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The Raspberry Pi does not come with a case. Is it safe to rest the device on any dry surface during operation?

For example, would it be safe to place a case-less Rasp Pi directly on the floor of a metal comms cabinet?

Would resting the Rasp Pi upon a conductive surface cause problems or prove dangerous?

  • 9
    Running the Pi flat on a conductive surface is asking for trouble (as is the case for any circuit board!) – berry120 Jun 12 '12 at 23:49
  • Cut holes out in the packging it came in, put in an SD card slip the Pi back in and connect power and LAN. Go to ebay and order a box- Its like a few pounds or dollars. – Piotr Kula Nov 12 '13 at 18:56
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You definitely want to keep it away from any conductive surface, to avoid damaging it. I am currently awaiting a case from adafruit.com . In the short term I have run it on an antistatic mat, and now it is in a lego case I created from my nephew's collection of legos (similar to this one).

  • 4
    Antistatic mats are somewhat conductive, thats how they dissipate the static. I would not recommend using one. – Craig Jul 30 '12 at 21:48
  • @Craig: anti static mats are of the order of 10^5 to 10^8 ohms. Not low enough to conduct enough current to do any damage to the kind of electronics in question (or even to cause misbehaviour I would think) – Martin Thompson Apr 25 '15 at 21:02
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Stay away from conductive surfaces, such as metal, it is very likely to damage your Pi and possibly other devices attached to the Pi.

I frequently recommend a piece of paper as a useful surface for running circuit boards on, but that is only a short term solution, something resembling a real case should be purchased in the long run.

  • 3
    Eh... paper tears easy fom sharp solder joints. Anti-static mat or hard drive bag might work better – Kyle Macey Jun 13 '12 at 0:13
  • Yeah, I should have mentioned that it's a short term solution, answer edited to indicate that. – LovesTha Jun 13 '12 at 0:27
  • At one point houses used to be wired for electricity with the cables insulated only with paper. Using it for your Raspberry Pi certainly can't be that dangerous :) – Kibbee Jul 30 '12 at 20:39
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No conductive surfaces - you run the risk of short-circuits.

I put some stick on feet on mine and stand it on a piece of paper.

You could box it in paper too

5

Think of it as any other computer, you can but shouldn't, even if you were to suspend it by its wires the dust in the air could damage the board.

  • How can dust damage the board? – Alex L Jun 13 '12 at 13:04
  • Dust often kills computers by restricting airflow, resulting in overheating. However, it can also short out contacts - and this is what @Kaminara is talking about. Dust is a whole mixture of stuff - artificial fibres would typically be fine, but things like skin could introduced some resistances, and conducting fibres are definitely possible. This would be especially a problem if moisture is present (high humidity, accidental soda spray, you name it!). – winwaed Jun 18 '12 at 13:02
  • In theory yes, in practice unlikely in ordinary household, school, or office environments. One of the reasons a typical PC gets so dusty is that it has a fan moving a lot of air through - it almost functions like a vortex vacum clearner. The pi lacks a fan, and often a case, so you are likely to see dust accumulation and clean it off before it got very bad. Now if you were somewhere with a lot of metal or perhaps carbon dust in the air, or cooking grease, or something like that.. – Chris Stratton Jul 31 '12 at 4:15
  • Ordinary household dust is not going to do any harm – Martin Thompson Apr 25 '15 at 21:03
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Don't put it on any conductive surface. Others have said this, but I see anti-static bags have been recommended!! Anti-static bags and coverings get this property by being slightly conductive. Great for transporting or storing circuit boards, but not for operating them.

  • Anti-static bags have high resistance on the inside, but not always on the outside – finnw Jun 13 '12 at 20:46
  • Seems a risky thing - why not just use normal plastic which is much more likely to be a good insulator, and much easier to find? – winwaed Jun 13 '12 at 20:47
  • You do not actually want a perfect insulator, because it can allow a charge to build up. Antistatic mats conduct a tiny amount to prevent this. – finnw Jun 13 '12 at 20:50
  • We're talking using it in operation, not storage or transport. Think a normal PCB suspended in air (ie. in a PC). Air is a pretty good insulator at the voltages we're talking about! – winwaed Jun 13 '12 at 20:57
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    With a digital circuit like the pi, there are relatively few delicate, high-impedance points in the circuit that might be adversely affected by something "very slightly" conductive - one possible exception would be the clock crystal, that is, if it is even through hole. – Chris Stratton Jul 30 '12 at 23:50
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Don't run it on a conductive surface, that's a sure way of damaging the Pi, or at least making it unstable. You'll probably end up shorting random points on the board.

Any non conductive surface should be ok - plastic, wood, etc. if you're thinking of building a case should all be fine.

In the short term I'm running mine on the anti-static bag it came in which works a treat (I've run whole PCs this way with no issues.)

3

As others note, use of a low resistance conductive surface is a bad idea.

Use of an entirely insulating surface runs the risk of electrostatic buildup which can damage PCB assemblies. The preferred solution is either a surface which is very slightly conductive and grounded, or supporting the PCB so no electrical contacts are made.

Spraying the bottom of the PCB with a conformal coating is a good idea.
This provides a degree of protection against contact but is more valuable as a protection against longer term contamination and as an ESD protection. There are numerous formal conformal coatings avail;able, but a cheap and reasonably effective coating is polyurethane clear "varnish" available in spray cans for general purpose surface coating purposes. The PCB top can also be sprayed if desired BUT all connectors and mating surfaces would need to be masked to prevent them being coated. Probably not worthwhile overall.

3

The box it came in makes a good temporary case, if you cut a few holes in the sides for the ports.

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