The Raspberry Pi Foundation is increasing production of the Raspberry Pi Zero so it can be used to build ventilators during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, reports Tom’s Hardware.
According to CEO and Founder of Raspberry Pi, Eben Upton, 192,000 Pi Zero and Zero W computers were produced in the first quarter of this year, but they plan to increase this number to 250,000.
Why the Pi Zero
The Pi Zero is the least powerful of all the Raspberry Pi computers, offering a single-core 1GHz CPU and just 512MB RAM.
However, according to Upton, the Raspberry Pi Zero is popular with ventilator makers precisely because of its low computing power.
“I believe the interest in Zero is mostly down to it offering enough compute for the relatively modest requirements of a ventilator (potentially control air-handling components at fairly low frequency, handle a simple user interface),” said Upton.
“Although I know some of the approaches out there (not sure if we’re engaged with any of these) aim to scale production of the sort of lightweight ventilator they use in ambulances, so size may also be a factor.”
Easy to produce
Upton explained that it is much easier for the Raspberry Pi foundation to make its products than it is for other computer makers, making the Raspberry Pi a go-to option during the pandemic.
“One of the main challenges with rapidly scaling manufacture of products like this is that you may be able to surge production of the air-handling elements, but you still need to provide the control element: often the components you need are on 20-week lead times and (hopefully) we’ll be out of the other side of this pandemic by then,” said Upton.
“Raspberry Pi ‘builds to stock’ rather than ‘building to order,’ so we generally have products either on-hand or in the pipeline with short lead times.”