The World’s Thinnest Raspberry Pi 3

We’ve become used to readily available single board computers of significant power in form factors that would have seemed impossibly small only a few years ago. But even with a board the size of a credit card such as a Raspberry Pi, there are still moments when the available space is just too small to fit the computer.

The solution resorted to by enterprising hardware hackers is often to remove extraneous components from the board. If there is no need for a full-size USB port or an Ethernet jack, for example, they can safely be taken away. And since sometimes these attempts result in the unintended destruction of the board, yonder pirates at Pimoroni have taken viewers of their Bilge Tank series of videos through the procedure, creating in the process what they describe as “The World’s Thinnest Raspberry Pi 3“.

The USB and Ethernet ports, as large through-hole components, were the easiest to tackle. Some snipping and snapping removed the tinware and plastic, then the remains could be hand-desoldered. The GPIO pins resisted attempts to remove their plastic for easy desoldering, so for them they had to resort to a hot air gun. Then for the remaining camera, HDMI, and display ports the only option was hot air. Some cleaning up with desoldering braid, and they had their super-thin Pi. They weren’t quite done though, they then took the reader through modifying a Raspbian Lite distribution to deactivate support those components that have been removed. This has the handy effect not only of freeing up computer resources, it also saves some power consumption.

You might point out that they could have just used a Pi Zero, which with its SD card on the top surface is even a little bit thinner. And aside from the question of extra computing power, you’d be right. But their point is valid, that people are doing this and not always achieving a good result, so their presenting it as a HOWTO is a useful contribution. We suspect that a super-thin Pi 3 will still require attention to heat management though.

Take a look at the video, we’ve put it below the break.

Thin SBCs are nothing new, we brought you a slimmed-down Raspberry Pi 2 in a tiny laptop, and an Odroid Pi clone in a handheld game console. Meanwhile sometimes Pimoroni make use of tools with a little less finesse.

24 thoughts on “The World’s Thinnest Raspberry Pi 3

  1. I’m surprised that Hackaday still hasn’t covered the “Raspberry Pi 3 without through-hole” offer that was, apparently, done in Japan in collaboration with Raspberry Pi Foundation. From what I’ve understood, the kit (priced $300 in Japanese currency) was done with both Pi 2B and 3B, and there were lots of different header options included. Me, I wish the kit got more widespread, at maybe a lower price. More details here:

      1. I really like these kits. I could see a lot of headaches not happening it they were more available.
        I thought the show was well done. I just have a problem braking so many parts. And boy they both should of had more coffee before the show they really had the shakes.
        Mind you I love any show that people are taking things apart. Good job.
        I like what CRlmier says with sell The PI in more of these kit forms.

        1. I think that’d require a connector that’d be harder to source. Not to mention that this kind of soldering might have additional headaches, oh, and needing to redesign enclosures once again might not be a good thing. Also, being able to route stuff under the connector might be very helpful – running out of PCB real estate for traces is real =(
          How’s “near enough to the other smd parts either side of the board” a benefit?

  2. I’m waiting for a pi, like the compute module, but it has all of the ports and connectors of the pi 3 or 0, but it instead has all of the pins broken out into a massive array of gpio like pins.

          1. NiHaoMike – looking at the Pi Zero W PCB, I find this highly unlikely, unless the engineers use both sides of the board.- and even then. Routing’s pretty tight as it is, I don’t think they’ll have place for one more RAM chip and a significantly beefier DC-DC (especially if they’ll need to add an I2C IO expander as it’s done on the Pi3)

  3. I’ve already done this… however sourcing a very tiny pre-made board containing a 24Bit-LVDS* to TMDS (DVI-D and HDMI compatible) is proving very difficult, Especially in the UK.

    The closest I could find is the following (assuming it passes mod):
    This HDMI to LVDS, Expensive without a hint as to the documentation… Seems not worth it![E-bay Link]

    If the link don’t work, Ebay search for:

    Without such a part… my custom Pi-tablet PC that I’m building from re-used Wacom tablet laptop spares will never materialize.

    *the 4-lane variety and not the older 5-lane (3xData+CLK Vs 4xData+CLK)

    1. It’s so hard for you to solder a 2 pin power connector to it? ‘seasoned’ ‘engineer’
      Hell you can even solder the wires from a 5 volt source directly to it if you were so inclined.

  4. What a bumbling incompetent barbarians, HaD should be ashamed about linking to that video.
    I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody older than 10 try to disassemble things that inept.

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