Eben Upton, the CEO of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, has written about the chip shortages and the subsequent impact on Raspberry Pi production. And as a result of these shortages, he is advising makers to embrace the newer Raspberry Pi 400 and Pico products in their projects.
Raspberry Pi Production May Have Stagnated
In a post on the official Raspberry Pi blog, Upton cites production volumes of “around half a million” single-board computers (SBCs) and compute modules.
However, a similar blog post written in October 2021 quoted production volume of seven million units in 2021, which remained unchanged from the output achieved in 2020. This suggests a lack of production gains, which might explain why the company still has to resort to a form of supply chain triage favoring industrial customers over individual makers.
In his previous post on the subject, Upton predicted the supply chain woes to continue through the remainder of 2022. And that prophecy tragically holds true.
The availability of 40nm Broadcom chips used in older Raspberry Pi 3 variants remains sketchy. However, the newer 28nm chips found on the Raspberry Pi 4 and Compute Module 4 are more readily available. Newer fabrication nodes are easier to source because many foundries have scaled down on larger nodes to ease pent-up demand for newer process nodes from fabless chipmakers such as AMD and NVIDIA.
Makers Urged to Integrate Raspberry Pi 400 and Pico Into Projects
Not surprisingly, Upton has advised makers to embrace the newer Raspberry Pi 400 and Pico products in their projects. That’s largely because the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s industrial and commercial customers base their products on Raspberry Pi 4, 3B, and 3B+ SBCs. Doing so involves investment of time, money, and effort in compliance testing and other regulatory clearances for these units.
This leaves the newer Raspberry Pi 400 and Pico products relatively free from commercial demand, and therefore more accessible to individual makers.
If you wish to take up Upton’s challenge as a maker, here’s what you can do with a Raspberry Pi 400.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation CEO also addressed the issue of price gouging by directing retail buyers to the company approved resellers.
Upton claims that these sellers are prohibited from inflating prices, so these should be preferred over taking the Amazon or eBay route. A growing number of approved resellers have also begun taking pre-orders, while citing rough estimates on fulfillment timelines. Many have already implemented measures, such as single-unit customer purchase limits and even two-factor authentication to keep scalpers at bay.
Makers’ Woes Won’t Subside Anytime Soon
Between chip shortages and scalpers spiriting off the precious few Raspberry Pi retail units available, makers and open-source DIY enthusiasts have no choice. They can either consider the unwieldy form factor of the Raspberry Pi 400, or think of creative ways to integrate the less powerful Raspberry Pi Pico into their projects.
However, this might be a blessing in disguise for rival SBC makers such as Rock Pi and Banana Pi, as new maker projects could potentially integrate better community support for their Raspberry Pi alternatives.