I use KDE4 and Dolphin and came across a problem with thumbnails. It would seem, from an internet search, that this is a common problem. The kio_thumbnail process can sometimes runaway with itself and consume all your memory. Needless to say this puts things to sleep, in my case the plasma desktop which meant my machine was dead!
I could not find any cure on the net but I did run some experiments. I first noticed this problem when opening a USB disk drive with all my archived movies on which had a folder with a couple of hundred sub folders.
It would seem that with the information panel open on Dolphin it takes approx 20Mb per preview (!!!!!) and it builds these for everything in the current view so you can see how a couple of hundred folders can cause a problem.
The cure is simple, switch off the information panel. Previews can be useful especially for photos so the way round this is to use the preview button. If you need the additional textual information then show properties for the file instead.