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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?

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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

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.


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Comments

  1. Landon says:

    Nice post. I’ve been looking to get the 10.1″ touch screen from chalk-elec.com but they are out of stock on everything and have been for a little while. It’s a shame, this article would have brought them a ton of sales.

    1. Michael Castor says:

      They seem to sell quickly. I visited the site frequently until they got some in. I had a great experience with the company, however I’ve heard mixed reports from others. YMMV.

  2. Tim Johnson says:

    Nice build. I have one with a 12.1″ touch screen with two batteries 12VDC @2.3Ahr each, which is very close in power to your 5VDC @10Ahr battery. Since my blog post I have added an Arduino voltage meter and an Arduino clock with a 2.8″ touch screen. http://timjjohnson.com/wordpress/

    1. Michael Castor says:

      Nice! I’ll check it out!

  3. ameyring says:

    Nice! A good project to build something that goes with my decor!

    1. Michael Castor says:

      Your decor is wood and carbon fiber? I wish my wife would left me get away with that!

  4. Awesome to see you blogged about it. It’s beautiful!

    1. Michael Castor says:

      Hey Drew – about time, right?

  5. twnova3d says:

    Hello friends
    Nowadays, 3D Printer becomes more and more attention, it has also been widely used in various industries, what are your 3D Printer for 2014? My 3D Printer is Nova, what printer with you?
    I would like to know about everyone, and also like to share new ideas with all

  6. Darkviper039 says:

    I have the same battery for my Galaxy S3 to play Ingress since it is a battery hog and I absolutely love it

    1. Michael Castor says:

      Yeah – it’s a beast! I had to shop around until I found a charger that would output 3A and had a big enough battery. I only wish it provided power when charging – my only gripe.

  7. Mark says:

    Great article and great build. This is such an inspiring project. Nothing I love more than seeing pioneers of this technology bring it to new levels. Thanks for sharing :-)

  8. Federico says:

    Very nice!!!

    1. Michael Castor says:

      Thanks!

  9. George says:

    That sounds like a great project. Furthermore, since it has the USB you can still program external devices. Were you able to connect sound using the HDMI, or did you have to use one of the other ports for that?

    1. George says:

      I just saw that you made a port for the headphone jack. What is that silver port above the headphone jack, though?

      1. Michael Castor says:

        Hello,

        Yes – the USB port is attached to an on-board powered hub. I usually attach a non-powered hub and hook up a keyboard and an Arduino for programming. It works very well for this.

        I’m using the Pi’s audio jack (I basically hacked together an extension cable), however the output is line-level. I’m using an external FIIO E5 headphone amplifier so it will happily drive headphones.

        The silver port above the headphone jack is actually an LED ringed power button that I picked up from Adafruit. It’s nice because I can tell visually when the system is powered on or if the battery dies.

  10. jschultz says:

    How easily could someone make a simple 10″ e-book reader with Rasberry Pi? Are e-ink touchscreens available for a project of that type? I’ve been wanting a good e-book reader with a big screen and standard batteries that would go for a while without being charged.

    1. Michael Castor says:

      I’d say it would be pretty easy if you had the right display converter. You might want to check out the Pixel Qi screen / LVDS combo they have over at Adafruit (http://www.adafruit.com/products/1303).

  11. pizzaboy192 says:

    Saw this via reddit and thought it was awesome.

    As for the battery, I do have a suggestion. My Anker Astro E3 lets me charge while it charges. There is the possibility that the newer E4 and E5 do as well, but it’s a possible solution. It’s got 2 output sockets, 1 is 1A and the other is a 2A. 13,000mAh also makes it tempting. You’d probably be able to crack it open to thin it out a bit.

    1. Michael Castor says:

      Thanks! I’ll give one of these a try if / when I build another.

  12. pat p says:

    nice work!

  13. Hareesh G S says:

    Congrats for the work.Thanks for the post.

  14. Dude your PiPad is really cool. I think you could have your own niche with this. I love the Raspberry Pi and this is a cool project. Good luck!

    1. Michael Castor says:

      Thanks for the kind words!

  15. Xander18 says:

    I would love to build one of these before too long. Does anyone have a CAD file for the LCD so I can start working on a case design?

    1. Michael Castor says:

      Hello,

      You can find the CAD files I used here: http://l.bitcasa.com/9z3OrXa8

  16. […] [Michael Castor] wanted a tablet, but not just any tablet. He wanted an all-in-one system running Linux, and he wanted it to look good. So he made himself a wooden PiPad. […]

  17. Sebu says:

    Hi!
    Nice work!
    How do you switch between raspbian and raspbmc?

    1. Michael Castor says:

      I swap between two SD cards.

  18. […] Él quería un sistema todo en uno que ejecutase linux y quería que se viese bien por lo que decidió fabricarselo el mismo creándose un PiPad de […]

  19. Mateusz says:

    Can I ask what’s the weight? I don’t seem to be able to find info on that in your article? Thanks!

  20. […] alle prime armi ed utenti più esperti, torna protagonista in un Tablet Fai-Da-Te. Sul sito makezine potete infatti trovare una guida su come realizzare un Tablet basato sulla scheda Raspberry Pi […]

  21. […] but it seems that they all look about the same and accomplish roughly the same thing, Castor wrote on Makezine. “When I set out to build my Raspberry Pi tablet I wanted something different. I wanted an […]

  22. 火书 says:

    […] , 来源:MakeZine , via:The […]

  23. […] alle prime armi e quelli più esperti, torna protagonista in un Tablet Fai-Da-Te. Sul sito makezine potete trovare una guida su come realizzare un Tablet basato sulla scheda Raspberry Pi […]

  24. […] het precies op die manier. In het dagelijks leven is hij werkzaam bij MAKE, waar hij dan ook een artikel heeft geplaatst over zijn PiPad. Zijn project kwam voort uit onvrede over de beschikbare […]

  25. […] alle prime armi ed utenti più esperti, torna protagonista in un Tablet Fai-Da-Te. Sul sito makezine potete infatti trovare una guida su come realizzare un Tablet basato sulla scheda Raspberry Pi […]

  26. […] – так назвал Майкл Кастор свой планшет на Raspberry […]

  27. […] te bouwen moest Castor in totaal twee weken zagen, schroeven en solderen, schrijft de uitvinder op Makezine. Daarna nam hij het apparaat mee in het vliegtuig naar San Francisco, waar hij geen problemen had […]

  28. […] Go here to read the rest: How I Built a Raspberry Pi Tablet | MAKE […]

  29. […] Click here to view original web page at makezine.com […]

  30. […] vrei să știi cum să îți construiești o tabletă din Raspberry Pi-ul tău? Nici o problemă, tipul ăsta a făcut-o și îți pune la dispoziție nu doar pașii ci și fișierele de […]

  31. […] have a look at the entrants to our Raspberry Pi Design Contest from last year. Also check out the Raspberry Pi tablet–the Pi Pad. This projects will be featured in MAKE Vol. 38, on sale March […]

  32. […] leggero e veloce, ma sembra che tutti facciano più o meno la stessa cosa”, scrive Castor su Makezine. “Quando ho deciso di costruire il mio tablet Raspberry Pi volevo qualcosa di diverso. Volevo […]

  33. […] Obviamente ele não tem pretensões comerciais, mas é muito interessante notar como a facilidade de acesso a informação, ferramentas e material nos permite construir praticamente qualquer coisa hoje em dia. Abaixo, uma imagem da caixa aberta. Para maiores informações, veja o artigo que ele escreveu detalhando o processo de montagem/fabricação do brinquedo. […]

  34. […] O projecto PiPad consiste na transformação de um Raspberry PI num tablet. Este “equipamento” foi concebido por Michael Castor e pode ser consultado ao detalhe aqui. […]

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