Pimoroni’s ‘World’s Thinnest Raspberry Pi 3’

The Raspberry Pi is not a chunky computer. Nonetheless, tech treasure merchants Pimoroni observed that at almost 20mm tall, it’s still a little on the large side for some applications. So, in their latest live-streamed YouTube Bilge Tank episode, they stripped a Pi 3 down to the barest of bones.

Pimoroni Thinnest Raspberry Pi 3 desoldered pi

But why?

The Raspberry Pi is easy to connect to peripherals. Grab a standard USB mouse, keyboard, and HDMI display, plug them in, and you’re good to go.

desoldered pi

But it’s possible to connect all these things without the bulky ports, if you’re happy to learn how, and you’re in possession of patience and a soldering iron. You might want to do this if, after prototyping your project using the Pi’s standard ports, you want to embed it as a permanent part of a slimmed-down final build. Safely removing the USB ports, the Ethernet port and GPIO pins lets you fit your Pi into really narrow spaces.

As Jon explains:

A lot of the time people want to integrate a Raspberry Pi into a project where there’s a restricted amount of space. but they still want the power of the Raspberry Pi 3’s processor

While the Raspberry Pi Zero and Zero W are cheaper and have a smaller footprint, you might want to take advantage of the greater power the Pi 3 offers.

How to slim down a Raspberry Pi 3

Removing components is a matter of snipping in the right places and desoldering with a hot air gun and a solder sucker, together with the judicious application of brute force. I should emphasise, as the Pimoroni team do, that this is something you should only do with care, after making sure you know what you’re doing.

Pimoroni Thinnest Raspberry Pi 3 desoldered pi

The project was set to take half an hour, though Jon and Sandy ended up taking slightly more time than planned. You can watch the entire process below.

If Pimoroni’s video has given you ideas, you’ll also want to check out N-O-D-E‘s recent Raspberry Pi 3 Slim build. N-O-D-E takes a similar approach, and adds new micro USB connectors to one end of the board for convenience. If you decide to give something like this a go, please let us know how it went: tell us in the comments, or on Raspberry Pi’s social channels.


tototaribo avatar

don’t miss : you can continue to develop with ssh.

Kimmel avatar

Yeah there have been many times where the RJ45 was getting in the way. Maybe the company should consider selling such a stripped down version without the ports, but of course with the condition to customers that the ethernet, hdmi, etc are not guaranteed to work if someone decides to solder the ports back on later for whatever reason. I wonder if that would also reflect a lower price without those parts and also less testing.

Dougie Lawson avatar

The price would be higher.

The automated production line is building all RPi3s with all standard components inserted in the board before it runs through the solder bath. To change that configuration you’d have to stop the line, reprogram the pick and place machine and restart. You’d also have to mask out the holes to avoid them being filled with solder.

That stoppage time and custom build would increase the cost significantly.

Imadaily avatar

That’s not quite true, I went on a tour of the Sony factory in wales that makes a very large proportion of the Raspberry Pi. The USB and RJ45 sockets are actually installed by hand by three people! I did ask about future changes and they were looking into automating placement of the through-hole components but it sounded like it might take a while to implement.

Reginald Williams avatar

Why not use the Raspberry pi Compute module?

richard avatar

The compute module needs a board to plug into so will not be as thin.

TalkingDragon avatar

Interesting idea but sry I got to say it… Terrible video.. sooo much static and rly rly low volume.. I had headphones and max… Plz consider making a review video so that its more bearable.

Marcel Kume avatar

Awesome Helen!

Harry Hardjono avatar

I wouldn’t go that far, but if I do, I’d also remove the micro USB power. I’d just solder the power wires directly on the board.

Milliways avatar

Surely anyone with the equipment and skill to do this wouldn’t need a video to tell them how.

richard avatar

But it’s fun to watch :)

Michael J Suhovsky avatar

Why doesn’t Pimoroni work with Raspberry Pi Foundation and create a slim version of the Raspberry Pi? This way, those who don’t have experience in this (like me), could own one.

richard avatar

Plenty of freecycle websites for local areas around as well as charity shops. Pickup some old electronics like a radio and start practicing de-soldering. Then not only you could attempt this for yourself you’ll have a skill that could be applicable to any future career.

fanoush avatar

This reminds me, where is model 3A anyway? Cancelled?

elkuku avatar

And of course you could continue with the GPIO ports and solder only the cables you need…

tony1812 avatar

Why not sell it as a kit, not to pre solder the ports and the pin like they do with the Zero? Save a assembly step during manufacturing process. Let the user decide how they want it to be configured.

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