1 year ago

Raspberry Pi Zero production getting on track

First-party production led to scaling challenges for the Raspberry Pi Zero

The launch of the Raspberry Pi Zero, the world’s first fully functional microcomputer to cost just £4/$5, caused quite a stir. Unsurprisingly, given the precedent of the Foundation’s other launches, initial stock sold out within minutes. What has been more surprising is that stock continues to be elusive, with small batches appearing in the official sales channel only to immediately disappear again under a flood of demand.

The scarcity of the Pi Zero has led to a ‘black market’ of sorts appearing. When we gave away a cover-mounted Zero with issue 40, we were disappointed to see auction sites filled with opportunists trying to profit from purchases from supermarket shelves.

Even now, there are unscrupulous outlets looking to profit from the high demand for the device. Some retailers have taken to buying up stock from the official outlets in order to resell at a substantial mark-up; one seller was recently found to be adding a pair of cheap adaptor cables to the Pi Zero in order to attempt to justify a £36 selling price.

Production scaling has proven a challenge for the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s first in-house board, the Pi Zero

Production scaling has proven a challenge for the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s first in-house board, the Pi Zero

Buyers are disappointed that they can’t easily get their hands on one or more Pi Zeros for their planned projects, and doubly so when they see rampant profiteering. Fortunately, there’s light at the end of the tunnel: production is being ramped up to meet demand.

“I placed another 150,000 POs [production orders] – well, a pair of POs, a 50K and a 100K – in the last couple of days,” Raspberry Pi Foundation co-founder Eben Upton explained during an interview in early February. “It’d be good to get to a point where we’re doing at least 50,000 a month for Zero. I think we could do 50,000 a month on Zero pretty comfortably.”

But, given the tradition for new Pi models to sell out at launch, why is it taking so long to ramp up production on the Zero? The answer lies in the board’s unique position, Eben reveals. “This isn’t quite the same as the other Pis, because the other Pis are made by RS and Farnell. We make these Pis, so you’re actually looking at a small company trying to scale.”

“We’ve got good resources and good engineers, but you’re looking at a small company trying to scale production,” Eben continues. “It’s not quite realistic to compare the [Pi Zero] throughput to the throughput of the big Pis, because the big Pis are being made by billion-dollar, billion-pound companies; the Zero’s being made by us.”

The launch of the Pi 3 won’t see the Zero put on the back-burner, though. “If we can get it stable at 50,000 a month,” Eben promises, “then we can look at how we can scale up from that.”

This news piece will be published in The MagPi 43, out this Thursday, and was written by Gareth Halfacree

  • About time. I’m tired of resellers on eBay.

  • SdP

    There is another problem.
    The Pi Hut stopped shipping to Italy!
    How can I get a Raspberry PI Zero?
    When are you going to add Amazon as a official reseller?

    This is a couple of mail that I and Pi Hut exchanged a few days ago.

    Sent: 24 February 2016 20:16
    Subject: [The Pi Hut] Contact Form from February 24 at 8:16PM
    Body: It looks you don’t ship to Italy. Do you ship to Italy? (i’m asking this as I hope is just a mistake of the site….)

    The Pi Hut support@thepihut.com
    Feb 24 (6 days ago)
    to sdp

    Thanks for the email!

    We’re very sorry, but we no longer ship to the country in question. In our experience, we found the local shipping options to not be reliable enough – with far too many “lost” parcels to make it a viable option for us.

    Kind Regards,
    [snip – name removed]

  • Parma Naraidoo

    i have 3 want one

  • They could just add some (little) additional insurance fee if that is the problem.
    This behaviour is showing a very low grade of customer care.

  • SdP

    You are right but I must say that they answered in a very tight time frame!

  • VaZso

    I have received absolutely the same reply for my question about shipping to Hungary…

    I was able to order one Pi Zero from Pimoroni though, which was arrived yesterday.

  • Charudatt Uplap

    When will they be available from RS Components ?

  • David Peterson

    Maybe you could find a charitable Silicon Valley millionaire who will provide an interest free loan for bridging finance to cover the manufacturing until on sold to the resellers?
    I bet it shouldn’t be too tough to find a well of geek who’d like to do this, as the risk is rather low (Raspberry Pi Zeros are sure to sell! That has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt) and it would be a great service to the geek community.

  • Kristof Kalocsai

    Don’t mind me asking but when did you order yours? Just curious what to expect from shipping to Hungary.

  • VaZso

    I have ordered it on the 22nd of February late afternoon, and they shipped it the next day early afternoon. So, it took about a week to arrive.

  • VaZso

    For me, their reply took only three minutes.
    Maybe an autoreply? :S

  • Kristof Kalocsai

    same here, only still waiting… UPS or Royal Mail?

  • VaZso

    It was shipped via Royal Mail as an ordinary mail…

  • RaspberryStore

    If needed, I’ll pay the needed stock before they are going to be produced. But it is good to know RS and Farnell will not be the official producers of the Zero. I’ll try to buy them in bulk from the Foundation. MagPi: thanks for this information!!

  • Kristof Kalocsai

    Then i will just keep on waiting patiently, thanks a bunch!

  • SdP

    Pimoroni now has zero PI zero 🙁

  • Davidovics96

    How can I order one piece of raspberry pi zero? I live in hungary and I really want to buy a raspberry pi but I can not afford to buy a raspberry pi 3 🙁

  • VaZso

    You’re welcome. If you live in a smaller town or village, some additional delay may append to delivery time – or maybe it is just some delay in logistics. Hope to arrive soon.

  • amador rosario

    pi zero please here in the Philippines

  • Adrian Wilkins

    I hear the problem with that happening is that because they cost so little, the third-party manufacturers aren’t prepared to take them on because the margin isn’t high enough after paying the royalties to the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

  • Avi Varma

    Finally have been waiting for a re-stock for ages!

  • Philippe Rousselot

    I just got mine.
    I need 120 for my school with all the cables and enclosure necessary.

    With some chance by next year 🙂

  • Vikenbauer

    I got exactly the same response… about shipping to Spain.
    A little bit “strange”, isn’t it?

  • Charudatt Uplap

    Yes, sounds like it. no doubt , RPi foundation now enjoys to produce/market it on its own. Hope the wait is not for long. Hope the post is reasonable and not costlier than the product. 🙂

  • Zoltan Hoppar

    I don’t get it, why the official channels aren’t keep preorder line. I has been worked in the scheduling of the Rspi 1 B release, and everybody waited for it. If the foundation at least can see the necessary amount of the demand, calculate it would be much-much easier to plan and if everyone has an order number – why this frustration pressure needed? I just don’t get it why we need heart attack every time when it’s one version get released with bad pre-planning and not watching the peak amount from earlier starts/releases??

  • Teo

    Here in the Seattle area, I can’t find any supply online other than way overpriced units from ebay and similar. I can get RPi 2’s cheaper. Brick and mortar, closest I could find today was Kansas. Bit of a drive for a $5 part. This has been extremely frustrating.

  • May Raed

    I give up on the zero. More than 6 months and not a trace of it. MagPi Feb issue is on the shelves and no issue 40 ever delivered. Not worth the wait for $5 when there are so many other tiny boards available for just a little more.

  • May Raed

    I have to disagree on that point. Resellers make their money on peripherals and accessories. The $5 zero is just a loss leader and they can rake in 10x more on add-ons.

  • Adrian Wilkins

    Not talking about resellers – talking about manufacturers.

  • Rolf Bilet

    What about RS Components do sell in “batch type”, lets say 10pcs in a box.
    Or “binary number” boxes. Ie 8, 16, 32 in a box. (cluster ready made, almost)

    Any interest for this?

  • whheydt

    Six months, my foot. The Pi Zero has only been out for a bit over 3 months.

    I’ll grant you the problem with MicroCenter, but keep a close eye on Adafruit for when they get Pi Zeros in stock.

  • Kyle

    I would pay as much as $10 for a well-supported Linux platform with that size and form factor! Just considering all of the “Teensy” boards I have purchased for $15, this would blow those out of the water in most applications!

  • Kyle

    Same here… I think they short-changed themselves offering it for $5 if the production and/or sales ecosystem can’t keep up with the demand.

    It reeks of a poorly executed publicity stunt if you ask me!

  • Kyle

    A gimmicky publicity stunt, perhaps? Methinks they pulled a fast one on us!

  • Same here. I had employees check more than once at my Barnes & Noble. They actually received 5 MagPi magazines with the Zero on the cover. They never put the magazines out. None of the employees were willing to open the box in the warehouse. After a certain date those magazines got thrown away, even after my repeated requests to buy the entire box. I had coworkers and friends wanting them. I have a few Pi Zeros myself, but I sign up for in-stock notifications as you should.

  • As the article states, it’s production that can’t keep up. The article also states, it’s because The Raspberry Pi Foundation was manufacturing the boards themselves and couldn’t make them fast enough. I don’t think the price is making it hard to make, the price is making it easy to buy.

  • Bratan

    So 3 months later, still no stock 🙁

  • ragingrei

    Yup 🙁

  • nigra truo

    It is a true shame. I have been a RP fan for ever and used them in many projects, but the 5 dollar price point and size makes the zero perfect for every project and opens up uses that other PIs are too expensive for. For 5 bucks, you can use it virtually EVERYWHERE. It is just a damn shame that the PI is missing the most and 100% totally necessary thing on board, that adding makes it a real pain, both price wise and logistically: wireless. There should be no PI that has no connectivity. No device in the world will ever be isolated and it makes absolutely no sense to not have wireless on board. Maybe there is a problem with the price point, but why not use some old WIFI chips? They don’t need to be new and with a lot of performance, it is not like the PI Zero would support it anyway. For me the Zero is the perfect PI, beating all others for projects. Hell, for 5 bucks you can put them in your shoes, one in each shoe or in a flower pot. But then of course, you (and I) can’t get your hands on one. And when I see somebody selling a Zero for 30 or 40 bucks, I just laugh: That makes it totally pointless.

  • nigra truo

    I don’t understand why they don’t sell Zeros in packs of 7 or so. Get 7 for 35 bucks, that should help. Instead of taking too little margin, just up the quantity. Zeros could be considered like pencils or some other dirt cheap commodity discardable product.

  • nigra truo

    Yep, but I wish I could agree: The PI is perfect for my projects and nothing else even comes close (much less the price point), I’m not into waisting a lot of time with Arduinos, spending a lot more time doing low level coding instead of riding the luxury train that is Python 😉
    The Zero is damn perfect: Small form factor and lower power consumption for deployment, and using the normal PIs for setting up the project.
    As in the past, PIs are always worth waiting for.

  • nigra truo

    Maybe there is an elaborate joke at work: The name says it all: Zero Raspberry Pi. That is how much we are going to get?

  • nigra truo

    I would assume that there might not be Zeros for years to come, as they will never be able to satisfy demand even by a remote margin. 5 dollars for a full computer is out of this world cheap, it beats everything else in the world, even Arduinos, who buys a microcontroller for the same money, if you can get a fully blown modern computer with tons of ram, CPU power and a full GUI OS? So what I’m saying is this: The manufacturing will ramp up, eventually produce 100k, 200k or how many, but the demand for the Zero is likely as many times as much as the price droped, the Zero is 7 times cheaper than the normal pi, so there might be demand for more than 20 million devices worldwide, so due to that, we might not see it for the next years, unless they get somebody on the case that can produce super large volume. I wish they would have done the self manufacturing on a larger model, like a 50 bucks version or something, with SATA and GB ethernet or whatever on board (I hear people clamoring for that all the time, even though I don’t think that would be useful), a model that has limited attractivity. The zero on the other end is even a lot more popular than the normal pi: People that held back before would definitely buy this now. 5 dollars makes it attractive for EVERYBODY.

  • nigra truo

    I got a notification from them, that it is back in stock. Checked, a few hours late. Nope, no stock. Probably sold out right again.

  • whheydt

    “Lady Ada” has been quoted as saying that the only release bare Pi Zeros a few at a time in order to prevent tying their shipping people in knots. So, yes, Adafruit is likely to sell out fast, but not because they are actually out of stock.

    I’ve found that it is actually cheaper and faster to order from PiHut and they’ve been mostly keeping bare Pi Zeros in stock pretty consistently for about the last three weeks. Pimoroni is a bit more, but they’ve also been pretty good about about keeping bare Pi Zeros in stock.

  • nigra truo

    I’m wondering about that: imagine I would offer a fully fledged Cellphone for 20 bucks. I would let them do some tests on it, sell it at a loss (would be worth 300 bucks), but use the whole gig as a marketing stunt: Just be out of stock all the time, make everybody assume that others have one, bought one already, but in fact I would not produce any. Nobody has ever done that before, so everybody would assume that they are just sold out and that you can’t get them, a little like the tickle me elmo doll, that got sold out and people wanted it so bad. Many people are not bright enough to realize that if everybody else seems to want something, it does not make it inherently more attractive or relevant.

    And of course, knowing your average Joe, with the attention span of a fruit fly and the patience of an arrow, people would just quit and go buy one of the other PIs or go for one of the kits that sell you more asessories than anything else. Does not work on me, since if a zero ends up costing 35 bucks again, why would I want to buy it, much less buy the 5 that I want to buy. But again, it does not make sense: The RP foundation is a non profit, they are not in it to make as many bucks as possible or play games like this. I think they might VASTLY underestimate the demand for such a low priced yet powerful product.
    Just the system integration prospects are staggering: You could build a fully functional computer for about 40 bucks and lowball every other seller out there, nothing would even come close. The perfect product for the third world or anywhere where price is of utmost importance.

  • nigra truo

    Wow man, you can spend 5 dollars, but don’t have money for 35???? You might not want to buy computers, you might be starving and need food more urgently.

  • nigra truo

    Thanks for the info, I will go hunt for some. So far I assumed that there was zip zero nada chance to even get a zero anywhere. I think they might want to do a thing where they sell them in 3 or 4 pack units minimum, to reduce overhead and the low margin.

  • Lizergsav Dietilamid

    Rendeld meg ebayről.

  • Shilon Kabiraj

    when its available in India.

  • Rolf Hansmann

    I strongly believe that it is still not possible to produce the PI Zero for 5€ and that’s why there is no stock even more than a year after launch. If you show me one shop in the Internet selling it for 5 € and having it in stock it might prove the opposite. I just try it for more than a year now and would pay more. I don’t want to be pulled over the table with paying 15€ for a set including some cables I can buy for 2€ elsewhere.

  • Curtis Newton

    so when ?

  • Marek Novak

    Well, 9 months later and it’s still a problem to get it… Bought one from Adafruit, but there’s a limit 1 per order. Which sucks for people not in the US. With the postage this $5 computer’s price increases drastically.
    No good supplier in Australia either…

  • rahlquist

    Funny, here we sit a year later and still scarcity and purchase limits. They are easier to get but still arent what I would call a mainstream available product. Would love to see an update on WHY.

  • nigra truo

    This is not going to change. The 5 dollar zero is an extremely attractive product, the cheapest full fledged computer by far, demand is astronomical. I’m sure they could sell 50 Million of these without problems. If only the raspberry Pi foundation had taken this opportunity (as far as I know) to manufacture the computer themselves. We would not have sufficient stock if China produced them, but like this the limit one per customer will probably be a permanent feature.

  • nigra truo

    I have bought several zeros for 5 dollars, so they do exist. The problem is that since you can only buy one per order, you pay a lot for shipping, but I have managed several times to just buy the zero, no addons, so it must be possible to produce them. It is just that demand probably outstrips offer by a factor of 100 fold.

  • Curtis Newton

    that pi zero is a joke, a bad one

  • Martin Kessel

    We need 100 or more for a project. It is not possible to get even one. We are now really thinking back and forth using either zero or compute module. But compute module is way more expensive and you still need all connectors and stuff…

  • Mahmoud Darweash

    If you could arrange for a continous supply, you will kill the black market.. black market owners who will buy in large numbers won’t be able to sell because consumer can get it directly from you …