Fake cases — make sure yours is the real deal

We’ve had some reports of people finding cases that pretend to be official Raspberry Pi products online — these are fakes, they’re violating our trademark, they’re not made very well, and they’re costing you and us money that would otherwise go to fund the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s charitable work. (Reminder, for those who are new to this stuff: we’re a not-for-profit, which means that every penny we makes goes to support our work in education, and that none of us gets to own a yacht.)

Making sure your accessories are legit

If you want to be certain that the Raspberry Pi accessories you buy are the real thing, make sure you’re purchasing from one of our Authorised Resellers: if you buy via our website, you’ll automatically be directed to the Authorised Resellers in your region. Lots of other vendors also sell the official case, so if you’re wondering whether yours is the real thing, we’ve found there are some easy ways to tell the difference.

A wellwisher sent us one of the fake cases (elegantly photographed by Fiacre above), which we passed around the office with a great deal of wincing, imagining what you guys might say if you got your hands on one and thought we’d made it. They’re really not very nice; the moulding’s awful, the fit’s bad, the colour’s off, and we’d be embarrassed if we had made something like this ourselves.

Asking the experts

We thought we’d ask the good people at T-Zero, who did all the work on the tooling and injection moulding for the real case (which is a considerably harder job than we’d imagined at first — you can read about the very bumpy road we had before finding T-Zero, who are amazing partners, in this post from days of yore), why the fake cases look so hideous. Simon Oliver, Grand Poobah of Plastics, wrote back:

Basically, what you are witnessing is very cheaply and quickly made tooling. The flash is just poor toolmaking. The rounded edges are due to the toolmaking method of milling everything, which is quick and cheap, but you can’t get definition of sharp corners because you have to have a radius in places. I have tried to explain it below, and you have to think in reverse for the tool.

Milling artifacts

Can you imagine how many electrodes are needed for the logo? The leaves around the top have to be laser-cut into an electrode to get the definition. See screen grabs of the tool and moulding — look how many sharp corners there are!

CAD representations of logo and tool

To properly make a tool for something this complicated, you need more electrodes than someone quickly copying a case like this would find economical. The official Raspberry Pi case needed 140 electrodes to produce the tool.

Electrodes

A few of the electrodes that went to make the injection moulding tool for the official case

 

Reverse-engineering by digitising existing components in a CAD will also loose definition, particularly in sharp corners, as the moulding process will form a small radius even if the tool is a sharp corner.

Plastic shrinks away from a 90 degree corner, leaving a smallish radius in any case. So your data from digitising will have a radius, and then [the producers] compound it by milling the lot.

Finally, the colour is off! It took ages to get your Raspberry Pi red correct. A lot of suppliers can’t repeat it; the current supplier had five attempts!

Thanks, Simon; and to everybody reading this, we hope it arms you with the confidence to make sure you’re buying a genuine product!

FYI

Before panic ensues, please note: we love third-party cases designed for Raspberry Pi. So much so that we sell a few of them in our store here in Cambridge.

The internet is full of innovative cases you can purchase, as well as wonderful 3D-printable alternatives you can make yourself, and as long as they aren’t breaking any trademark rules — using our logo, copying the work of others, pretending to be official when they’re not — that’s great!

If you’ve designed a case for any of the Raspberry Pi models, share it with us in the comments below, as we’d love to see your work. And if you see a case, or any other Raspberry Pi accessory, for sale that you think is breaking trademark rules or attempting to imitate our official products, please let us know.