Overengineering A USB Hub

hub

Like many of us, I’m sure, [Nick] doesn’t like digging around behind his computer case for a spare USB port and ended up buying a small USB hub for his desk. The hub worked perfectly, but then [Nick] realized an Ethernet port would be a nice addition. And a DC power supply. Then feature creep set in.

What [Nick] ended up building is a monstrosity of a desk hub with two 24V,  5V, 3.3V 50 Watt DC outputs on banana plugs, a five-port USB hub, four-port Ethernet switch, three mains sockets, 32 digital I/Os, UART, SPI, and I2C ports, a 24×4 LCD or displaying DC current usage and serial input, cooling fans, and a buzzer just or kicks.

The case is constructed out of 6mm laser cut acrylic, and the electronics are admittedly a bit messy. That said, this box does seem very useful and even plays the theme from Mario Brothers, as seen in  the video below.

Comments

  1. thoriumbr says:

    Calling this “USB hub” is like saying a RasPi is a calculator…
    Electronics can be messy inside, but the outside is very nice!

  2. Rob says:

    I’ve recently been considering something like this, but without the logic-y parts (save for the micro that would do the measurements and drive the display). This is wild. And a great example of how feature-creep isn’t always a bad thing…

  3. JRDM says:

    DC banana jacks with metal knobs? I realize those PSUs probably has short circuit protections, but it still looks like accidents waiting to happen.

  4. Zane says:

    Doesn’t have a beer tap and coffee machine; needs more engineering.

  5. Harvie.CZ says:

    Why?

    • Zez0 says:

      Why not?

    • notmyfault2000 says:

      You, sir, are on the wrong site.

      Also mods sorry for the report I clicked the wrong button.

      • Harvie.CZ says:

        Well… puting ac mains, usb hub, ethernet switch and power supplies in to single box doesn’t seem usefull to me… to me this seems like ducttaping everything i have on table together…

        However i like the amperage monitor… Would be cool to have variable voltage output with current limiting (=bench supply) too.

        And in separate box i’d like to have something like “USB dock” with USB hub (with high amperage output for charging), USB soundcard, USB ethernet port and USB graphics. So i just have to connect single USB to my laptop when i came home to get network, audio output big speakers and optional second LCD monitor… however USB speeds cant handle all of this through hub i guess…

    • steel_9 says:

      Science isn’t about why, It’s about why not

      – Cave Johnson

  6. Kaspokas says:

    This is really beautiful, damn.
    I would still be worried about those main outlets and the messy wiring, though.
    Adding some signal generators might be a nice next step.

  7. Analog says:

    All things considered, still a nice build.

  8. Les-M says:

    Maybe the next feature to be added could be a variac and a mains isolating transformer to go with it. I am also disappointed that the coffee dispenser appears to be missing.

  9. NachtRitter says:

    Funny… when I first looked at it I thought “That’s crazy!” But then I thought about how many times I’ve had to find a spare USB port, a spare wall socket, and a spare Ethernet port just to connect something temporarily… sometimes takes longer to free up the connectors than the time the thing is actually plugged in!

  10. asdf says:

    Because it’s Australian, “That’s not a USB Hub, THIS is a USB Hub” would be a great caption.

  11. Kevin G. says:

    That is one sexy USB hub.

  12. Osgeld says:

    while not going to this extent I have been seriously considering a breakout box for my computer as its under the desk and everyone loves ass in air… thinking about bringing a usb hub (4 -7 port), rs232, lpt, av in (i work a lot with old computers and video game systems) and VGA so I dont have to fumble behind my monitor trying to find that second input when working on a PC that doesnt live there

  13. asheets says:

    There aren’t enough ports on that hub. OTOH, there are never enough ports.

  14. technolomaniac says:

    Nice build however I’d need more USB ports. I think I use maybe 8 or 9 at any time already and sometimes as many as 10 or 11. Also what about desk real estate? I’ve got two thin-line Belkin USB hubs velcro’d to the back of my desk between the desk and the wall. I have 2×7 ports each, both powered. Seems to cover most of the dev boards and the other nonsense I have plugged in (Wacom, 3D mouse, keyboards, scope, LAX, printers (2D, 2x3D, etc). I favor keeping it all cabled.

    I like the DC supply and other such tho. Been using an ATX power supply for a lot of this just mounted to the bottom of my desk and wired to a custom PCB with lugs / banana jacks. Would be nice to have acrylic or something around it so I stop banging my bloody knee on the corner of it! Nice work! Ugly on the inside, handsome on the outside. :)

  15. pcf11 says:

    I cannot recall ever plugging in more than 3 USB devices to one PC at a time yet.

  16. fartface says:

    It needs to be able to walk, and send email….

  17. SYNTRONIKS says:

    I could use something like this at work

  18. Chris C. says:

    This kind of feature creep doesn’t stop once the project is done. ;) It’s nice, but long-term, I think [Nick] would have been better served by some sort of modular rack-mount system.

  19. Hirudinea says:

    Holy snappin’ crap! If Victor Frankenstein had a USB hub in his lab this would be it.

  20. I like this thing, if I had it on my workbench I would use the heck out of it. Maybe if it had switches on the banana outputs and a variable voltage would be nice too!

  21. Tony says:

    No USB3?

    Throw it away and start again.

    Then he can add the eSata as well. Ok, no-one ever uses it but it might come in handy one day.

    I wonder why he spent so much time fiddling with the current measuring stuff, there’s plenty of those LED module thingys around.

    And stop doing finger joints (and bolts) on acrylic. It just looks weird. Get some solvent and bond it together. (Bar the base, of course, but you knew that.)

  22. Biomed says:

    How much longer till the production model goes on sale? Do we get to pick from a few different models?. I could use two of these with 4 to 6 ports eack built to fit the bottom edge of my monitors… slimline.

    Paypal? Overnight?

  23. Erin Lassley says:

    Love the switchable Aussie outlets. I wish we could get the U.S. version here in the states. They are alarmingly simple to wire up and Aussie codes don’t require a junction box to operate – so easy to install too.

  24. NiN says:

    Very nice build, and excellent write-up.

  25. Irish says:

    I give [Nick] many kudos for finding a solution to a problem he discovered he had. This is an excellent build that many could use as a launchpad to rectify their own benchtop problem. I could envision something like this on the bench of most everyone here with feature changes appropriate for their own unique situation. If people could stop complaining long enough to think about the project, great things could happen. Great job to [Nick]

  26. Leonard says:

    Replace the mains sockets with analog vu-type metering displays!
    Mains, .. i don’t wan to be mean, but you know it’s just mains.. it’s not advanced electron plumbing. What is? I don’t know! Good build! :)

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