Recreating A Non-Standard USB Cable

USB is a well-defined standard for which there are a reasonable array of connectors for product designers to use in whatever their application is. Which of course means that so many manufacturers have resorted to using proprietary connectors, probably to ensure that replacements are suitably overpriced. [Teaching Tech] had this problem with a fancy in-car video device, but rather than admit defeat with a missing cable, he decided to create his own replacement from scratch.

The plug in use was a multi-way round design probably chosen to match the harshness of the automotive environment. The first solution was to hook up a USB cable to a set of loose pins, but after a search to find the perfect-fitting set of pins a 3D printed housing was designed to replace the shell of the original. There’s an ouch moment in the video below the break as he receives a hot glue burn while assembling the final cable, but the result is a working and easy to use cable that allows access to all the device functions. Something to remember, next time you have a proprietary cable that’s gone missing.

31 thoughts on “Recreating A Non-Standard USB Cable

  1. Haha, l just know I couldn’t take the effort for the outerjhousing. I’d just put some oversized heatshrink around all of them and fill the cavities with cold hotglue and them put the hotairgun on it.

    Also, in the end of the video it shows modular connectors from housing to pcb, that is more likely where I would have broken in and added a standard USB socket…

    But the demo is a good show and tell for the design and thoughts

    1. I was thinking something similar but with epoxy.
      Hot glue would be a lot easier yet but does it survive sitting inside a hot car parked in the sun?

      The nice thing about the 3d printed solution though is that now he can just re-print that same file and get as many connectors as he wants and can even share that file with the internet if he is so inclined.

      1. I believe it will survive car temperatures, but then again, the USB is for setting up only, right? Just place back the dustcap afterwards.

        The effort and sharing is absolutely worth this work, true :)

      2. I once used hot glue fix a car’s radiator fan shroud, which sits in a the engine bay of a hot car in the sun with hot radiator exhaust air blowing on it. It’s held up so far. Wasn’t even high-temp hot glue.

  2. That’s a great example of a really cool project and implementation, which unfortunately was entirely unnecessary.

    He could’ve just purchased a HRS HR30 series connector, part number HR30-6P-6P.

    On the other hand, then he wouldn’t have been able to make a video.

      1. He says he did it because he couldn’t find a replacement cable and thought it was a proprietary connector. I’m pretty sure he has other things he would rather be doing and would rather just buy the connector.

    1. The problem with identifying a HRS HR30 series connector is that you need to know beforehand that it’s a HRS HR30 series connector.

      These sorts of circular pinned connectors have such an absurdly vast taxonomy that identification without already knowing that the Mystery Connector in Question is a certain type is nearly impossible.
      Even if you nail down:
      – Shield OD
      – Shield ID
      – Pin count
      – Populated pincount (is is a 7-pin connector, or is it a 9-pin connector with two missing pins?)
      – Pin layout
      – Pin diameter
      – Key presence
      – Key geometry
      – Key orientation
      – Multiple keys

      Then you have the gargantuan task of first learning every connector manufacturer in existence, then acquiring datasheets for their entire catalogue (which may only be available on request, or may not be available at all without a heft MOQ), then creating your own database of all those relevant parameters across those metaphorical stack of PDFs in order to filter down to only connectors that appear to be a match. Then ordering a bunch of connectors and figuring out which ones actually fit the tolerances of the port you have available.

        1. I also had good luck contacting the supplier of the equipment. Surprisingly they often don’t mind telling what the connector is, but the pinout is super secret (while that information can easily be worked out with a multi-meter).

        2. Cunningham’s Law states “the best way to get the right answer on the internet is not to ask a question; it’s to post the wrong answer.” If it were me, I’d expect to get zero responses to my question and…well, this many of responses to my video, lol.

          1. People post connectors all the time on the electrical engineering or ask electronics subreddits and they generally get good responses.

      1. Yes, however you could also ask on a forum and afaik the evil Google supports searching for an image directly. But sometimes the connector is really unobtainium (because nobody knows the part number or MOQ or … ) and in this case you have to be creative.

      2. This exactly. I spent hours trying to find a replacement for a connector I had in hand. I knew it was Hirose and I still couldn’t find a good guide to the model numbering. I ended up buying a pair of multipin plugs and replacing both sides.

        1. What motivation does the manufacturer have to make it easy, since all make it necessary to have an expensive decoder ring to decipher their cryptic part numbers. Even if you follow their chart order supposedly like type connectors half the time they don’t even fit. Its quite the clown show.

      3. If you watch the video, that’s all taken care of by the datasheet and the cable drawings page he found on VBOX’s site to begin with.

        Contacting them for clarity on the connector’s PN would have been an option too.

        1. This! You can’t call something unavailable if you didn’t even try to contact the manufacturer. It might not be listed on their website, but I’d bet dollars to donuts that it’s on a shelf somewhere and if you’re nice enough, you might be able to get vbox support to try and help you.

    2. whoa, whoa. this surely took less than a day, which is way less than you would have to wait for the part to arrive from Amazon etc. Plus there’s no availability of these connectors in some places (can’t get them here – there’s one 4-pin HR10a and a “hirose 7pin” for sale locally, and you can’t get anything imported without hitting your head to a customs-shaped wall.

      1. There is a big difference between taking a day to make this and waiting a few days. You can do other things whilst waiting for something to arrive, you know.

        This also wasn’t an urgent fix, it was a convenience fix, he could afford to wait and already managed to get a janky connection working without designing a whole housing for it.

        He is somewhere where he can probably pretty easily get just about any electronic parts delivered relatively quickly.

        1. I clearly didn’t watch the video, but if all he needed was a one-time connection (or a cable to use occasionally) then yes, the whole housing wasn’t really needed. but getting the connector wouldn’t be necessary either. I would have printed the part that holds the pins, soldered an usb cable to it, bit of heatshrink and maybe hotglue, and called it a day.

          But he made a video out of the process, which is okay. Knowing how to do this if you don’t have access to the actual part (very old connector no longer in production or, in my case, too much effort and shipping time) is rather valuable. 3d printing just makes it easier. I have been spoiled by same-day shipping of replacement parts and electronics components, so waiting 5 days for a project that can take 1 hour of your time sounds stupid to me.

  3. People ready to spend countless hours redoing something that exist, working like in Plato´s Cavern, and miss the most important point:
    “why are two PCB tracks on a USB connector shorter than the others?”

    3D printers became for some the universal hammer they are ready to hit screws with.
    Then HaD comes and glorifies this as “ingenuity” , while it´s merely “monkey see, monkey do, monkey does not ask himself questions”

  4. My guess is he didn’t have the time to wait for ordering a kit for that USB style, so the quicker route for him was prob just to make it… My guess anyways from personal experience.

    Very nice thou. Hope that burn heals up my man. Thanks for the video.

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