Give Your Raspberry Pi A Good Hammering

One of the features of the Raspberry Pi Zero is that it arrives with no GPIO header pins installed. The missing pins reduce the price of the little computer, as well as its shipping volume. A task facing most new Pi Zero owners has therefore been to solder a set of pins into the holes, and indeed many suppliers will sell you the pins alongside your new Zero.

The British Pi accessories supplier Pimoroni think they may have a solution to this problem, with a set of solderless pins that the user is expected to fit by tapping both pins and Pi with a hammer. Each pin is designed to deform under pressure, and grip the through-plated walls of the hole in the PCB. In reality they are push-fit pins designed to be fitted with a press or a special tool, but since the average Zero buyer will have neither they supply a small laser-cut jig and give instructions to tap carefully with a pin hammer or similar. They have a demonstration as part of their regular Bilge Tank podcast, which we’ve included below the break.

Pins like these can be quite reliable when installed with the proper tools. They are often used in military and aerospace systems. In this case though, we expect that a chorus of you will be limbering up to comment that it would be far better to solder the connector, and we can’t help agreeing with you. Of course this product isn’t really marketed at Hackaday readers. Instead, the target market of a board like the Zero are children. For them soldering may well be a step too far. We can’t help wondering though whether hammer installation will deliver a reliable enough contact, and whether we’ll see a horde of youngsters whose Pi HATs don’t work due to dodgy connectors. Aside from the ones who’ve broken their Zeros with hammering that was a bit enthusiastic, that is.

The 0.1″ pitch pins or sockets we see on the Raspberry Pi and Arduino are probably the most bobbyist-friendly solution to physical interfacing on a microcontroller board, certainly better than those tiny connectors on the likes of the Intel Edison. What’s the connector you most like to see on an SBC? An edge connector perhaps, like the one on the BBC micro:bit?

192 thoughts on “Give Your Raspberry Pi A Good Hammering

  1. Children, too young to hold a soldering iron, so hand them a hammer and a delicate piece of equipment.

    Brilliant idea.

    This is just pimoroni ripping more people off.

    Push fit is hard enough in small headers let alone a 2×20 bank without damaging the pins.

    That’s okay though, because you can buy a jig, from guess who? Pimoroni for more than the cost of a rpi0. Yay!

    1. We supply a jig for installation – it’s really easy! These aren’t just for kids, it’s for anyone who doesn’t have a soldering iron or want to pick up soldering as a skill. The other options are still there, choice is awesome! The jig doesn’t cost more than a Pi Zero.

      1. Facts have no place in this discussion – please accept that you and anyone else that isn’t giving away everything for free are inherently evil and must be punished appropriately.

      2. Since you’re already including bolts, (Nylon though they may be), I don’t see why it wouldn’t make sense to use nuts on them to snug the header down, instead of a hammer. You could easily add a method to retain them in position hex-wise, though this would require more acyrlic and laser time. But I think it’s a better solution, and won’t feel anything but pleased if you used the idea, or just tested it and found it to be rubbish.

      3. I got out of electronics and into computers mostly because I was 12 and tired of burning my fingers soldering, and didn’t know about wirewrapping. It wasn’t that I was bad at soldering either. Now I’m in my mid 40s and can get to do both. Pimoroni supplying stuff like this will help folk like younger me continue with the electronics bits. A great idea!

      4. I want to try this. I am good at soldering but also have a perfectionist streak so it is painful for me if a connector ends up ever so slightly crooked because I Know that fixing it will make the soldering more ugly! Yet, I must try!!

        Press fit headers and pins have been used for years & years in high performance backplanes, it is even “moar geeky” to have this tech installed on ones hobby assemblies, I Think.

    2. I suspect that you would not be nearly as critical of this idea if it was you who thought of it and was making revenue off of it. Just because it doesn’t make sense for you does not mean that there are cases where it’s a great idea.

      1. I should clarify – The cases where these are a great idea are the cases where someone buys a PiZero and you want them to pay for a poorly designed header pin product AND a new Pi (when they use your product to break it). If you are really lucky you will sell another one to the same person… It’s honestly a fantastic business model.

          1. From a guy who solders for a living, I see that ths is a good product for who needs it. I make money because others don’t want to or have time to solder electronics. Am I evil? I could see someone who doesn’t have a soldering iron but wants to get into microcontrollers/embedded systems cheaply might really benefit from this. It seems very simple to use. A tack or pin hammer is not a jack hammer. I have used similar pins in aerospace when in the military, and had no connection issues. There is no real need for criticism, either buy it or don’t.

          2. What a disgrace I take it from your immediate tenacious presence on this thread that you and Jenny are in cahoots and you have a guilty conscious regarding the crap you are peddling.

            1. Push-fits generally come loose with age and the connection intermittent.
            2. Unless they are very tight and require ungodly force to fit in which case they break.
            3. You sell the jig for £6 and the Pimoroni for £4. (I’m ignoring the £3/£2 for the headers because they are not worth that). Stop lying.
            4. Anyone able to use this is better served learning to solder.
            5. It is in your devious interests to prevent people learning to solder so that you can continue ripping them off.

          3. Play nice please. There are plenty of suppliers out there who do rip people off, but it’s more than a bit much to level that accusation here.

            For one thing, if there was some devious plan at work to prevent people soldering, it’s not going to help shift the wide range of soldering kit they also sell, is it.

  2. But kids have to be safe!

    Last year there was an announcement of something like LEDs that could be glued together, “because lighting an LED is the hardware equivalent of ‘hello world’ in hardware”.

    But, I say, “hello world” is learning some basics, the result isn’t as important as learning to use the compiler. Lighting an LED is about something completely simple that you can learn to solder with.

    “But kids should be able to light up LEDs without having to solder.”

    So yet another product is born to simplify things for people who should just make an effort.

    I was lousy at soldering when I was ten, but I did it, and got better so I knew I had been bad at it. You learn from doing, and always have to take that first step so it might as well be earlier than later.

    Michael

    1. I totally agree that people can and should learn to solder! But that said it’s also important to provide a frictionless entry point if they just want to get their toes wet. Perhaps that’s the spark that will lead them on to being a little more adventurous in the future, we certainly hope so! :-)

      1. A Pi Zero is not a “frictionless entry point” for someone who knows so little of electronics that they can’t even solder. It’s a huge jump from the cognitive level of “What’s a resistor?” to “Making a LED blink using Python”.

        What you’re describing is cargo cult education. It’s making kids go through the motions of connecting tab A to slot B without understanding what they’re doing in the first place or why, which only helps them learn that specific mechanical task and doesn’t lend itself beyond that. It’s even harmful because it lends itself to magical thinking where the missing fundamentals are subsituted by wrong ideas about how things operate.

        Compared to other subjects, it’s like teaching art by handing the kids a color-by-numbers book and a special sets of pens with the right numbers on them. The kids come out of it thinking that’s the way it works – you do art by coloring in other people’s lines with these special pens, and you do electronics by buying a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino and a bunch of modules and slot them together – which is perfectly fine if your only interest in the matter is selling them these things.

        When I was in 5th grade our woodshop teacher, who was also the physics teacher, bought a bunch of buttons and solenoids and 9 volt batteries and battery clips, and we soldered them together and played with them. That was my introduction to electronics. We made buzzers and little catapults and in shop class some kids made wooden “safes” which used the solenoid as the secret lock mechanism. I remember back then I had a world of trouble trying to understand why electricity has to go into the battery to come out of it ie. why do I need both wires. In the textbook there was a picture of little “electron people” walking into the battery as if through a tube and coming out again all envigorated and running, and that just added to the confusion. Then someone explained it was like a bicycle chain – it has to go around or it just drops off – and that made sense.

        1. Surely the method of attaching pins is really just a semantic difference? It has absolutely no bearing on them “knowing electronics”. It’s like using a hammer to hammer a nail in or using a nail gun; neither means that you “know carpentry”.

    2. LEDs? Phft! Soldering? Phft!

      In my day I used a light bulb from a torch, an AA battery and tin foil from a cigarette packet, and a bit of sellotape. Switches were made from paperclips and drawing pins, and it was built on a bit of a corrugated cardboard box.

      It was enough to experiment with things in parallel and in series, and switches, how current flows, and to see that I could actually make things that worked.

      I had to wait ages for my 12th birthday to get a soldering iron…

      1. You got a soldering iron for your birthday? I had to use my father’s soldering iron. This is the tool of a electrical engineer. Not as clumsy or as random as a hammer. An elegant tool… for a more civilized age.

    3. There’s nothing wrong with spring clips, breadboard, screw terminals, or whatever else for kids to learn electronics with. You don’t need the specific manufacturing skill of soldering just to learn. Of course it’s handy if you want to make an actual gadget you can carry round with you. If this makes the Pi’s more usable, why not?

      That said I think it’d be easier to just get the Pi with the headers already on.

      The edge connector on the BBC thingy is a terrible idea. They should really include a breakout board with each one, with an edge connector socket leading to pin headers. Otherwise you’re limited to croc clips and only 3 I/O pins, which isn’t really taking advantage of what a microcontroller can do.

      1. Actually that said… A certain number of years ago in the UK, we had electronics stuff at school that just involved poking wires. But when we got to 13 and 14 we were etching our own PCBs and soldering to them. So they (still?) teach soldering, just to kids a little bit older. Old enough that when they burn themselves, they’ll accept it was their own fault and won’t have parents running in to complain. Or chase each other round the room trying to brand each other.

        1. In 5th and 6th grades we had simple stuff like soldering a wire to a battery clip and a switch to make a motor turn. In secondary school at 13-14 we were making circuit boards by drawing the traces on with a marker and assembling electronics kits that way. Simple stuff, like an astable multivibrator that blinks two LEDs.

          I was learning the difference between PNP and NPN transistors at an age when modern kids are apparently only just being introduced to electronics by giving them a SoC single board computer with “shields” that abstract away all the actual electronics to the point where they think a LED just magically lights up by “DigitalWrite()”

          That’s not electronics – that’s complete rubbish. It’s like the “computer education” we recieved back in the day, where a teacher who knew even less about computers than the kids taught a class how to open up MS Paint or Word and showed us an exceedingly specific way of writing and formatting a letter.

          1. The “draw a bicycle” challenge is disingenuous becuse of how memory works.

            When you draw something on paper, what you see on the paper overrides your memory of what the object looks like. Same as how you can hear a tune in your head, but when you start to play it on an instrument the tune in your head changes to match the notes you just played and you feel like you’re playing it correctly.

            It takes considerable practice to overcome that effect, because as you build up the essential skill you’re no longer phoning it in and then correcting the result, but you get it more or less right on the first try and the result of the feedback between your original intent and the actual outcome converges more closely to what you had in mind.

            This is also why when artists draw, they’re better off starting from an abstract sketch that outlines the shapes and dimensions of the object rather than going straight to drawing a wheel and a handlebar. The more abstract you can keep it, as long as possible, the less it interferes with your memory of the details which you can then fill in.

          2. its not disingenuous, you either know how something works, or you kinda remember something you saw in the movie once. Same with the lightbulb. Some students knew the principles, others remembered that wires connected somewhere and then the magic happened – as in the movies.

        1. True story: I was in the electronics engineering lab at University of Washington, putting together a circuit for a project that had too many chips to fit on a breadboard, so I wired it on a piece of perfboard with wirewrap wire, soldering it point-to-point. One of the other students in the lab said to his lab partner, “Look at that guy, he’s welding his together.”

          Soldering is not a skill that they teach in college, because engineers aren’t supposed to be soldering these days – that’s what assemblers are hired for. I’ve worked at companies who disapproved of engineers doing their own chip swaps (rather than waiting a day or two for somebody in production to return it).

          Similarly, while Physics 101 gives you enough of the basics of electricity that you SHOULD be able to light a bulb with a battery, that was a freshman course, and by the time a mechanical engineer has graduated she has been so hammered with advanced math, the basics are long gone.

          1. It’s a deplorable state of society if you need a college/university level course to understand a lightbulb.

            It’s literally kids’ stuff. Small children below the age of 10 should be able to grasp the basic point and do the necessary connections. For goodness sake, Lego Technics with motors and pumps and gears etc. are designed for kids ages 9 and up.

          2. Not at all. Engineering degree programs are about learning the hard stuff. They’re not meant to be trade schools. You can learn manual skills wherever.

            In the real world, nobody hires an EE right out of college and expects them to be able to build a computer out of individual parts, Manhattan style. There’s an unofficial apprenticeship system. Part of that system is the old guy in the corner muttering “kids these days”, but you have to take the bad with the good.

            I got into this discussion not because I think everybody needs to know how to solder in order to use a microcomputer, but because I’ve had specific and repeated bad experiences with this type of connector.

  3. I think most of us are going to say exactly the same thing here…

    The amount of traction these are getting is rediculous.

    There will be more than one zero that is damaged from the force required to fit these being incorrectly applied.

    1. Having fitted a heap of them myself I’ll have to disagree. In fact the very first prototype of the jig was handed to me (we did minor tweaking after, but it was essentially the same) with zero experience and I installed the header cleanly first time. They are surprisingly good!

          1. Jebus Dax. WTF? The Man got his iron boot of capitalism on your neck?

            Press-fit is great. The jig looks fine. They should include pressing with a vice in the (way too long) video.

          2. >”The Man got his iron boot of capitalism on your neck? ”

            In my language there’s an expression for the type of salesman, which translates roughly as “Easy Jack”. It’s the kind of fast-talking used car salesman tv-shop pitch which praises the merits of the product and jumps over criticism and caveats without missing a beat. Everything is good, everything is easy, and if you don’t believe it we’ll put an extra pair of gloves on the deal.

            That’s usually how you spot someone trying to sell kak.

          3. It’s just a different choice. Choice is great. The beauty of choice is that if you don’t like them or the idea of them, don’t buy them! Vote with your wallet. We’re really happy that they’re generating so much discussion though.

          4. >”It’s just a different choice. Choice is great.”

            No it’s not. It’s a sub-optimal solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. This kind of “choice” is like ten different brands of peanut butter on the same shelf just so you would try each one (spend more money) to see which one of the identical tasting peanut butters is the best. It’s a take three pay two offer when you only need one.

            That’s not choice, that’s confusion based marketing where people are lead to believe they need something, only to find out they didn’t.

          5. So Dax, possible damage to Pi, mechanical weakness, not electrically sound, prevents people from learning to solder? Is that about it? I’ll address those one-by-one:

            – damaging your Pi is a risk, and we make that absolutely clear on the product page. There’s also a risk of damaging your Pi with poor soldering and indeed we get several support emails every week from customers that have done exactly that (anecdotally, there have been no complaints over damaged Pis/pHATs from the hammer headers so far)

            – we’ve spent 6 months testing the fit, strength, and mechanical soundness of these headers, and a good couple of weeks getting the best possible jig to fit the headers correctly

            – when fitted correctly they are 100% electrically sound, just as a correctly-soldered standard header is electrically sound and an poorly-soldered one is not

            – as we’ve said, it’s about providing a frictionless way for people (who can’t already solder, or are still learning) to get started with a Pi Zero. There are a significant chunk of people who just wouldn’t use a Pi Zero if they had to solder it. These are the target audience. We absolutely would encourage them to solder and, in fact, we ran a (very successful) soldering workshop last year at Maker Faire Berlin teaching kids to solder headers to their Pi Zeros. The Pi Zero hammer headers are a very specific use case and for many of our other boards you still need to be able to solder. It’s about time-saving as much as anything else. If you had a method that was as good (see above) but way faster, isn’t that a benefit?

            To address a couple of other points you make elsewhere:

            – we’re as much about teaching people how to code as teaching them about electronics and indeed about the applications. In fact, I’d think a sizeable number of our customers come into the world of Pi and HATs and pHATs from a coding background and then progress to breadboarding/prototyping and perhaps on to PCB design. That’s exactly the path I took.

            – somewhat related to that, you seem to advocate only bottom-up learning? Top-down learning is just as important, and works much better for some people.

            – regarding the choice thing… I think the peanut butter example is an absurd one. A better analogy might be that you can do anything you can do with an electric skill saw with a hand saw, and much cheaper (and more traditional, if we’re going down that route), but there are occasions when you’re probably best off just using the skill saw. It’s nice to have the choice though. (Incidentally, I love having a choice of lots of peanut butters and have spent significant amounts of time “consumer testing” to find the best one.

        1. Come on, play nice. This isn’t some shill in the audience being miraculously cured by a snake oil salesman, it’s a well-known and respected supplier coming out in the open to talk about their product. Openly.

      1. I appreciate the market you are catering to, I’m simply just not a fan, and truly believe that not only should any budding CS enthusiast have a good grasp on hardware (heck, that’s why they are buying Pi’s, and not working in VM’s), but also that anyone who has a grasp on hardware should be taught to solder.

        It’s *not* hard, and should the idea that you would insulate a budding engineer from is is mortifying.

        We have scrapped potential job applicants within my department, based purely on the fact they have never held an iron, and will do so again, despite otherwise impressive CVs.

        However, there is a niche case of children, for who this is just a phase, and who will never move past breadboards. As much as it pains me to think of future careers in electronic engineering that will be flummoxed from this idea of making hardware “safe”, I also appreciate that there are other career paths to pursue, and that those who are meant to wield the iron will do so in time!

        1. I think we fundamentally disagree on who should get to play with this stuff. They are not necessarily intending to have a career in EE/CS, it could just an interesting detour to spend some time with and frankly power to them if that’s the case.

          Ultimately anyone who gets “serious enough” will invest in a decent soldering setup and learn those skills, we’re interested in helping them get to that stage!

          1. No.. We don’t disagree on that, I actually did agree with you that there are kids who will not find a career in EE, for who this product is more than suitable. Last paragraph pretty much says exactly that.

            I read your sales pitch, and response to my comment. Thanks for the attention to detail!

          2. @Tom I can’t reply to your comment (perhaps a comment depth limit on HAD, I’m not sure) but what I meant about fundamental disagreements was that we don’t see this stuff just for kids. It’s for anyone who wants to get involved.

            Perhaps they just don’t want to solder, or don’t want to buy an iron, or it makes them nervous, it doesn’t really matter.

            We just want to offer an option if soldering isn’t your thing, this stuff can just be for fun, it doesn’t have to be serious.

          3. Yeah, I get your logic man. Perhaps it’s a subject I hold a little too dearly, as will a lot of the folks around here. The article up top very much preempts practically every response we’ve had, including many of my own.

            You’re up against a tough crowd *in this specific venue* I’m afraid!

            On reflection nothing good comes from being all negative, so as an olive branch…

            You do have a good price on them, though, I’ll certainly give you that! Actually pretty impressive, having just done the rounds on all the “usual” vendors. And I’ll also commend you very much being upfront about the alternative method of soldering down, and offering a direct link to an iron. Fair is fair : o)

            Pimoroni, please do read my final £0.0164 (two-cents..)
            In all neutrality, I would be really interested in some actual real-world test data , to see just how well they do actually hold up to maybe.. “heavy handed” , repetitive mating cycles, as they are likely to experience? there is no denying that this is an application press-fit was most definitely /not/ designed for, and as such, I just hope they hold up… It’d be even more of a shame for someone to be put off the hobby, or even tinkering, for sake of a repeatedly stressed connection going open circuit.

          4. @Tom very much appreciate the reply. We didn’t choose the venue but we’re also happy to engage wherever the venue is! :-)

            Not sure how we’ll gather real-world test data, but I’m sure the reviews on the internet will show the end results in time. We certainly use them at Pimoroni (probably because we have to go downstairs to use a soldering iron!) in the engineering department and haven’t had any issues to date.

          5. @Pimoroni

            W.r.t “real-world” test data, I can certainly think of a way!

            Simulate your application, (as we are looking at use case scenarious outside of what the manuf. has tested for) and do some “HALT” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highly_accelerated_life_test)!

            I use quotation marks, as we’re going tongue-in-cheek here, but I’m serious about the suggestion, hear me out.

            Fit up a Pi Zero with a header. For this test, we are only concerned about one side of the connector, it will indicate at least the result one way or another.

            Find a *selection* of HATs. Ones that use /different/ pins. So, some SPI, some I2C, GPIO, as much as you can vary. Each day, at tea break, lunch, afternoon break, etc, swap the HAT. Try to keep a round-robin going on. At night, stick the latest combo in some suitable packaging, and stick it in your rucksack, take it home, and swap the HAT again. Keep this up for a week or so.

            This is what I see you being up against as a worst-case scenario. Spoken as someone who keeps a box or two of bits to tinker with in my rucksack most days. (Yes, I’m very much an avid tinkerer.)

            The varied use of different HATs, as opposed to just one that uses a few I/O will help show up a pin failure (if it happens) on a pin that you might otherwise miss.

            Again, you’re marketing a product outside of it’s manufacturer-intended use case, so you should in all honesty have some confidence in the application you are selling into. No, it’s not perfect, but again, I don’t think you want to develop an automated HALT rig here, am-I-right? No, it’s not a perfect test, but it’s an easy one to pull off.

            Yes, it seems I’m flogging this to death, but this is now more a comment on vendor-backed product sales. You don’t have the manufacturer test data to fall back on in this specific application I’m afraid. Then you can saw with confidence, “Yeah, these are actually good enough. We tested them!”

        2. It’s not like Pimoroni are stopping anyone from soldering if they want to. This is just a handy thing for people who can’t or don’t want to. One case would be kids who might be smart enough to learn something useful on the Pi, but aren’t dextrous or strong enough (they don’t make kid-size soldering irons last I looked) to solder yet. Give them a few years, and if they give a shit about electronics, they can learn then.

          This solder-free thing means being able to get lots more kids, and adults, to try out nice cheap hardware. Some of them will like it, and that means more geeks in the world. Some won’t, but they’re hardly out of pocket, so it was worth a try.

          My mate’s messing about at the moment with a BBC Micro-bit with his 5 year old son. You can’t expect a 5 year old to solder, but he can help his dad plug wires into things, and maybe experiment himself as he gets older.

        3. As a holder of a CS degree AND as someone who works for an EE company AND as someone who can solder well AND as someone who doesn’t have the time to be soldering up headers all the time, I love the idea of these. But apparently that’s not OK?

          1. Handy thing is, if you can solder, then if any of the pins in this don’t mate properly, you can solder them in to fix that. Or just solder some, or all, of the pins to make the connection stronger. They’re soldering-optional!

      2. @Pimoroni… What is it with people these days – it isn’t like you are forcing anybody to buy anything!

        I am glad that
        a) you are a great seller of all things Pi. I use you even though you are half a world away.

        b) you are willing to bring new things to the market,

        c) you then let the market speak – if it is a dumb idea it will die!

        d) you have a thick skin, so don’t give up when you get a bit of hate.

      1. Oh lord yes, the photos we see in support of blobbed solder everywhere! But that’s what it takes to learn, and people like to learn in different ways, who cares if it messed up the first time, we’ll sort it out and they can try again. :-)

        1. Which is why they shouldn’t even be learning basic electronics on a Raspberry Pi.

          Seriously. An introduction to electronics is soldering together a discrete component blinking LED or a doorbell kit – you know those good old things that came with a circuit diagram and a basic description/theory about the circuit you’re building.

          A Pi Zero is an introduction to embedded computing, which really isn’t a topic you should jump into before you know at least how to wire up a LED with the correct value resistor for the voltage so you don’t burn up your GPIO. That in turn involves the abovementioned introduction to electronics – and – learning how to solder.

          1. Um. Really? That’s pretty weak. What kind of mistake are you going to make? Putting the wrong pin in the wrong hole? These are pins on 2.5 mm centers. If you can’t see a solder bridge THAT big, and do something about it, you’re probably not going to get the hammering right either.

          2. Jim, I’ve seen people solder headers:
            – on backwards,
            – with too much solder,
            – with too little solder,
            – having applied too much heat

            All of which result in the having to troubleshoot and potentially giving up. Anything that potentially avoids this is good in my book.

  4. Sigh. I thought we were done with this.

    It was a big thing in the mid-1980s to use pressed-in connectors and headers, to reduce problems with wave soldering. I can’t tell you how many connectors I had to solder in because the connections had become intermittent. All it takes is ONE under-sized pin in a 100-pin connector, or flexing a large PCB ONE too many times to make your day.

    1. That’s what I was thinking. It works – as long as you never touch or move it again – until the contacts corrode and then it stops working.

      The kids inserting and removing the ribbon cable will wiggle the thing out of whack and cause connection problems in no time.

      1. I don’t recall DEC, or other backplanes, ever failing due to this, and there was plenty of vibration with all the fans and tape drives, etc. And “system managers” plugging in and removing the huge PCBs. If the holes and plating are right, these go in solid and make gas-tight connection, like wire-wrap. If they somehow get loose, solder them.

        Honestly, I would like to see data on failures of press-fit headers.

        1. Well, it wasn’t DEC, and for all I know the through-holes may have been out of spec, or the connectors themselves may have been defective, but I have seen MANY cases of press-fit connectors assembled using the proper tools failing in the field – in the worst possible way, intermittently – after a year in the field in workstation computers. Soldering the connectors corrected the problem.

      2. Wirewrapping have been used for decades with success. What is wirewrapping if not press fit ?
        Nothing is eternal, sure at length it can fail but what count is everage mean time between failure and we don’t have any data about it yet.

        1. Wire-wrap is far different from press-fit, in that a wire is wrapped around a square post a minimum of five times, giving at least twenty separate high-pressure contacts. The wire is also stress-relieved by being flexible enough that moving the wire affects only the first two or three contact points. A press-fit square post gives FOUR contact points, ALL of which are affected when you stress the pin.

          1. These press-fit posts are not square. And they don’t deform, they compress like any spring. With a proper sized hole and plating thickness and material, the spring stress will keep them working.

    2. Properly installed press fit connectors are superior to soldered in vibration-environment, even automotive. Solder is also not without problems, think of dry joints in old tube-TVs, e.g. at the line output circuitry (transformer).
      But for reliable press fit you need tight tolerances in hole diameter and a good installation press.

    3. Well. I have designed some press-fit Compact-PCI backplanes into tanks. That was in the Naughties. Didn’t hear any whining about them failing in the field, as it were. Soldering would have been problematic with the temperature ranges needed (“What do you mean we can’t drive this thing into to Moscow …”) this with the un-leaded solder relatively un-proven back then.

      Schroff / Pentair (whatever the hell it is these days) manufactures various kinds of press-fit backplanes today. The little modules that power the Xenon lights in cars are made with press fit and friction welding of stamped parts, not PCB’s. I believe the key to getting high reliability is to have robots performing all of the assembly.

  5. Huh, interesting!

    I have not experience with these things so I can’t speak to the quality of the connections. But having watched the video, the installation jig is neat, and I can see a lot of not-soldering-savvy parents happier with this than trying to find someone to help solder on their kid’s header.

    I install my IDC connectors to ribbon cable using a wood clamp for even pressure. This is about the same technique (wrong tool for the job and all).

    1. Hah! We initially tried to use a GPIO ribbon cable as the installation tool but it just wasn’t reliable enough, hence the jig. Once we got the jig right it was very straight forward to install them consistently.

  6. To be fair, I think letting a kid hit some plastic with a small hammer (something even toddlers learn to do) will be much safer than trying to keep the 200 degree soldering iron pointing the right way.

    Faster too, which is an advantage with the short attention span of kids!

    Sure it might not last thousands of “Wiggles” but once the connection gets flaky you pull the pins and pass it to the teenagers for soldering lessons

        1. While the original idea of the Pis was to inspire children (note inspire doesn’t specifically mean they should do development on the board themselves… just a nit pick) I think the Pi Zero is a little farther away from this idea. It’s specifically for projects with size restriction so probably something a little more advanced, although in general I can’t picture “children” using the Pis as much as teenage or older students and non-students.
          And yeah, you can break the board by hitting it with a hammer but if you’re a begginer and especially if you’re a “child” then you’re really likely to break it much earlier by connecting a 5V peripheral to a 3.3V pin and so many other possible mishaps. Using most of the modern SBCs really requires some care, accuracy, spec reading skills, etc.

  7. The bitterness of the haters never fails to impress/depress me on HaD. They will work for some; some people will prefer soldering. We should applaud Adafruit/Sparkfun/Pimironi et al for bringing choice – if they don’t sell, Pimironi won’t offer more.

  8. Yeah, cause that’s exactly what we need… to teach children to hit their computers with a hammer.

    Of course, it’s definitely a skill that will come in handy as they get older and move up to “Real” computers….

    But then they’ll also need bigger hammers.

    1. Am I missing something? Last I heard, Pimoroni was a reseller of Pi’s and maker of Pi related accessories – how would they have anything to do with the availability of the Pi zeros, short of maybe refusing to sell their stock to anyone but you?

    1. Haven’t you been reading the comments here? Clearly they don’t work and are the creation of the devil himself. Oh wait – you are actually using them? Maybe all the complainers above either haven’t ever tried using them or lack the skill and intelligence to use them properly.

      1. Depends on the ones used, I have messed with some hand fit ones that are total shit, machine fit (er hammer fit in this case) work great and are very commonly used in high density motherboards used in server applications to great effect, even consumer graphics cards, it also has the benefit of not needing to worry about dry solder joints and even totally avoiding wave soldering
        I avoid commons the best I can here, some people try things once, or watch a YouTube video from people who try it once and never bother
        But like most things in electronics, the expensive ones work great, the cheap ones are crap

        Still, personally I’d hand solder a standard header in something like this unless I was doing 1000 of them or something

      2. Obviously YOU did not read onebiozz’s comment. He is using them, but with proper installation methods. Nobody questions press-fit pins, but most of the people reject the idea of installing them with a hammer.

    1. So you want a second chance to fail with hammering in pressfit pins? Btw. how did you “fail” with the soldering? I mean, if you have some solder bridges, then they can be removed with wick. Or did you really burn the PCB?

      1. A likely story. Obviously a combination of the mystical number Pi and the Mormon angel Moroni. Put together, you get clear evidence of the Illuminati in the New World long before Columbus and a clue to the reason the the secret robes of the Bilderburgers are kept in a vault deep under Rockefeller Center. Not to mention a clear explanation of why press-fit works for some and not for others! The enlightened and the in-adept.

    1. Nothing? I learned to solder when young too but don’t see why that would be relevant. I once cracked a mercury thermometer in my mouth and while that didn’t result in mercury poisoning I’d still recommend a modern electronic thermometer…

    2. Basic economics – If I don’t have access to soldering equipment and skills already, then for 10 pounds (plus p&p you can get a Pi Zero with headers:

      Cost:
      Raspberry Pi Zero – 4 UK pounds
      Hammer-in header with jig – 6 UK pounds
      Hammer – free – sitting in the garage

      vs

      Raspberry Pi Zero – 4 UK pounds
      Solder – 3 UK pounds at least
      Cheapest fire-stick soldering Iron at Maplins:- 12 UK pounds

      Also, how many people do you know who could mount a the pin 0.1″ header with a cheap firestick iron and cheap fat solder as their first attempt at soldering without screwing it up?

      Or should they also buy a temperature controlled iron with a nice tip, with fine solder, nice flux and some braid that will give them a chance? at the cost of a few dozen Pis?

        1. Besides, a soldering iron is a multi-purpose tool. You can do all sorts of arts and crafts projects with it, like pyrography on wood and leather, or welding plastic together, or opening frozen locks, stopping the ends of your shoelaces from unraveling, dislodging a bodge of hot glue… etc.

          I once used mine to field-repair a broken car headlight. The plastic enclosure was cracked at the back with a huge hole that let water in, so I covered the hole in strips of plastic from a milk jug with a soldering iron.

        2. It’s a pretty poor straw-man you made there, [Michael Field]. You assume everybody has a hammer available that cost them nothing, but then charge for the soldering iron.

          1. I would conjecture that the set of people with hammer access is far larger than people with access to a decent soldering iron. If not, why do I have random workmates who play with PIs & Arduinos saying “Oh, you have a soldering iron, can you do X for me?”, but I can’t recall the last time somebody said “I don’t have a hammer – can you bang a nail in for me”?

            As an aside, my parents were not reluctant to give me a soldering irons is not because “oh, my little flower may burn himself”, but “I don’t want my little brat to use it. Knowing him he will forget to switch it off and then burn the house down and leave us all homeless”.

    3. It is basic economics – If I don’t have access to soldering equipment and skills already, then for 10 pounds (plus p&p you can get a Pi Zero with headers:

      Cost:
      Raspberry Pi Zero – 4 UK pounds
      Hammer-in header with jig – 6 UK pounds
      Hammer – free – sitting in the garage

      vs

      Raspberry Pi Zero – 4 UK pounds
      Solder – 3 UK pounds at least
      Cheapest fire-stick soldering Iron at Maplins:- 12 UK pounds

      Also, how many people do you know who could mount a the pin 0.1″ header with a cheap firestick iron and cheap fat solder as their first attempt at soldering without screwing it up?

      Or should they also buy a temperature controlled iron with a nice tip, with fine solder, nice flux and some braid that will give them a chance? at the cost of a few dozen Pis?

    4. I might have been 9…

      Anyway, the problem is, the Helicoptering parents of the present crop of snowflakes is as horrified at the prospect of a soldering iron, which is burny and also looks stabby, as most people today are of this…
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilbert_U-238_Atomic_Energy_Laboratory

      So in order for the poor bastards to have a chance, eliminating the burny, stabby thing that will kill everyone in their sleep, is a win.

  9. No, no, no, no, no!!! Just because a press-fit connector can be installed with a half-correct jig and a hammer does not mean that ANYONE should be doing it. Sorry Pimoroni, but incorrect application of a press-fit connector only leads to trouble and creates a path to pass incorrect information to those willing to learn.
    What did the Samtec FAE say when you mentioned this after you requested the application specification for the part? You did ask for it, right? Have you confirmed the hole sizing on the Pi to make sure it meets spec for the connector so people aren’t left with intermittent issues down the road?

    I have used many press-fit connectors over the past 16 years and all were done with proper support jigs, presses, and topside tooling. Rarely were there ever issues and reliability of the connector was well above a solderjoint.

    Sorry, but this “product” is a prime example of good intentions gone horribly, horribly wrong. Next time, please educate yourself on the component’s proper usage before you corrupt others’ minds (and wallets). You would be much better off using channel lock pliers to squeeze together sections at a time. Also, your bottom support piece isn’t properly supporting the PCB between pins which can lead to hole damage.

    Feel free to bash my comments, but at least I am being honest about using this type of connector so that people can learn the value of them rather than destroy the one Pi Zero they own.

    1. These absolutely are good enough for hobbyist use. I absolutely agree soldering will produce the better, more permanent, connection but many people aren’t interested in going down that route. Perhaps once they’ve had a play with what the GPIO can offer they might be more inclined to give soldering a go!

      I’d much prefer people had a go with the GPIO on the Pi Zero using our headers than never used it at all!

      As I’ve said many times in this thread, we use them ourselves a lot and they work nicely.

      1. I never said they weren’t good enough for hobbyist use as I personally have used them without a press. However, to recommend them in the manner you are is an insult to the DIY world in my opinion. Proper technique should not be tossed out the window just because it’s the hobby/DIY market. You just need to figure out the correct way to get it done without professional tools. We see DIY solutions without special tools all the time on Hackaday/Instructables/etc and those ideas get solid praise because they benefit everyone and pass along valuable knowledge.

        I really don’t see the argument of soldering being a challenge for people and so this solves some great problem. You can buy a soldering iron at many craft stores, auto parts places, walmart, amazon, etc for less than $15. And don’t try the difficulty or skill argument either. I have seen way to many projects featured on hackaday, instructables, etc, where the soldering was absolutely atrocious, yet people can’t stop praising the project.

        As for safety, my daughter learned to solder when she was 7 and I had no concerns. She was actually taught by an 11 year old at a Parallax Robotics Expo 4 years ago and her first project came out really nice. They had a process laid out to teach proper handling, safety, and technique, so it was very successful.

        1. If they are good enough for hobbyist use then what’s the problem? You seem to be arguing against your own point here!

          We’re just offering an option that’s easy to get started with and doesn’t require extra tools (apart from a hammer). Of course there is a place for the “correct” method, when it’s needed!

          1. Actually, yes. 3 years ago. Set up a make shift fume extractor (box fan at a propped open door) and not a single complaint.
            Ever try hammering in a library?

  10. I would never have thought about HAMMERING press fit pins in! But with the laser cut jig and a piece of waste PCB material it should be possible to press them in with a vice – of course all at he same time and parallel. Similar to pressing IDC flat cable connectors on the cable. There it works good for standard 0.1″ connectors. With the red “Micromatch” parts I had about 70% to 80% success rate with the vice and some PCB scraps as “jig”.

    1. The lead-free stuff is a pain in the arse. For a beginner, getting every pin in without toasting the board isn’t guaranteed. You don’t want people giving up and chucking the whole thing in the bin. It’s a lot of pins in a small area to get right.

      1. There’s perfectly good lead free solders like Bi58 which melt at low temperatures – 138 C in this case. These have a long service history in industry electronics. Seems to be around $50 in a 500 gram spool, or $3-5 in a 1-2 foot tube. Other variations with indium and/or zinc/silver melt between 170-198 C.

        The problem is that cheap shops sell copper-zinc-tin solders that are really meant for repairing and joining galvanized steel as “all around” lead-free electronics solder, and those may need up to 300 C to turn liquid. Not all soldering irons will even melt them.

        1. A drop-in replacement for leaded solder is Sn77.2In20Ag2.8 which behaves basically the same as Sn63. It’s a bit harder than the bog-standard 50/50 solder but it actually turns liquid a few degrees lower at 187 C.

    2. It’s worth noting that we’ve run multiple soldering workshops at events, so we have first-hand experience of actually teaching people to solder. What may seem obvious to the experience wielder of a soldering iron, is not quite so to beginners. I’ve personally seen just about everything that can go wrong, go wrong. When a header is poorly soldered it’s not always easy to correct it, sometimes requiring multiple additional tools and skills- solder sucker, de-solder braid, needle-nose pliers, helping-hand clamps, and so on.

      With this in mind, it’s perfectly logical to replace a steep learning curve, ~£20 worth of equipment and 40+ minutes of time with a few taps from a hammer, and if they still abandon their Pi after a few days of tinkering then that’s much less kit being filed in their bottom drawer.

      When it comes to encouraging people to pick up new things and experiment, every little step is a hurdle that could be the moment when they lose interest or patience and give in. The more of those steps we eliminate, the more chance an inexperienced explorer could find their way far enough into a new hobby to become enthralled and pursue skills like soldering, or reading datasheets at their own pace.

      And when people have gone wrong with a soldering iron we’ve been understanding and helpful- sometimes going as far as to replace the damaged parts and throw in a soldering book to help them perfect their technique.

  11. There’s really no issue with the press-fit pins. Mechanical connections can be very reliable. For wires you can use crimps or solder with equal results. The idea is sound, but the issue will be cost. The lure (or scam if you will) of the Raspberry Pi Zero is it’s $5 price tag. It’s cheap. And I can get 20 2.5mm headers for $8 shipped.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/20pcs-2-54mm-Spacing-Dual-Row-40-Way-Straight-Male-Pin-Header-Strip-/322049603953?hash=item4afba6f971:g:7EwAAOSwo4pYcVh~

    The reality of electronics as a hobby is the cheapness and availability of the components. It’s a race-to-the-bottom industry. Costly suppliers are quickly run out of business by cheaper (likely Chinese) shops that can manufacture at rock bottom prices. Soldering 2.5mm headers isn’t much of a sacrifice for the price, even for kids. There’s a lot of good ideas out there, but price is king. Also soldering is an essential skill. You’re likely gonna be using a soldering iron for other things when you’re building your raspberry pi project (even when you buy “shields” or other prefab addon boards). It’s a single tool that can do many things. Hammers and jigs arent usually used in electronics hobby stuff. But for this, they must be in hands reach. Anyway this is an interesting idea, but does face many challenges.

  12. WTF is wrong with people? Why attack over this?

    The Raspberry Pi was intended to be an educational toy marketed to children that would encourage them primarily to learn to code and secondarily to learn other hardware stuff. The Pi Zero is a $5 budget version of that. Why does it matter if some people chose press in headers that might not last quite as long as a NASA certified solder joint? These are toys not pacemakers!

    As for the recommendations people made to just pre-solder them. Personally I’m glad they offer some form of Pi without headers. There are projects I hope to make some day where size will matter and I might chose to use low profile headers or maybe just direct soldering with no header at all. I wish there was a version of the Pi3 that came that way and with an unsoldered pin header for the Ethernet and with only single height USB ports too. But.. that’s all because I want to use it for more advanced projects, built as an adult, not what it was intended for at all.

    So really.. how many of you nay-sayers first electronics experience involved hot solder? Really?!? For me it was sprint terminals. I bet that is pretty common for readers older than about 30 and solderless breadboards probably has it for the younger ones. Why the hell do you insist that everyone new has to start right out on a soldering iron?

    For the kids.. why not a Pi with spring terminals? I guess the springs would be plated with brass or something so that they can be factory soldered to a PCB. Obviously the board would be a little bigger.. so what?

    That said… some people mentioned that the parents might be more comfortable with their children not soldering. Damn over-protected adult-baby raisers. That kind of parenting should be considered child abuse! If your kids feel are ready to try then encourage and help them! A few soldering iron burns only taught me to be careful and respect hot tools. They sure didn’t kill me. That’s a positive life lesson!

    1. It’s not that some would choose press-fit connectors, but that there’s this company that markets them to people on dubious arguments, trying to make it look like a better idea when it’s not.

      On the point of lowering the barrier of entry to electronics, a Pi Zero is already well up the curve in terms of stuff you should learn. That’s the weird thing – people seem to think that you don’t need to know basic electronics in order to jump in and learn electronics. It’s kinda like “new math”, or teaching kids unions and disjunctions before teaching them to count 1 + 1 = 2 – it’s all just so much noise, and the kids learn it allright but they don’t get it until after they’ve learned the arithmetics the old fashioned way.

      But it all makes sense if you’re trying to create a customer base that is totally dependent on your particular products. In that case you don’t want them to learn the fundamentals – you don’t want them to be able to step down the abstraction ladder to the bottom and walk to someone else’s shop – you want them to learn to use your modules only.

      1. “On the point of lowering the barrier of entry to electronics, a Pi Zero is already well up the curve in terms of stuff you should learn.”

        That idea is very debatable.

        I don’t know about you but my favorite projects in those old spring terminal kits were the radio transmitter followed by the receiver. I spent many hours playing ‘radio station’. Every kid had a transistor radio then. It was a good way to transition us from what we knew and were familiar with over to building something.

        I’m sure a young child would still find that interesting for a couple of minutes but it isn’t going to have the same power over them when they already have their own YouTube channels complete with real subscribers! Give them Pis, let them play Minecraft, get them to start coding mods for it. Then maybe you can convince them to hook something to that header. At first it’s just follow the directions, this wire goes there, that goes here, load this library… It’s simple enough to start with. Those old spring-terminal kits didn’t exactly start with theory either, it was all connect spring 1 to 2, 3 to 4, etc… Maybe someday they will work their way from that to actually designing their own circuits… in baby steps.

        It can work. I’m a programmer myself but have always been more interested in hardware projects. Anyway.. that means I work surrounded by people who have always been software people. I am watching some of them learn hardware exactly this way even as adults!

      2. “you want them to learn to use your modules only.”

        What? Did I miss something explaining that this no-solder header is somehow incompatible with the very same accessories that plug into the regular soldered variety?

        Nope. Didn’t think so. Nice strawman there.

        1. >” accessories that plug into the regular soldered variety”

          Your wording exposes the problem: the header is there so you could plug in ready-made modules that fit the header, so you wouldn’t even need to learn basic electronics. Now, you don’t neven need to know how to solder – so you wouldn’t know how to make your own circuits that connect to the Pi – how convenient.

          1. +1
            If you don’t how to solder or know someone that can for you, why on earth are you messing with something that opens up a wealth of possibilities if you could actually solder? It’s the same scenario with Arduino users that only use shields. You are missing out on so much.

          2. BS! They will use male to female jumper wires and solderless breadboards. Have you never heard of such magic?

            The kids have been using such things with Arduinos to make projects that they duct-tape to the wall for a decade now. They when they get tired of their stuff falling apart they finally learn to solder. It’s the completion of a few projects this way and the electronic skills they gain doing so that gives them a reason to learn to solder. You are insisting that everyone have to learnt it all at once! Or.. should they just learn to solder first without having any idea what they want to solder together because… just trust us.. it’s worth it. That is not the way to get kids making stuff.

      3. “On the point of lowering the barrier of entry to electronics, a Pi Zero is already well up the curve in terms of stuff you should learn.”

        Having taught this stuff first hand to kids as young as 7 (including my own daughter) I respectfully disagree.

        “people seem to think that you don’t need to know basic electronics in order to jump in and learn electronics”

        You’re assuming that the objective here is to teach people electronics. That’s a very small piece of the Pi puzzle- people use them to make their own media centers, retro gaming platforms and bird-box camera, none of which require any electronics knowledge at all. Forcing everyone to learn electronics and soldering skills to take advantage of a low-cost computer is exactly the sort of practice you seem to be arguing against.

        “But it all makes sense if you’re trying to create a customer base that is totally dependent on your particular products.”

        We sell soldering irons, de-solder pumps, solder, helping-hands, replacement tips, pliers, wire and more, so by your own logic making people totally dependent on soldering irons is bad, too. :P

        Right, got to dash, Busy filing a patent for “hitting things with a hammer” so nobody can steal our revolutionary monopolistic license to print money!

        1. >”Forcing everyone to learn electronics and soldering skills to take advantage of a low-cost computer is exactly the sort of practice you seem to be arguing against.”

          I’m arguing you’re just selling a piece of kit that people don’t really need at the excuse of convenience, which they don’t know until they buy it. They’re better off learning to solder anyways for a number of reasons, but since you can sell them something while they’re still ignorant, you will – and that’s rather immoral.

          1. But if they want to use a Pi Zero and have access to the GPIO but don’t want to solder the pins, for whatever reason, then surely they _do_ need it, and presumably that’s why people are buying them? It’s not ignorance, it’s a wilful choice they’ve made. It’d be immoral and/or deception if the product didn’t do what we claimed it did, or didn’t work properly, or was just a poor product, but it’s none of the above…

          1. That’s just a really strange argument. When anything new appears it is only available from the “original”/”first” vendor. Then it spreads out and is available from other places as well, be they resellers of the original or separately designed/manufactured options. This is logically exactly the way it’s going to happen, it cannot happen any other way. You seem to be clutching at some desperate straws now…

    2. I like your idea of spring-terminal connectors. The ideal product for that I guess would be some kind of addon (HAT) to fit on a Pi (I feel the raspi foundation are unlikely to design umpteen versions of the pi).

  13. What’s the problem of handing a young child a soldering iron? As long as someone keeps an eye on the soldering iron not starting fires what is the worst that can happen? A soldering iron burn is not a big deal and really gets the “hot things burn you” point across.

  14. @Dax… I’m just about to order some headers to test this out, so I can speak from actual hands-on experience rather than from my assumptions.

    I am more than willing to order an extra header, and then post it along with the used jig to you, so you can try them for yourself. Email me at hamster at snap dot net dot nz if you want to take me up on the offer.

    If you also agree to post your experience here, I’ll also get you a Pi Zero to bash it into – I have a few of them for a project I’m working on,

    However I can quite understand if you don’t take me up on the offer because it offends your sensibilities to hammer rather than solder. and you have invested a lot of time explaining why it shouldn’t be used.

  15. The real trouble here is that the RPi Zero cheaped out by not including the standard GPIO pins. I understand they didn’t want the extra cost of a through-hole soldering process to go with the all surface mount Zero, but they do sell surface mount header pins. With the kind of volume they do, that would have been pennies. They could have even switched the big brother to using those surface mount headers to get even more scale.

    1. IMO, and the opinions of many other people I’ve spoken to, the fact that there are lots of nice empty pads to solder to are part of what makes the zero a very attractive board. Additionally, it has other advantages – sometimes you need the board to lie totally flat, and sometimes you want different headers (right angle, female etc) to those supplied.

      Price ain’t everything.

    2. They didn’t go for soldering anything in so that it give maximum flexibility. I have a couple of projects that would never have worked if they used the headers you are talking about.

    3. Nope, the lack of headers is part of the Pi Zero’s advantage, you can install it in a 6mm flat space with all the sensors and what not. I hate it when I have to desolder pins the seller thought were useful on a board.

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