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PiPad_Gif_600_Med

360 view of my DIY PiPad Raspberry Pi tablet.

It seems that every day a manufacturer comes out with a new tablet computer. Thinner, lighter, faster, but it seems that they all look about the same and accomplish roughly the same things. When I set out to build my Raspberry Pi tablet I wanted something different. I wanted an all-in-one system that was usable, portable, and Linux based. Additionally, it had to look good. Since I wanted to use it on flights the device couldn’t freak out the TSA or the old lady sitting next to me.

PiPad_Front_Side

My custom PiPad tablet.

Early in 2013 I started accumulating parts. The Raspberry Pi runs off of 5V so I knew it could be powered from a cell phone charger. Most touchscreens I could find were 12V though, making the electrical work more complex. After a bit of searching I finally found what I was looking for: a touchscreen monitor with a 5V HDMI to LVDS converter from a site called Chalk-Elec.com. I plugged the screen in as soon as I received it and to my delight it worked perfectly with the Pi, even the capacitive touchscreen. Now I knew my dream of a Raspberry Pi tablet was possible.

According to Parkinson’s Law, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Thus was the case for my Pi tablet. Two weeks before Maker Faire Bay Area I was helping a guy in the Shed Tech Support queue that needed some help with his Maker Faire project. Helping him got my creative juices flowing and I decided I wanted a Maker Faire project too. Crazy – right? I had all the parts and now I had an ambitious deadline that couldn’t allow for expansion. Fortunately I had started some preliminary design work so I *kind of* knew what I was going for. I happened to have access to a CNC machine, some 1/2″ Baltic birch plywood, and a relatively large sheet of scrap carbon fiber laying around to form the basis of the frame.

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(Full parts listing and design files can be found here.)

After several 4am nights I completed the Raspberry Pi tablet (aka, PiPad) the day before my flight. The build wasn’t without its issues (I had to remove one USB port and the Ethernet jack due to clearance problems.), but everything worked and I was happy with the results. But what about the TSA?

IMG_1294

My PiPad caught the attention of the flight attendant, but only because she liked the movie I was watching.

This image was taken while on my flight to San Francisco. It didn’t raise an eyebrow going through security. On the plane though, a flight attendant kept walking by looking closely at the home-built gadget I had on my lap. At one point I could feel her looking over my shoulder and was sure she was going to say something. She nudged me (I thought it was over at this point.) and said, “I love that movie – you’re coming up to the best part!” It turns out that she’d been catching glimpses of “Talladega Nights” that I had playing using RaspBMC. I’ve taken the PiPad on most flights since and no one has said a word.

PiPad_Back

Eben Upton signed the carbon fiber back of my PiPad!

I’d e-mailed Raspberry Pi Foundation founder Eben Upton a few times for work, but didn’t have the chance to meet him at Maker Faire Bay Area. I finally managed to catch up with him at Maker Faire New York though. Eben is probably the most humble, down to earth person I’ve ever met. I really can’t say enough about him. After a long chat I showed him the PiPad. He gave it several compliments and after a few minutes of playing with it, he graciously signed the back at my request. His signature looks amazing on the carbon fiber!

Overall I’m very happy with my Raspberry Pi tablet. It does what I want it to do and has been a great way to demonstrate the capabilities of the Raspberry Pi at Maker Faires. (Perhaps you noticed it?) The 10,000mAh battery provides a usable six hours of run-time and the device gets constant compliments from makers. (Including Bunnie Huang!) I do wish I would have used a battery that provides power while plugged in. Other changes I’d make would be mostly software related. It’s difficult to double-click on icons reliably and the N-Trig touch driver isn’t supported by RaspBMC, (but can be compiled into the kernel if I could ever get it figured out). I’ve also considered adding a camera and an IR sensor… maybe if I build another one.

Michael Castor

Michael Castor

I am the Evangelist for the Maker Shed. It seems that there is no limit to my making interests. I’m a tinkerer at heart and have a passion for solving problems and figuring out how things work. When not working for Make I can be found falling off my unicycle, running in adverse weather conditions, skiing down the nearest hill, restoring vintage motorcycles, or working on my car.


  • Micky

    You know, you should get someone to program a virtual keyboard for you. Could you get a friend to do that or something?

    • kienan vella

      you could probably just use an rpi gpio pin to trigger the launch of a soft keyboard (or put an icon on the dock or something). there are several soft keyboards already available for linux. xvkbd or florence are good candidates for this.

      • Slim18

        or add a bluetooth adapter for bluetooth keyboards

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  • alex

    Where did you get the SD card slot. Also, I cannot open your files

  • http://www.AssafKoss.com Assaf Koss

    Fascinating work. Thanks for sharing this inspiring experiment and results. :-)

    http://www.AssafKoss.com

  • Spencer

    Needs more cowbell.

  • http://batman-news.com David W

    Hello, I’m currently working on a very similar project but need to figure out a way to run a 12v display from a battery, my question is would a step up kit suffice for this?

  • Onedollarshort

    is there a parts list? some where.

  • Steve

    To the comment “I do wish I would have used a battery that provides power while plugged in”, does anybody know of a solution?

    • Zach Beauchamp

      I would recommend buying a battery bank like a Newtrent PowerPak+. They can be charged while in use, have battery status indicator, and provide up to 5v 2.1A output. it would be easy enouvh to modify one and add a proper power button to it

  • RandomGeneration

    Do you have parts list?
    Also I was planning on making something similar to this but i could never find a 5v screen also do you have any ideas for me(as a sort of beginner)? Sort of beginner meaning I’ve had the pi for almost 2 years and played around with it a little, but not a lot with the GPIO
    Thanks

  • Lachlan

    Hello does the power switch just cut the power or execute a line of code to properly shutdown the raspberry? Not trying to bring the design down just worried that if i make a similar device that i will corrupt the SD Card.

    Anyone found any massive batteries that will be able to power a similar device to this for about 10 hours

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