Need some chips? The Raspberry Pi Pico's RP2040 is heading to a channel near you

40k units now, but 'serious volume' to arrive after the summer


Short of silicon? The Raspberry team has elected bring forward the availability of its RP2040 chippery to a wider audience, with an eye on potential customers who are struggling to secure supplies of microcontrollers.

The RP2040 debuted in January and turned up on the $4 Pi Pico board. As well a dual-core Arm Cortex M0+ pottering along at 133MHz, 264kB of on-chip RAM was present. Not a particularly beefy unit when compared others in the Pi range, but considerably more than adequate as a microcontroller.

Since launch, 600,000 Pi Picos have been shipped, although actually getting hold of the chip itself has proven tricky. The likes of Adafruit and Pimoroni had access to the platform ahead of launch and so have RP2040-based products ready to go (such as Pimoroni's Keybow 2040) but other than a favoured few customers picked up since launch, the RP2040 chip has not featured in the network of Approved Resellers (AR).

The ongoing semiconductor shortage has, however, made the RP2040 chip an attractive proposition for makers and industry alike as assembly and development of products has stuttered.

"Based on this experience," Raspberry Pi CEO Eben Upton told The Register, "we've decided to pull about 40ku of RP2040 out of the supply chain and boot up single-unit sales via ARs roughly three months earlier than we'd intended."

While 40k units won't put much of a dent in the immediate shortage, it will give time for those interested in the chip to develop projects and products ahead of serious volume coming on stream later this year.

"The single-unit price for RP2040 is $1," said Upton, "although a 10-20c external QSPI Flash is required to store program code."

Upton reckoned that pretty much anything that needs a microcontroller would be a candidate, before wryly noting "and particularly anything that's currently suffering due to a shortage of *other* microcontrollers."

"We're still figuring out what reel-scale pricing will look like in the autumn, but I'm expecting it to be significantly lower than that."

While $1 may seem relatively inexpensive (certainly for the power on offer), micro controllers typically sell for considerably less. As such, that first 40k units will be handy for limited early productions and development. Getting to reel-scale pricing will be key.

As for the other products in the Raspberry Pi line-up, Upton praised the foundation's suppliers and told us that "at worst things are currently hand-to-mouth on some products." Component shortages were cited as one of the factors at the recent launch of the POE+ HAT.

2.1m units were shipped in Q1, roughly made up of a million Pi 4 units, 600,000 Pi 3 and 3+ devices, 300,000 Pi Zeros and 200,000 Compute Modules. On top of that are accessories (like the cameras) and approximately 400,000 Pi Picos. ®

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