Elfen
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Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Sun May 22, 2016 6:46 pm

I have been thinking about this for the past several months and keep coming up with the same answers: "None" and "Not (yet) possible."

There are a lot of dead R-Pi's out there, and I have been lucky to fix a few, mostly physical damage to the ports and SD Card Holder by replacing them. I even brought back a R-Pi Model B from the dead by replacing the regulators that were blown to smithereens(!!!), but I'll admit that was a lucky repair. But I have been thinking, if a poor community or poor nation, with an investment of R-Pi's begin to lose them due to breakage and failures, how are they going to get them fixed? Sure, they are cheap enough for the average Joe in a first world country to buy several, even as poor as I am, I have several R-Pi's with at least 1 of each flavor by buying one a month for the past couple of years! But if a town was given a grant to put up a school, give it electricity, and get an R-Pi Lab of 20 - 30 units to its students, and a couple of them fail for what ever the reason, how do they cope with the loss?

As a computer & technology teacher in NYC for the past 30+ years, part of my job was to make sure that the machines were running 100% of the time, though I managed a 98% machine up-time 97% of the time within those 30 years. There were a couple of dead machines that could not be brought back and since these were "rich schools" with a "rich PTA," they got the funds to get a replacement machine within a couple of weeks of fund raising and donations. And I was supplied with tools and supplies to conduct repairs when needed. But a school, lets say, in Haiti can not do this. They took/were given the money that was meant to get a water pump for the town for clean water to build this school instead and a few of the R-Pi's died. They cannot afford to get new ones - not even the $5 R-Pi:0.

Sure, they can get R-Pi's donated to make up for the loss, and the town as a whole can buy a couple hundred R-Pi's and keep 1/2 in storage and bring them out as replacement machines when needed. But you will have this pile of Dead R-Pi's. You can't throw them away, even if they are lead free.

What I'm trying to bring up for discussion is, what would it take to 1) fix a dead R-Pi and 2) would it be cost effective for such an investment?

Number one would be based on what kind of damage has such an R-Pi had happened to it. Like I said - broken ports are easy to replace. Somewhere on this forum is a thread of me stating what I did and the issues I had with dealing with hi-temp lead free solder, but in the least I got those two R-Pi Model B's to work again.

It would depend on what symptoms the R-Pi is displaying. Unfortunately, most of the dead R-Pi's are from a dead SoC chip. But with the right tools, it should be a simple repair - replace the chip! That would mean having the tools to deal with SMT/SMD electronics, desolder the chip of the board, clean up the board, "reball" the board, and solder the new chip in place. If automated, this can take 10 minutes to do.

But alas, there no such service that does this.

Number two - the cost of creating an R-Pi repair center? That depends.I know that in India, they are teaching Techs to do such component level repairs on recycled PC's and this is a national investment invested by several computer manufacturers. Why not do this with R-Pi's? Is it feesable? it is. But is it worth the investment? I personally think so.

A country like Haiti can, in theory, can justify and possibly even afford such low cost repairs. $5 for an R-Pi:0? How about $2.50 to repair it? Much of the cost of the repair would be the cost of the replacement SoC Chip. How much is that? Less than $1?

I'm not here to seek making a fortune in repairing R-Pi's. I do not even have such tools to begin such an endeavor and nor do I want too. But I am pointing the need of both Single Owner/User and poor nation/communities have in dealing with dead R-Pi's and stating that the best option would be to recycle and repair them.

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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Sun May 22, 2016 8:35 pm

Pi's only die if people are abusing them. Regular E-Cycling standards apply to get rid of them.

Every major city has a E-Cycling event every year.

There are no school districts that are "rich". It is just that they better manage their funds. Which I am not going to get into an argument about on here.
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Elfen
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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Mon May 23, 2016 6:08 am

I beg to differ, as I'm talking about the international community of second and third world countries like in parts of Southern Asia, Africa, South America and the Caribbean where a national budget slated for their entire national school system is less than the budget for 1 of the many school districts in NYC where I live and worked for (which roughly rounds out to $75K per school and 30 or more schools per district.). Again, this is more money that what Haiti has in its entire national bank account for its government.

And such nations so not have a recycling system for electronics, so some areas of their garbage heaps are contaminated with lead and other chemicals (mercury, phosphorous, arsenic, etc.). To begin to say that they do not know how to is just the beginning of their problems. Remember, this is a third world country where poverty is a way or living along with diseases and spending days to find a meal to eat is a daily occurrence. For you and I, spending $500 to buy 100 - $5 R-Pi:0's maybe be outrageous but financially doable with a swipe of our credit card, for them its a financial impossibility. So if one breaks, they are out of luck to try to get a replacement.

These places do not have 24/7 steady electrical power. Thus their electrical system can be a hindrance with power spikes and surges that takes down their communications systems every so often. Image what they can do to a R-Pi. And this is not abuse, this is everyday living to these people. If it can take down their Tel. Co. systems, it can take down a classroom of R-Pi's.

I'll admit that the R-Pi is a sturdy little beast but I have pushed them to their limits. I bought dead ones from ebay to study them. On many of them I can say after checking out the PSU section and that is working, the only thing left that is at fault is the SoC Chip. Replace that and chances are the R-Pi will come back to life. On 2 of the dead R-Pi's I have, the SoC Chip is actually cracked or bulging from the center. It does not take much to replace the chip. With modification to one of the assembly robots, you can have it remove the SoC chip and replace it, bringing it back to life, and that is not hard to do. I'm just asking "Why is it not being done?"

Instead I get the answer of "It's a $30 computer. If it breaks, throw it out and buy a new one!" Well, that is not an option to certain communities out there. If one can do repairs with a SoC Chip swap and charge a low price for the service, then this fulfills another part of what Open Source Hardware is about: being able to maintain, repair and upgrade the system; in this case a R-Pi.

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rpdom
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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Mon May 23, 2016 6:16 am

Elfen wrote:I'll admit that the R-Pi is a sturdy little beast but I have pushed them to their limits. I bought dead ones from ebay to study them. On many of them I can say after checking out the PSU section and that is working, the only thing left that is at fault is the SoC Chip. Replace that and chances are the R-Pi will come back to life. On 2 of the dead R-Pi's I have, the SoC Chip is actually cracked or bulging from the center. It does not take much to replace the chip. With modification to one of the assembly robots, you can have it remove the SoC chip and replace it, bringing it back to life, and that is not hard to do. I'm just asking "Why is it not being done?"

Instead I get the answer of "It's a $30 computer. If it breaks, throw it out and get a new one!" Well, that is not an option to certain communities out there. If one can do repairs with a SoC Chip swap and charge a low price for the service, then this fulfills another part of what Open Source Hardware is about: being able to maintain, repair and upgrade the system; in this case a R-Pi.
Why it is not done is unfortunately down to economics.

To redesign the entire assembly line to be able to handle the removal and replacement of a handful of damaged boards would cost thousands of times the cost of just replacing the boards with new ones.

As for an independent repair shop - the SoC is not available in small quantities. You'd need to be talking well over 100,000 minimum order.

It is a pity, because it sounds like a good idea, but when costs have been cut as close as they have with the Pi series, in many cases it just isn't worth repairing.

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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Mon May 23, 2016 6:23 am

Elfen,
With modification to one of the assembly robots, you can have it remove the SoC chip and replace it, bringing it back to life, and that is not hard to do. I'm just asking "Why is it not being done?
On the contrary I imagine it's very hard to do. I can't imagine how one would modify a pick and place machine to remove a SoC and reflow a new into into place.

But what are you suggesting actually.

All the world ships it's dead Pis back to Wales. Somebody figures out which ones need a SoC change. They change the SoC. Retest the Pi. Ship the Pis back to where they came from. Remember that after all that effort only a few of them will be brought back to life. Many would need further investigation and other parts fixing.

This is not practical. It would be cheaper just to give away new working Pis for free !

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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Mon May 23, 2016 7:41 am

It's not possible to modify the P&P robots to do this, it's a manual process, and not easy at all. Once you have the old chip off, you then need to apply a thin mask to the PCB to line up the solder balls on the SoC and manually heat up the chip to melt the solder.

Even the tiny masks are expensive, making the whole process very expensive indeed.

I suppose there might be ways of automating it with custom build robots, but that immediately makes the whole process very expensive indeed.


As above, it's economics. There simply isn't a cheap way of fixing devices like this when a surface mount chips goes wrong.
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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Mon May 23, 2016 9:47 am

As others have said it is not generally economical to fix broken Pi computers. It may be possible to replace some broken or damaged components but replacing the SoC would not be easy.

One could instead try to find other ways to give a broken Pi value and recuperate some money that way - perhaps slap them in blocks of acrylic and sell them as novelty paperweights ? Call it "art" and there may even be a profit in it !

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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Mon May 23, 2016 10:08 am

We have all pretty much agreed that replacing a Pi SoC is impossible to economically and that wasting time on fixing other faults is probably not worth it either. Now I would not be surprised to read tomorrow about some guy in a yurt, on the planes of Mongolia, eeking out a living by doing exactly that. Using nothing more than a broken bottle as a microscope and a crowbar heated in a Yak dung fire for soldering.

People can be amazingly resourceful when they have to be.

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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Mon May 23, 2016 10:36 am

I am reminded that there are some truly astonishing people out there. (I've met Jeri. She's amazing.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdcKwOo7dmM
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Heater
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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Mon May 23, 2016 11:07 am

Wow, amazing. Back the day we only managed to make a germanium diode in one afternoon lab session.

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buja
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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Mon May 23, 2016 12:43 pm

This repair broken Pi's issue reminds me of the TV show Wheeler Dealers: old/classic cars are restored, sometimes stripped to the bone and completely repainted. The costs they make are simply the costs of the replacements parts and work done by others (paint job, gearbox revision, etc.), but they always conveniently ignore the costs of their own labour (the many hours mechanic Ed makes in his well equipped workshop).

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CaptSunset
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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Mon May 23, 2016 3:44 pm

Y'know, I think we really ought to give some credit where credit is due.

First, the Raspberry Pi team astoundingly cut the cost of a computer by a factor of ten.

In doing this, they reduced the parts count, board size, electrical consumption; and such well below that of, say, a 1970s throwaway transistor radio, '90s boombox, or every 2010 computer.
This was an equivalently huge environmental gain!

This recycling idea is fine; but our waste concerns should perhaps be more properly focused on today's unrepairable tablets, flatscreens, cameras and phones- Tons rather than ounces, all containing LiPo batteries... (did you see that about those increased airline fires?)

Also, in the credit is due department, the Foundation has not been sitting on its laurels- the Zero is another brilliant reduction in cost, size, and eventual recycling problems. :mrgreen:

btw, it seems to me that there are two disparate groups using the Pi- one bent on pushing the hardware to its limits and beyond :o ; the others 'peaceably' using the Pi to learn coding... :geek:

What exactly is the MTBF for the normalized 'typical' Pi?
No fans, no dust, no heat, no HD, no moving parts... 15 years? more?

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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Tue May 24, 2016 3:57 am

CaptSunset wrote:What exactly is the MTBF for the normalized 'typical' Pi? No fans, no dust, no heat, no HD, no moving parts... 15 years? more?
MTBF doesn't really make sense for a device that mostly gets broken by having wires hooked up with wrong voltages or shorts. Depending on the current the resulting failures can and do happen in less than a second.

Training people to repair simple things can lead to a workforce skilled enough to repair and create complicated things. Moreover, as noted in other posts, there are many people who make a living repairing things that were not designed to be repaired, especially in the developing world. Thus, even though the Pi was not designed to be repaired, there are a number of reasons people might wish to do so.

Shipping broken Pi's back to the manufacturer makes no sense, because the people who wish to repair them live elsewhere. However, having a manufacturer provide replacement parts to those who wish to repair them is quite feasible. Selling the SOC to repair shops would be a nice gesture on the part of the foundation along these lines towards countries that stay away from devices which are unrepairable and wish to build local expertise on repairing things.

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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Tue May 24, 2016 11:40 am

reply to Elfen on Recycling Rasoberry Pi's?

I Think that your raising Recycling issue is an useful topic for the forum to contribute to reduce E-Waste in relation to global warming.

As to today's efficient mass-manufacturing industrial world, needed first is to plan solution carefully from a wide scoping for reducing impact to environment in total.
Robots can repair electronics devices with ease technically but work only when a certain amount of devices come and require to be repaired while manufactures greatly reducing defects of their products.

By the way a large amount of devices are soon out-of-dated and become as E-Wastes to go into recycling, then reuse by such refurbishment as updating of them with robots seems to be practical, might involve repair works there.

It seems to be useful yet that locally created efficient and easy-to-apply-there solutions go in practice such repair by DIY-like works.These invite also the forum's contributions.

masa

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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Tue May 24, 2016 12:05 pm

masa-aud,
Robots can repair electronics devices with ease technically ...
Can you cite any examples of robots repairing things easily?

Somehow I think it would be rather difficult if not impossible.

Faults tend to be very varied, depending on what happened to the device. I can't imagine a robot fault finding very reliably.

Fixing the faults can be a very varied thing as well. Which might require non-original "bodges" like
jumper wires, and so in.

There is a shop nerby my office that does nothing but repair iPhones. They have and endless stream of
customers. Mostly young girls for some reason. Mostly with cracked screens on their phones. There is
no robot in that shop performing even this repetitive repair.

As for e-waste and global warming, I would imagine that the contribution to that problem by the existence of the Raspberry Pi is a vanishingly small percentage of the total. We have more urgent places to start on that issue.

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CaptSunset
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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Tue May 24, 2016 4:47 pm

ejolson wrote:
CaptSunset wrote:What exactly is the MTBF for the normalized 'typical' Pi? No fans, no dust, no heat, no HD, no moving parts... 15 years? more?
MTBF doesn't really make sense for a device that mostly gets broken by having wires hooked up with wrong voltages or shorts.
What I meant by ''normalized & typical' is a Pi that is used for it's original purpose: to teach coding.
No wires hooked up wrong, no overclocking; keyboards, mice & screens separate standardized components.

That the Pi arena has been 'over-run' by gadgeteers has confused the 'mission statement' picture a bit- for example, where are the kids and females in our forums? Mighty scarce...

Not saying it's a bad thing, I'm a gadget guy myself. I'm just saying the Foundation's thinking was extremely sound on many levels- incluyding reducing e-waste by 90% by not making the Pi ten times bigger.

Also, while it is PC to be concerned about it, I don't see any real market for obsolete Pi's; there certainly wasn't for boomboxes and transistor radios. The super cheap Zero can fill that need, and what ever comes after the Zero.

Have you actually looked at these 3rd world places? Aren't they already big on cell phones and such?
What I've seen they actually need, is ways to solar charge such devices. (Take this DIY guy Mark Kragh- http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-15876602)

I've seen some of the African e-waste dumps that we thought were being recycled, as the plastic junk was dumped in upriver villages to be burned for the metals inside.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... hones.html

The Foundation has been 100% sound ecologically in producing what it does, the way it does.

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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Tue May 24, 2016 5:27 pm

CaptSunset wrote:
ejolson wrote:
CaptSunset wrote:What exactly is the MTBF for the normalized 'typical' Pi? No fans, no dust, no heat, no HD, no moving parts... 15 years? more?
MTBF doesn't really make sense for a device that mostly gets broken by having wires hooked up with wrong voltages or shorts.
What I meant by ''normalized & typical' is a Pi that is used for it's original purpose: to teach coding.
No wires hooked up wrong, no overclocking; keyboards, mice & screens separate standardized components.
...
I thought the whole point of the Raspberry Pi is hooking up things to it and then make it work: sensors, relays, motors and what have you. And coding is part of the making it work, some electronics and mechanics the other part. Of course, there is a bit of risk involved, all part of the learning curve.
Otherwise you could just install Python on a Mac or Windows machine and code the next boring keyboard-mouse-screen program.
Last edited by buja on Tue May 24, 2016 5:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Tue May 24, 2016 5:45 pm

Heater wrote:masa-aud,
Robots can repair electronics devices with ease technically ...
Can you cite any examples of robots repairing things easily?
I was going to make that point but you obviously already made it.
cracked screens on their phones. There is
no robot in that shop performing even this repetitive repair.
Of course, there are a lot of things that robots could do but they currently aren't. The entire fast food industry, for example, is ripe for a take over by machines. But like you said and I'll just repeat here, repair, especially board level repair, is hard for a machine to do certainly when the faults are random. This isn't a bad thing, though, because fixing an electronic device is something that people often find more interesting than making a raspberry float.
As for e-waste and global warming, I would imagine that the contribution to that problem by the existence of the Raspberry Pi is a vanishingly small percentage of the total. We have more urgent places to start on that issue.
On this topic, there is unimaginable irrationality and even insanity. From government sanctioned operations that supposedly properly deal with e-waste but refuse to allow any of it to be reused, which should be the higher purpose. To the people who rant that we need 100% renewable energy, but no nuclear power, and that tax incentives should drive a build out equally everywhere, even solar power in cloudy first world areas while ignoring that the place where most of the devices are made, China, is making them using the dirtiest power available, coal.

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CaptSunset
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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Wed May 25, 2016 1:41 am

buja wrote: I thought the whole point of the Raspberry Pi is hooking up things to it and then make it work: sensors, relays, motors and what have you. And coding is part of the making it work, some electronics and mechanics the other part. Of course, there is a bit of risk involved, all part of the learning curve.
Otherwise you could just install Python on a Mac or Windows machine and code the next boring keyboard-mouse-screen program.
Let's call it 'mission creep'; if we get in the WayBack Machine and return to 2012, here is Eben Upton discussing the Foundation mission statement with Wired:
Yet the captivating simplicity of the Pi isn't just entertaining the children, it's also distracting the Foundation from the task at hand -- a task Upton had to be reminded of by the charity's accountants. "Our accountants went back and had a look at the Foundation's mission statement -- if you're running a charity you've got to make sure you're doing the stuff that you said you were going to do," he explains, an episode that probably won't be featuring in his speech to the young professionals. "We went back and of course the mission statement that we filed to the Charity Commission doesn't say anything about building a lot of little computers; it says 'we're going to encourage kids to program'. We had to get a platform, which itself generated some massive benefits in terms of producing awareness around the problem. Now we've got the platform, we've got to track back to the stuff we said we were going to do: getting kids involved in programming."

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/201 ... -pi/page/2

That article is well worth a close read, because the Pi strategy (as of 2012) is clearly laid out.

Here is 2012 again: "Some six years in the making, the computer is the brainchild of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a British charity organization whose mission statement is to “promote the study of computer science and related topics, especially at school level, and to put the fun back into learning computing.”
http://www.redorbit.com/news/technology ... lash-in-uk

Like I said, I'm a gadgeteer myself, and find no problem with that. In forum, I do feel a bit like an Ent, and wonder where the kids & females have gone...
I think that we should pay more attention to the human issues side of things, and the Foundation today seems to be moving that way:

"In 2015 we expanded the Membership of the Foundation. In future, trustees of the Foundation will be elected by the Membership.
Members play an important role in supporting the Board of Trustees, contributing to the Foundation’s strategic direction, holding the Foundation to account, and advocating our mission.
Membership of the Raspberry Pi Foundation is a voluntary position.
"
https://www.raspberrypi.org/about/governance/

masa-aud
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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Wed May 25, 2016 1:47 am

reply to elfen on Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

This topic of recycling is necessary to invite the common issue of our lives such global warming as too big for us to find easy-to-do reasonable solutions even for tiny R-Pi under such tight condition.
Today's mass-production based industry and consumer that has been showing highly efficient and so "rational" schemes and being so understood and welcomed but mostly without paying cost for impact to the environment. Then repairing each device is costly difficult ( so no robots seem to be cited on the line) although technically "easy" .
I believe but DIY trials on this forum here as your plan of even "vanishingly" smaller sized Pi's will invite greater solutions for more efficient and cleaner ways of lives because the global issue is summing up of a plenty of local issues.
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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Wed May 25, 2016 3:45 am

masa-aud,
Then repairing each device is costly difficult ( so no robots seem to be cited on the line) although technically "easy".
I still refute the idea that getting a robot to repair dead Pi is "technically easy". I think it's hard to impossible with the current state of robotic and AI technology.

If you build a robot that can fault find and repair a Pi, like replacing the SoC as suggested I'm sure we'd all love to see it.

However, I'm also sure the negative environmental impact of building and operating such a robot repair system, and the logistics of collecting dead Pi for it to repair, would be far greater than just throwing the dead Pi into a land fill.

I don't get the debate re: the educational mission of the Pi Foundation, programming education vs building gadgets. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that encouraging gadget building inspires and motivates people to learn some programming.

Further, clearly a little computer with a stonking great GPIO header on in, is designed to be interfaced to the real world, that is to say gadgets. Why else would the GPIO header be there?

Gadget building and learning programming have been hand in hand since the days of the machines like the Sinclair Spectrum and ZX81.

In fact gadget building and programming have been hand in hand since forever. See how many gadgets Doug Englbart built for his computer in 1968: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJDv-zdhzMY

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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Wed May 25, 2016 4:53 am

Heater wrote:If you build a robot that can fault find and repair a Pi, like replacing the SoC as suggested I'm sure we'd all love to see it.
...especially if the robot itself were Pi powered.

In terms of encouraging children to learn programming, the ability to connect capacitive touch bananas as input devices, motors, wheels and lights as output devices and run the whole thing from batteries seems to motivate children to learn programming. Thus, the computing projects made possible by the Pi are right on track with the original mission.

As Pi's themselves aren't very big or widespread compared to cars or even light bulbs, they don't pose much of an environmental danger. While there is also not much economic advantage in repairing them, building a community with expertise in repairing things as well as a philosophy that broken things should be fixed rather than thrown away could have all sorts of benefits in the future.

masa-aud
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Re: Recycling Raspberry Pi's?

Wed May 25, 2016 1:00 pm

Re:Recycling Raspberry Pi's ?
Heater,
I think I understand very well what you think as in common preferring landfil rather than reuse as most think currently, but such our mass-pro based society now confronting the too great issue to brake easy through with current rational schemes of recycling base.
I think also this discussion is too heavy to do in deep on this forum.
masa

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