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The Raspberry Pi has firmly established itself as a household name by providing a hands-on way to learn programming in a small, simple, and very affordable package. First released just over 4 years ago in February 2012, the device can not only handle many of the tasks expected of a full desktop computer, but it has also become a favourite in the digital maker community. The size and flexibility of the Raspberry Pi lends itself to use in a vast array of projects and purposes; from music machines to weather stations and anything in-between, and it has proved a great enabler for the evolving connected world.
Since 2013 the Raspberry Pi Foundation has been continuing to develop their products with Cadence tools, specifically using the OrCAD and Allegro Schematic PCB Design Suites. The newest model, the Raspberry Pi Zero, sold out almost immediately, and provides the computing power of a full Raspberry Pi (including a 40% higher CPU clock speed at 1GHz) in a package 2.5X smaller by area. Perhaps the most exceptional element of this is the extremely low price point of $5. With their Raspberry Pi Compute Module, the Foundation have taken a step further towards their ethos of accessibility by making the full design files available online (licensed under a modified BSD license). This includes the Cadence OrCAD schematic file, Cadence Allegro PCB file and the full board Gerbers, bill of materials (BOM) and PDF version of the schematic. This will allow students, companies, or just enterprising individuals, to easily modify the design, or take the Gerber files to create copies as needed – all that is required is access to a Cadence PCB development suite (either OrCAD or Allegro tools).
This open-source attitude permeates throughout the Raspberry Pi community, as exemplified by Pi-Top, a startup who launched their Raspberry Pi laptop product after a successful Indiegogo campaign in 2014. The DIY kit teaches both coding and hardware skills, and developing the product with Cadence tools allowed them to overcome problems such as reducing electromagnetic interference (EMI) for the HDMI signals. Pi-Top are also driving progress to make hardware accessible to all, and have released the Cadence files for the design as open-source too. See the video below where Parallel Systems interview the co-founders of Pi-Top about the ideas and thought process behind their successful product.
A student “lite” version of OrCAD Capture and PSpice is available for free to provide students with a tool suite ready for them to develop their skills as well as carry out coursework and lab work.