The electronics distributor, Premier Farnell, has agreed a multi-million pound deal with Sony UK Technology Centre (UKTec) that will see the revolutionary Raspberry Pi computer manufactured in the UK for the first time. The deal must be seen as a major coup for the UK’s manufacturing industry and represents a return home for the innovative British-designed Raspberry Pi, which to date has only been manufactured in China.
Utilising Sony UK Technology Centre’s state of the art lean manufacturing techniques, the site will initially produce over 300,000 units for customers across the world and is expected to create up to 30 new jobs.
Premier Farnell has been selling the device since February this year through its brands of Farnell element14 in Europe, Newark element14 in North America and element14 in Asia Pacific, and more recently through subsidiaries CPC in the UK and MCM Electronics in the US.
The product, which has been developed by the non-profit Raspberry Pi Foundation, is a credit-card sized computer that looks to stimulate young people’s interest in computer programming.
Mike Buffham, Global Head of EDE at Premier Farnell commented: “When it came to reviewing our manufacturing strategy we were always keen to bring the production of the Raspberry Pi to the UK. From the outset Sony UK Technology Centre demonstrated its enthusiasm for the product as well as its expertise in manufacturing. Their site is highly impressive and I am very confident that the team in Wales can deliver, providing us with a high-quality product, within our designated timeframe, all within budget. The Sony brand is known for its quality and to have its broadcast manufacturing site on board and building the Raspberry Pi product, within the UK, is very exciting.
“Since the Raspberry Pi was launched globally in February 2012 it has been a tremendous success story. The younger generation have been fascinated in learning how to build and programme their own computer device. As such we have had huge interest from educational institutions in purchasing the product, innovative design engineers who are using the computer for exciting new applications and also the general public.”
Eben Upton, Co-Founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation said: “When Pete Lomas and I built the first Raspberry Pi’s for testing last year, we never dreamed it would become so popular so quickly. The Raspberry Pi was built to develop young people’s skills in computer programming and electronic engineering; we had always intended and hoped that the Raspberry Pi would also be manufactured within the UK. By bringing the production of a UK product back into the country alongside its development and distribution, we can help support our economy and demonstrate the capabilities the UK has in terms of technological innovation, invention, and manufacturing.”
In the assembly of the Raspberry Pi, Sony UKTec will be investing in additional equipment to fulfil the order requirements, providing flexibility and scalability to cater for potential increases in demand. This will include additional automated circuit board equipment and double side reflow machinery. Furthermore, the site will be extending its manufacturing process capability to include a technique called package-on-package (PoP). This process allows the processor and memory to be stacked on top of each other, reducing the PCB footprint and the distance that high-speed signals need to travel, improving overall reliability.
Steve Dalton OBE, Managing Director of Sony UK Technology Centre, said; “We are now in our 20th year at the Pencoed site and we have had to diversify our service offerings to ensure the site’s sustainability. As an organisation we are continually committed to developing the site’s offering and this is shown from our diverse product portfolio through to the investment we make in machinery and the development of the processes we use. By working with innovative companies like Premier Farnell, we are able to extend our manufacturing services offering for existing and potential customers. We are also able to demonstrate our manufacturing capabilities, delivering high-quality technology products for UK companies.
“Furthermore, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, encompasses our view on developing young people’s knowledge of the technology industry. Organisations like this one help build the technologists of our future by inspiring the next generation.”