You’ve probably heard of the Raspberry Pi 4 board and how it can replace your desktop computer and build many different projects from robots to retro game consoles.

But have you heard of the Raspberry Pi Compute Module Series?

What is it? What can it do? We will find out about them through this guide! This guide will cover:

  • What is the Raspberry Pi Compute Module
  • Latest Raspberry Pi Compute Module – Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3+ (CM3+)
  • What can the Raspberry Pi Compute Module do?

What is the Raspberry Pi Compute Module?

(Add photo of Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3+)

At first, when you first see the Raspberry Pi Compute Module, it may remind you of the Raspberry Pi Zero. However, they are nothing like them.

Seeing how the Raspberry Pi was embedded into systems and products, the Raspberry Pi Foundation released the Compute Module to allow users to use the Raspberry Pi technology in a more flexible form and at a lower cost.

The Compute Module is designed for use in custom devices where capabilities of the Pi are desired but due to their size, don’t fit. What you are seeing now is a Raspberry Pi shrunken down to fit on a SODIMM (Same type of connector used for laptop memory) with onboard memory whose connectors can be customized to suit the user needs.

With the full flexibility of the Raspberry Pi CPU, this means more GPIOs and interfaces available compared to the Raspberry Pi board allowing users to design the module into a custom system easier.

With this in mind, the compute module is primarily designed for those who are going to create their own PCB. Many compute module IO boards have also been developed like the one shown below to help designers to get started:

Now that you know what is the Raspberry Pi Compute Module, let us look at the latest Compute Module, the Compute Module 3+ (CM3+) and see what it offers.


Latest Raspberry Pi Compute Module – Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3+ (CM3+)

Introducing the latest Compute – Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3+ which contains the gut of Raspberry Pi 3B+ with ten times the ARM performance, twice the RAM capacity, and up to eight times the Flash capacity of the original Compute Module.

Standing at only 67.6mm × 31mm, the board fits into a standard DDR2 SODIMM connector. The Flash memory is connected directly to the processor on the board, but the remaining processor interfaces are available to the user via the connector pins.

You get the full flexibility of the BCM2837 SoC (which means that many more GPIOs and interfaces are available than with a standard Raspberry Pi), and designing the Module into a custom system should be relatively straightforward because we’ve put all the tricky bits onto the Module itself.

Need help getting started with the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3+? we have released a PoE extension board – Raspberry Pi Compute Module IO Board with PoE Feature, for Raspberry Pi CM3 / CM3L / CM3+ / CM3+L for you to choose from. This extension board includes many accessible interfaces for all your development requirements.

We have more good news! Compared to the previous versions, the CM3+ features an improved PCB thermal design and together with the new BCM2837B0 processor, the CM3+ has better thermal behaviour under load. It has more thermal mass and can draw heat away from the processor faster than CM3. This can translate into lower average temperatures and/or longer sustained operation under heavy load before the processor hits 80°C and begins to reduce its clock speed.

The Raspberry Pi Compute Module CM3+ comes in variants with on-board Flash memory or no flash memory at all! It’s your choice! Currently, we offer:

CM3+/Lite $25
CM3+/32GB $40

Tech Specifications

CPUBCM2837B0, Cortex-A53 64-bit Soc @ 1.2GHz
StorageLite – 1GB LPDDR2 SDRAM

32 GB – 1GB LPDDR2 SDRAM, 32GB onboard eMMC
MultimediaH.264, MPEG – 4 decode (1080p30)

H.264 encode (1080p30)

OpenGL ES 1.1, 2.0 graphics
Operating Temperature -20 to +70º C
Operating SystemNOOBS 3.0.0 (released 16 November 2018) or later

Do note that the Compute module will need a recent version of the Raspberry Pi firmware (and operating system such as Raspbian) to operate correctly.


What can the Raspberry Pi Compute Module do?

Now you know how powerful the Compute Module is, what can it do?

Well, what the Raspberry Pi Compute Module can do is up to you as possibilities are endless with how flexible it is. We do not have a definite answer!

With its small size and layout compared to the Raspberry Pi Boards, they can be embedded in many projects and places.
Consumer boards like the Raspberry Pi 4, they only provide you with a subset of features. Imagine having a Raspberry Pi that is tailored exactly for your needs that function the way you want it to, that is what the Raspberry Pi Compute Module can do. Just design your own carrier board with power supply and connections you want and add your own bits to it to suit whatever you are doing.

Want to get started with designing your own boards and PCB with the Compute module? You can consider our
Fusion PCB & PCB Assembly service! Our Seeed Fusion Service offers one-stop prototyping services for PCB manufacture,PCB assembly and other electronic and mechanical customized services such as CNC Milling, 3D printing and PCB layout services.

Why pick us? Well here are a few reasons:

  • Instant Online Quote without hidden costs
  • Quick turnaround with 24 hours build time
  • Over 10 years Industrial Expertise
  • Professional and Considerate technical support
  • Free online Design for Manufacture (DFM) Review
  • A Complete Service: From Electronic to Mechanical
  • Quality Guaranteed: Free Reproduction if needed

With our PCB service, you can now build your own custom board to use with the Compute Module. You can check out this amazing tutorial by Manolis Agkopian where he takes the reader through the process of creating and designing your very own Raspberry Pi compute module PCB. For more hardware design guidelines, you can also check out the Compute Module Datasheet. If you want an example of what the Compute module can do with a customised carrier board, you can check out this stereoscopic camera on Hackaday by Jenny List!


Summary

As you can see, starting at only $25, the Raspberry Pi Compute Module is capable of many things with the core Raspberry Pi technology in a form factor. If you want to create a Raspberry Pi-based product but found the Model A or B Raspberry Pi boards did not fit their needs, with the Compute Module and a simple low-tech carrier PCB you can do whatever you want.

Interested? Get a Raspberry Pi Compute Module now!

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