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Education Hardware

Raspberry Pi Has Gone To Manufacturing 374

Posted by Soulskill
from the bake-until-golden-brown dept.
alecclews writes "After weeks of waiting, the Raspberry Pi foundation, who are creating a $25 computer to bootstrap computing education, has flipped the switch on manufacturing. They had wanted to build the board in the UK but it turns out to be uneconomic."
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Raspberry Pi Has Gone To Manufacturing

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  • Not vapourware! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by isCreeper($('Ssss')) (2424986) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @09:09PM (#38658670)
    After all of the accusations of vapourware, it's nice that they're actually making these.
    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Well, everything is vaporware, until it isn't.

      • by PRMan (959735)
        Except the Optimus Maximus keyboard. It was vaporware even AFTER it was released.
  • Excellent news! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fortunato_NC (736786) <verlinh75 @ m s n . com> on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @09:10PM (#38658676) Homepage Journal

    To Eben, Liz and crew: Congratulations! Looking forward to watching you revolutionize computer education!

    • by Anrego (830717) *

      While I honestly don't see the whole revolutionizing computer education thing .. I still think this is going to be an awesome board with all kinds of uses. I can't wait to get my hands on one (or inevitably many) of these.

    • News just in: School ICT to be replaced by computer science programme [bbc.co.uk]

      *albeit, it's a Government announcement without, it seems, any thought to how to implement it practically. But never-the-less, things might be looking up!
  • Bit annoyed that it's not made in the UK.

    But at least it's not VapourWare,

    Wonder how many of the other "USB PC's" will actually get into production...

    • direct your annoyance at the uk government which taxes components being imported, but not completed devices.

      chances are they would tax completed devices as well thou..

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by qxcv (2422318)

      Bit annoyed that it's not made in the UK.

      Why? Manufacturing them overseas lowers the price and makes them more accessible to students. IIRC the Raspberry Pi Foundation's stated goal is to teach children programming, not to bolster a failing industry at the expense of educators and hobbyists.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'll luck out and get one of the first 10,000. There's going to be a mad dash on their sales page when they finally start selling them.

  • by Nemyst (1383049) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @09:24PM (#38658834) Homepage

    Reading the post (I really suggest everyone does so, it's an enlightening read), I have to say this sounds particularly worrying. The government and local manufacturers almost seemed intent on stopping them from doing the work locally. Does that even make sense?

    I can understand higher costs; the West won't accept salaries below a certain threshold, there's unions, and I entirely respect that. However, the schedule problem is ridiculous. A plant thousands of kilometers away from your main sales point can be faster to ramp up production than the shop down the street? We're not speaking about a small-scale project, either! I find this utterly unbelieveable. No wonder so much of the manufacturing goes overseas.

    And then the taxing part is plain and simply dumb. You can't control corporations, but that the government actively deters local production? That's like shooting yourself in the foot and wondering why it hurts.

    The UK and the West as a whole (I'm entirely sure that the UK is not a special case here) should be ashamed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      Forcing the manufacturing out of the country allows, among other things, the externalization of pollution.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by taylorjonl (842217)

        Forcing the manufacturing out of the country allows, among other things, the externalization of pollution.

        Wow, really? Forcing manufacturing out of the country because of pollution sounds retarded to me, I would think the jobs would be better for the country.

        • by Kohath (38547) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @10:09PM (#38659226)

          Forcing the manufacturing out of the country allows, among other things, the externalization of pollution.

          Wow, really? Forcing manufacturing out of the country because of pollution sounds retarded to me, I would think the jobs would be better for the country.

          Since when do environmentalists care about jobs? Or, for that matter, since when do they care about "the country"?

      • by roc97007 (608802) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @09:48PM (#38659064) Journal

        Right, because we're not all on the same planet.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Just from reading varying post's on Slashdot, I can assure you we cannot be on the same planet.
          welcome to MY reality.

      • by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @10:19PM (#38659294) Journal

        True. However, I'd imagine that the pollution generated by printing, stuffing, and soldering components to PCBs to be far less than the crap that arose out of the manufacture of those components to begin with (which was long-ago outsourced to the Far East).

        "Manufacturing" a Raspberry Pi isn't really manufacturing in the dirty sense of the word -- it's basically just an assembly process. AFAICT the only real pollutants which might be released in such a process might be some VOCs from the printing processes involved, as much of the rest of the waste can be profitably reclaimed (copper-saturated etchant, for example).

    • by c0lo (1497653) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @09:48PM (#38659060)

      And then the taxing part is plain and simply dumb. You can't control corporations, but that the government actively deters local production? That's like shooting yourself in the foot and wondering why it hurts.

      The UK and the West as a whole (I'm entirely sure that the UK is not a special case here) should be ashamed.

      For those too lazy to RTFA, UK is shooting in the foot using a big cannon then crying big of unemployment [guardian.co.uk]:

      I’d like to draw attention to one cost in particular that really created problems for us in Britain. Simply put, if we build the Raspberry Pi in Britain, we have to pay a lot more tax. If a British company imports components, it has to pay tax on those (and most components are not made in the UK). If, however, a completed device is made abroad and imported into the UK – with all of those components soldered onto it – it does not attract any import duty at all.

    • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @09:51PM (#38659096)

      Government taxes have little to do with it. When most of the manufacturing was moved to Asia, skill sets started to atrophy. It is very hard to find skilled manufacturing managers, engineers, or even operators in the West because there are few places to build up those skills. Likewise, when volumes are low, it's hard to justify the cutting edge machinery that allows for faster turn times and lower costs.

      When the corporate CEOs decided to line their pockets by offshoring, they didn't just screw over the people they fired. They made it damn near impossible to ever bring those jobs back. Things will continue to get worse until the Asian factories realize that they can just take the schematics and make and sell the latest iPad as their own, and there won't be a damn thing we can do about it, since we will be completely unable to manufacture it (or anything else) in the West. Even if we were to eliminate all minimum wage and pollution laws, we wouldn't be able to compete, because we've been training them and buying their high tech tools for decades. But the CEOs who made that choice for us will have already retired with their hundreds of millions of dollars, so what do they care?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @10:32PM (#38659368)

        I'm and engineer and have worked with various CM's in the US and Asia and I have to say you have things exactly backwards. Western manufacturers have given up on the low end since they can not compete with Asia on cost. They focus on the more profitable high end boards and/or doing very quick turns in small and medium numbers. First, lead times are long because factories are already at capacity with more profitable work. Secondly prices are high because you are competing with higher end boards with more profit margin. Why sell you time when they can make twice the profit selling it to someone else? For the places that quote lower prices they are using you to fill dead space between other boards. The volume is low because they only have so much expected down time. Making larger quantities would delay their more profitable business.

        • by artor3 (1344997)

          That sounds like you're saying the exact same thing as me, but with a positive spin. Western manufacturers only make small orders. Margin doesn't matter. You can't feed your family on percentage points. Volume is what matters, and all the volume is going overseas. Places like TSMC own the electronics industry.

          If western manufacturers are capacity limited, then why aren't they expanding?

    • heh. without unions you would see a lot of work return to the UK ... like children working in coal mines and toxic garbage dumps.... just like children do in asia.

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        heh. without unions you would see a lot of work return to the UK ... like children working in coal mines and toxic garbage dumps.... just like children do in asia.

        Unless the UK labor laws are lot weaker than in the USA, loss of labor unions won't result in a return to uncontrolled child labor or unreasonably hazardous working conditions (coal miners will still work underground, but risks will be mitigated when possible). Both are illegal and regulated by the government. In the USA, labor union actions seem to be centered more around issues of pay and benefits rather than working conditions. Employees with concerns about workplace safety have government channels to ta

        • there is no need for democracy in communist China, because the people are already represented in government by the Communist Party.

          funny corollary: There is no need for independent labor unions in China, because the government controlled labor union inherently represents the people's interests - after all, it too is controlled by the Communist Party.

          as for the basic facts of history about unions and working conditions, well, you are just 100%, flat out wrong. i mean, its like you have tried to lecture me on

          • by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @10:25PM (#38659326)

            there is no need for democracy in communist China, because the people are already represented in government by the Communist Party.

            funny corollary: There is no need for independent labor unions in China, because the government controlled labor union inherently represents the people's interests - after all, it too is controlled by the Communist Party.

            as for the basic facts of history about unions and working conditions, well, you are just 100%, flat out wrong. i mean, its like you have tried to lecture me on mathematics by starting out with "the volume of a sphere is r cubed". no, its not r cubed. its not, its not even close, and any 3rd grader knows it from basic examination of the universe that is plain to their god given eyeballs.

            I'm not talking about China, I'm talking about the UK and USA. And I'm not talking about the history of Labor unions, they've obviously been a powerful force in shaping worker's rights in the past. I'm talking about the present day.

            I don't know what you saw in my post that made you think I was talking about historical working conditions or conditions in China.

            All I'm saying is even if labor unions disappeared overnight, modern government regulations would prevent a return to the poor working conditions of the past. Perhaps worker's wages would drop, which could be a good thing (if you're an employer and want to compete internationally), or a bad thing (if you're an employee and your skills aren't in high demand).

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "The UK and the West as a whole (I'm entirely sure that the UK is not a special case here) should be ashamed."

      No, they should be justly punished by market forces.

      Oh, wait.....

    • by fermion (181285) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @10:17PM (#38659278) Homepage Journal
      When I read the post, I find it an example of a firm that is either extremely uninformed or extremely idealistic about the work the are trying to do.

      First when one is creating a product to be mass manufactured, that fact must be designed in at the beginning, not tacked on at the end. It would be unrealistic to expect any product to be successful without working closely with the people who are going to manufacture it.

      Second, profitable competent manufacturers in the west is not going to have excess capacity and skilled labour just twiddling their thumbs waiting for customers. These firms are going to have as close to maximum production as possible, and, as new customers come in, they will adjust schedules or add capacity as needed. In places where standards are not high, and people can be taken off the street to run machines, or it acceptable to have machinery idle just waiting for orders, this is different. In any case the pricing structure for manufacturing is not surprising. China has a lot of excess capacity right now, and they are likely just trying to cover costs. Any firm that keeps excess capacity for quick order in the west is going to have to charge a premium.

      And the tax just seems like a red herring. Again, how does one enter into a venture without understanding the tax liabilities. I understand that firms do this all the time, and that is why so many go bankrupt, but really. One has a BOM, and one has access to people who know about this things. Getting to the end game and just then realizing that taxes, schedules, and shipping exists seems really lame.

      • by AK Marc (707885)

        And the tax just seems like a red herring. Again, how does one enter into a venture without understanding the tax liabilities. I understand that firms do this all the time, and that is why so many go bankrupt, but really. One has a BOM, and one has access to people who know about this things.

        There are ways around many tax issues. To that, perhaps they thought they could get some concession in place between when design started and manufacturing started, they didn't, so they went to the fall-back plan of "make it in China". Maybe they thought that when making millions of dollars of products and pointing out penalties to manufacturing it in the UK, that the government might step in and encourage local business. You are the only one expressing that it somehow surprised them, and not that it was

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by crossword.bob (918209)

      And then the taxing part is plain and simply dumb. You can't control corporations, but that the government actively deters local production? That's like shooting yourself in the foot and wondering why it hurts.

      It's likely a throwback to a (failed) attempt to bolster UK component manufacture that's now backfiring on us.

    • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:37AM (#38660984) Homepage

      I can understand higher costs; the West won't accept salaries below a certain threshold, there's unions, and I entirely respect that. However, the schedule problem is ridiculous.

      Yet not unusual. Last year I had some specialized paper rolls made for an obsolete printer. I talked to about 10 US firms. Some didn't want to make up 500 rolls, several didn't return phone calls and emails, one produced a low-quality sample, and one produced a good sample but quoted $10 a roll. That's in an industry, paper converting, which is in a severe recession.

      Then I tried looking on Alibaba, the search engine for offshort manufacturing. I found a company in Fujian, China, which asked for a $100 deposit to make two sample rolls. The samples were promptly delivered and worked. Then I ordered 500 rolls, at $1 each, which were again delivered promptly, although the shipping cost more than the paper.

      The firm in Fujian answered E-mails consistently and with useful answers within 24 hours, something few US companies seem to be able to do any more.

    • by necro81 (917438)

      A plant thousands of kilometers away from your main sales point can be faster to ramp up production than the shop down the street? We're not speaking about a small-scale project, either! I find this utterly unbelieveable

      Because it is not a small project, it is difficult to ramp up production at the place down the street. In order to survive, those kinds of "turnkey" board-fab-and-populating houses have to run very close to full capacity all the time. They can squeeze in a prototype run of a few hundred

  • Cool! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by scubamage (727538) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @09:30PM (#38658880)
    I was checking this out last night and I'm actually quite excited for one to come out. I've been in the industry for years now but more on the superuser side. It'll be a really fun chance to actually have a computer where I have to learn some electronics and programming to really get the most use out of it... kind of like jumping into the deep end of the pond. It'll be my main home computer.
  • by decora (1710862) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @09:45PM (#38659030) Journal

    as long as you keep all the 'prison labor' and 'no environmental groups, no labor unions' stuff, and get rid of all the 'social safety net stuff'.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      the us has the highest number of prisoners per capita in the world. go capitalism?

    • China is an agrarian society, so most of the poor people are farmers. The land ownership is a very controlled system but the short version is that those poor farmers can't actually sell their land (as it technically belongs to the government) but they can lease it away for a few years. When a poor farmer decides that he wants to leave to a city to seek better wages, he leases his farm to someone, thus gains a bit of money to start the new life with and might or might not find a better paying job. If he does

  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @09:46PM (#38659038) Journal
    I usually recommend a USB flash drive for my students in my Unix course (taught on Macs at the school), and leave it up to them which Linux distro to run at home from the Flash drive. With prices this low, I could almost make it a requirement for the course. I'll hold off to see how they fare though.
  • While it looks like fun for a hobbyist to play with, is there really some greater purpose to this device? It seems that most people that can afford an HDMI capable (or even RCA/composite) TV or monitor to plug this into can probably also afford a 'real' computer.

    That said, I'll probably buy one just to play around with it, but I don't think it will change my life.

    • by jibjibjib (889679)

      Most people already have a composite TV, making the total cost of this device + keyboard + mouse + power supply under $50, as opposed to a real computer which is about $200.

    • by dgatwood (11270) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @10:03PM (#38659188) Journal

      General purpose I/O pins normally only show up on expensive prototyping boards, not on "real" computers. I think the idea is that this will allow folks who couldn't otherwise afford such prototyping hardware to experiment with such things. I could easily see this being used for school science projects like BattleBots, those computer maze projects, and so on.

      Similarly, real computers aren't small enough to trivially embed them into random crap around your house. I can think of lots of really fun pranks to pull with one of these and a small speaker.... :-D But then again, that's hobbyist stuff.

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        General purpose I/O pins normally only show up on expensive prototyping boards, not on "real" computers. I think the idea is that this will allow folks who couldn't otherwise afford such prototyping hardware to experiment with such things. I could easily see this being used for school science projects like BattleBots, those computer maze projects, and so on.

        I thought this was what the Arduino series computers were good at. The Arduino Uno costs $29 and includes:

        a microcontroller board based on the ATmega328 (datasheet). It has 14 digital input/output pins (of which 6 can be used as PWM outputs), 6 analog inputs, a 16 MHz crystal oscillator, a USB connection, a power jack, an ICSP header, and a reset button. It contains everything needed to support the microcontroller; simply connect it to a computer with a USB cable or power it with a AC-to-DC adapter or battery to get started.

        I mean, I think the Rasberry is cool and all, and is certainly much more powerful than an Arduino, but I don't understand the hype around it - like the posters here who said "Looking forward to watching you revolutionize computer education!" or "The world has just changed". Do people really think the world has been waiting for a $25 computer they can plug into their TV?

        • by ajlitt (19055) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @10:40PM (#38659416)

          You could say the same thing about the Arduino vs. one of thousands of sub-$2 microcontrollers.

        • by fotbr (855184) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @10:42PM (#38659430) Journal

          For quick hack-it-together devices, I'd rather have a cheap linux computer with some gpio pins that I can access via something like /dev/port0 than an arduino. I'm not sure that this Raspberry Pi is the perfect solution to that, but it's closer to what I want than a arduino is, and it's a hell of a lot cheaper and easier to deal with than hacking something together out of an old laptop or mini-itx board.

          If I'm going to go back to playing with microcontrollers, I'm going to be working from a bare chip, custom boards, and assembly language, because to me, that was fun.

          Arduinos have their place. This thing has its place. There might be some overlap, but there's a lot of situations where you'd pick one over the other. Choice is good, right?

        • by dgatwood (11270)

          I thought this was what the Arduino series computers were good at.

          Only if your project requires no CPU. Consider an autonomous bot learning a path through a maze. With an Arduino, you might be able to do a passable job using a series of stepper motors with counters, but with this, you could connect a webcam and do computer vision analysis.

          Also, with an Arduino, you're limited in your ability to interact with it. Although it might be possible to cram a TCP/IP stack into the thing, it would be pretty tight

        • by jimicus (737525)

          The Arduino has only a serial output. In order to do any work on it from more than a few feet away, you'd need to plug it into a networked computer of some sort. With the raspberry pi, that networking is already built in.

    • by sjames (1099) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @10:54PM (#38659540) Homepage

      If you have kids, I'll bet you'd be more willing to let them take a soldering iron to a $25 machine than a $250 machine.

    • You've already found its greater purpose: To entice kids to become computer hobbyists at the programmer level, not just as websurfers & gamers.

      Think about it, there really isn't anything inexpensive and capable enough in the current market to hit that niche.

  • taxes and duty (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Formalin (1945560) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @12:19AM (#38660132)

    If a British company imports components, it has to pay tax on those (and most components are not made in the UK). If, however, a completed device is made abroad and imported into the UK – with all of those components soldered onto it – it does not attract any import duty at all.

    Tax and duty are two different things. Anyone care to explain the actual situation there? Sounds like they're confused, at least.

    Is there a specific semiconductor duty that doesn't apply to finished goods? (not sure that a board like this would count as 'finished' anyway, for duty purpose)
    If they're bitching about VAT, I don't see how that would be any different, completed unit or not.

    The only difference I can see is more margin on Chinese produced version, barring there is no duty on semis, as mentioned above... Which any idiot would well know, by walking into a wal-mart.

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