Raspberry Pi moves manufacturing from China to the UK, courtesy of Sony

Raspberry Pi moves manufacturing from China to the UK, courtesy of Sony

The Raspberry Pi Foundation recently made two announcements. On Wednesday the company revealed its Rev2 board design (it’s a very technical post, if you’re interested). On Thursday, the company, which is based in the UK, announced something very dear to its heart: manufacturing for this board has moved from China to back home, all thanks to a deal between Premier Farnell (distributers of the Raspberry Pi) and Sony.

At the beginning of April, Raspberry Pi founder Eben and his only full-time worker Liz Upton paid a visit to Sony’s UK manufacturing plant in Pencoed, South Wales. Eventually, the two parties agreed Sony’s team that undertakes contract electronic manufacture (CEM) would be perfect for the credit card sized single-board computer. Upton explains how the Japanese company got the job:

Sony’s quality control system is legendary, their ability to manufacture fast and cleanly is superb, and they’ve already invested £50,000 in PoP (Package on Package – the fiddly stuff where the Broadcom chip at the heart of the Raspberry Pi is stacked beneath the RAM chip) hardware and expansion capability just for us. They’re also able to take on the huge task (currently undertaken by RS and Farnell) of ensuring the parts used are sourced ethically and to the highest ecological standards – every component has to pass standard compliance via Sony’s Green Management programme.

As a result, the bulk of Raspberry Pi manufacturing has moved to South Wales. Nearly six months later, and the move is complete: the initial contract will see the Pencoed plant producing 30,000 Raspberry Pis a month, and create around 30 new jobs. Not all production has been transferred to the UK, but it’s a start: units distributed by Premier Farnell are moving production to the UK, while units distributed by RS Components will continue to be manufactured in China.

If you want to check whether you’re supporting the UK with your purchase, look for the words “Made in the UK.” The text is a bit hard to see, but you can click to make the image larger if you can’t spot it (on the right):

Last year, the foundation decided to manufacture the Raspberry Pi in China. This wasn’t an easy decision but it was a necessary one since the organization couldn’t find a British manufacturer whose prices per unit would work. It was a question of numbers: sales were projected in the tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands that the foundation is currently seeing, and no manufacturer believed the project would be enough of a success to risk line space for the little device.

For the uninitiated, the Raspberry Pi is sold uncased with an Ethernet port, an HDMI port, two USB ports, and an SD card slot. While it’s powered by a 700MHz ARM chip and comes with 256MB of RAM, you need to supply your own keyboard and monitor. The currently-available Model B costs £22 ($35), although Model A for £16 ($25) is coming later this year.

The company wanted to make sure it could keep these target prices, and that just wasn’t possible in the UK. Now it is, or at least some of it is.

Image credit: stock.xchng

Read next: Emtrics and five other startups receive a combined $252k from Spanish accelerator Mola