Overengineering A USB 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.


39 thoughts on “Overengineering A USB Hub

  1. 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…

      1. 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…

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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

  6. 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. :)

    1. Keyboard, mouse, monitor (= hub), ant+ stick, printer, rather permanently.

      Occasionally: Webcam, USB stick, USB hard drive, two-factor bank authentication device, phone, AVR programmer, Arduino, and possibly other things.

      As an example.

      1. I plug many of those devices in using other interfaces. I have only ever used a USB keyboard, mouse, and flash drive. Oh and cameras too. I don’t use a camera and a flash drive at the same time though. So for me the limit is, a keyboard, mouse, and either a camera, or a flash drive.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.)

  9. 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?

  10. 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]

  11. 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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