a chip from China, slap it on a badly laid out board, and act like they've done something important. Annoying.)

      • Where is your non-profit company trying to kids interested in computers? Thats what the Pi foundation IS. All this selling to us geeks is just to build a community. The main purpose of the Pi is to educate.
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          All this selling to us geeks is just to build a community

          If they were trying to build a community they would be a lot more open. For example, they would give us their Android sources, and they would have shared that the memory would be getting bigger as soon as they knew. A community is simply happening.

    • Good point, for an extra $20 MK808 has a dual core 1.6GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, 8GB flash and WiFi. It lacks GPIO and Ethernet though. The UG802 also lacks these.
    • by na1led (1030470)
      Review comparing the MK802 vs. Raspberry Pi - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKNPnBE-ouI [youtube.com] , and the MK802 has now been replaces with a much faster MK808. Conclusion - the MK802 is the clear winner when it comes to value, unless you have a specific project that requires the Raspberry Pi.
    • by gman003 (1693318)

      Twice the power for twice the price doesn't make it a better deal. If the Pi has all the power you need, why spend $25 more for a "better" one?

      Also, the GPIO pins. That's not a particularly Android-y feature.

      • by na1led (1030470)
        I'm sure the Pi will have its place in some projects. I just don't see why there is so much hype about it. The specs aren't that impressive, but seeing something like the MK808 that's 1/4 the size of the Pi with 4x the power, that's something to rave about IMO.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Me neither. If I knew then what I know now, I'd never have bought an R-Pi. Notably, that the R-Pi foundation would demo Android and then never release it. Bait and switch? Probably not really, but I wouldn't have bought an R-Pi except that they had an announcement about Android working.

  • Every time you buy a Raspberry Pi, Sony gets a dollar.
    • by PReDiToR (687141)
      Please, don't.

      I have just run a Raspberry Jam (albeit a little one) because I believe in this Foundation and their stated aims, but I cannot abide SONY and their company ethos vis a vis customer respect and DRM.

      If I could I'd buy RasPis that had been made somewhere else. Both of mine came from China, but the one that I got for a friend came from SONY. As will my next one, unfortunately.

      Shitty SONY. Bad SONY. May everything you touch (aside from RasPis) turn to sand in your clutches.
      • by gman003 (1693318)

        Yes, Sony was evil. Still is, for a large part.

        What do you think the best way to change that behavior is?
        A) Refuse to buy any of their products, even the non-evil or outright good ones, or
        B) Reward them for building good products by buying them, while punishing them by boycotting their evil products

        Path A causes them to just stop counting you as a potential customer. So they no longer care at all what you do. In a way, you're like a rabid PS3 fanboy who buys every one of their products - your purchasing dec

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          A) Refuse to buy any of their products, even the non-evil or outright good ones, or

          Congratulations, you just failed to understand how corporations work. If I give Sony money for one thing, they can use it to develop products over which they intend to bend people and fuck them.

          B) Reward them for building good products by buying them, while punishing them by boycotting their evil products

          This is not about good products, this is about good behavior. We will reward them for their good behavior as soon as they start exhibiting it. If they don't want us to conflate the actions of Sony Music with Sony Computer Entertainment (both are gigantic douches, though... rootkits and lik-sang respectively, for exam

          • by gman003 (1693318)

            Note: Whenever I referred to "good" products in my original post, I was referring to "good" as in "opposite of evil", not "of high quality". I thought that was obvious given how I structured my comparisons, but I guess not.

            You also seem to fail to understand how corporations work. I can flip your statement around and have it be just as true: if I give Sony money for one thing, they can use it to develop products to help people and perhaps redeem themselves.

            You apparently insist on a complete, 100% change be

      • Please don't what? Remind you of the facts?
  • by znigelz (2005916) on Monday December 03, 2012 @03:10PM (#42172469)
    This is slightly off topic, but still very related to the OP.

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

    Are they serious? Do they even know where the ARM SoC is designed?

    It amazes me that the Arm Holdings stock was only around $20 a few months ago, when they are without question the most dominant, stable, and secure tech company in the world. Both Apple and Google are completely dependent on the licenses they have acquired from ARM to allow them to use their risc based ultra low power cpu in their devices, and to allow the manufacturers (samsung, ti, etc) to build those chips, and yet in some cases their stocks are twenty times more.

    This amazes me, but at least ARM's stock has doubled in the past few months. There is NO bigger player in the computer industry in the world than the UK. I make this claim upon the the fact that now mobile is the dominant platform, and ARM is the only real player in that game (as of yet). Anyone can license and manufacture these chips for cheap and give us crappy hardware as a result, but the ingenuity is in their reduced and low complexity instruction set which allows for their ultra low power design, which is why almost everybody is using their SoC designs.

    The only reason that nobody realizes this and their stock has been stagnant in the past is because they don't have a "ARM inside" sticker on every ARM based device made. It there was such a sticker, they would be beyond any doubt the most popular company in the world.

    Disclaimer: I am Canadian (and live there at the moment), but I am also a UK citizen. I also don't hold any ARM stocks, though I am kicking myself that I still have yet to acquire any, since it would have almost doubled in value over the past year.

    • I LOL'd. Yes, the real thing holding back the UKs perceived dominance in the industry is lack of 'ARM inside' stickers. You probably think RIM got a bad rap too amiright?
      • by znigelz (2005916)
        Wow. You are really stretching my words to make that speculation. In no way did I refer to RIM, but just because I am Canadian you assume that I am a die hard RIM supporter. I am talking about the UK, not Canada. I will not go off topic of my own post, but responses like yours make me slowly loose hope for the Slashdot community.

        To reiterate, my comment was that if such stickers existed, then they would be the most popular company in the world, since their chips are used in everything, but unfortunately
  • they have some really slow SMT placement equipment.. The lines I program could knock that out in about half the time for SMT, and do most if not all connectors inline. I see why they produce more in china than there..
  • I just got mine 2 days ago, a new Model B Revision 2 board...

    they claimed it was made in the UK but when I opened the static bag and pulled out the board a huge "MADE IN CHINA" stamped all over it

    here is photo I took of my new model B Revision 2 board - http://www.flickr.com/photos/qoaa/8233431330/ [flickr.com]

    you can clearly see made in china

    here is another angle with made in china at top - http://www.flickr.com/photos/qoaa/8233433632/ [flickr.com]

    My original order was placed in July 5th, 2012 and I just got it on December 1, 2012

    • My original order was placed in July 5th, 2012 and I just got it on December 1, 2012 in the mail. I live in Georgia, US so I knew it would take a while to get "across the pond" but was a let down seeing it was made in china when they promised revision 2 boards were made in UK and they clearly are not.

      I think you are misremembering.

      Quote from the "made in the UK" post

      "The upshot of all this? Element14/Premier Farnell have made the decision to move the bulk of their Raspberry Pi manufacture to South Wales."

      Note that it is only one of the two manufacturing partners and for that partner it is only "the bulk of their raspberry pi manufacture" not all of it.

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