[David] bought the iPod with a dead battery, so when he opened the iPod to get the old battery out, he noticed there was enough space to fit a USB-C connector. The original Apple 30 pin connector runs USB 2.0 through four of the pins, so [David] used the original USB cable and identified the appropriate pins and traces with a continuity tester. The connector was destructively removed with side cutters, ripping off all but one of the pads in the process. A hot air station might have made things easier, but we assume he did not have one on hand. The USB-C connector was scavenged from a cheap USC-C to USB Micro adaptor and mounted by soldering the housing directly to the PCB’s ground plane. The three remaining terminals were soldered to the traces with enamel wire.
With the new battery installed, [David] confirmed that both charging and data transfer worked. The IC that handles the button and scroll pad interfered slightly with the new connector, so he filed away some of the IC’s excess. Any open pads close to the new connector was covered with Kapton tape to avoid shorts. The large hole in the enclosure for the 30 pin connection was partly filled in with five-minute epoxy. The final assembled product looks almost factory produced and works as it’s supposed to, so we call this a win.
USB-C Power Delivery 3.0 (PD3.0) introduces a new Programmable Power Supply (PPS) mode, which allows a device to negotiate any supply of 3.3-21 V in 20 mV steps, and up to 5 A of current in 50 mA steps. To make use of this new standard, [Ryan Ma] create the PD Micro, an Arduino-compatible development board, and a self-contained software library to allow easy integration of PD3.0 and the older PD2.0 into projects.
The dev board is built around an ATMega32U4 microcontroller and FUSB302 USB-C PHY. The four-layer PCB is densely packed on both sides to fit in the Arduino Pro Micro Form factor. The board can deliver up to 100W (20 V at 5 A) from an appropriate power source and shows visual feedback on the PD status through a set of LEDs.
The primary goal of the project is actually in the software. [Ryan] found that existing software libraries for PD take up a lot of memory, and are difficult to integrate into small projects. Working from the PD specifications and PD PHY chip data sheet, he created a lighter weight and self-contained software library which consumes less than 8 K of flash and 1 K of RAM. This is less than half the Flash and RAM available on the ATmega32U4.
Anyone who’s ever put together a bill-of-materials for an electronic device will be familiar with the process of scouring supplier catalogs and data sheets for the best choice of components. The trick is to score the best combination of price and performance for the final product, and for those unused to the process, there are always seemingly identical products with an astonishingly wide variety of prices. It’s a topic [Timon] explores in a Twitter thread, examining a 20-cent in quantity of 100 USB-C socket alongside one that costs only 5 cents, and his teardown provides a fascinating insight into their manufacture.
The parts look so nearly identical that while it’s possible to differentiate between them visually, it’s near impossible to work out which was the cheaper. Some tiny features such as a crack in a metal fold or a bit less plating on the contacts emerge, but even then it’s no guide to the quality as they don’t appear on the same part. It’s only when the metal shell is removed to expose the underlying plastic moulding that more clues emerge, as one moulding is more complex than the other. The more complex moulding provides a better and more reliable fit at the expense of a much more costly moulding process, so at last we can not only identify the more expensive part but also see where the extra cash has gone. It’s a subtle thing, but one that could make a huge difference to the performance of the final assembly and which makes for a fascinating expose for electronic design engineers.
Here at the Hackaday we’ve been enjoying a peculiar side effect of the single-port USB-C world; the increasing availability of programmable DC power supplies in the form of ubiquitous laptop charging bricks. Once the sole domain of barrel jacks or strange rectangular plugs (we’re looking at you Lenovo) it’s become quite common to provide charging via the lingua franca of USB-C Power Delivery. But harnessing those delectable 100W power supplies is all to often the domain of the custom PCBA and firmware hack. What of the power-hungry hacker who wants to integrate Power Delivery in her project? For that we turn to an excellent video by [Brian Lough] describing four common controller ICs and why you might choose one for your next project.
[Brian] starts off with a sorely-needed explainer of what the heck Power Delivery is; a topic with an unfortunate amount of depth. But the main goal of the video is to dive into the inscrutable hoard of “USB C trigger boards.” Typically these take USB on one side and provide a terminal block on the other, possibly with a button or LED as user interface to select voltage and current. We’ve seen these before as laptop barrel jack replacements and TS100 power supplies but it’s hard to tell which of the seemingly-identical selection is most suitable for a project.
The main body of the video is [Brian’s] detailed walkthrough of four types of trigger boards, based on the IP2721, FUSB302, STUSB4500, and Cypress EZ-PD BCR. For each he describes the behaviors of it’s particular IC and how to configure it. His focus is on building a board to power a TS100 (which parallels his TS100 Flex-C-Friend) but the content is generally applicable. Of course we also appreciate his overview of the products on Tindie for each described module.
Bench power supplies are an indispensable tool when prototyping electronics. Being able to set custom voltages and having some sort of current limiting feature are key to making sure that the smoke stays inside all of the parts. Buying a modern bench supply might be a little too expensive though, and converting an ATX power supply can be janky and unreliable. Thanks to the miracle of USB-C, though, you can build your own fully-featured benchtop power supply like [Brian] did without taking up hardly any space, and for only around $12.
USB-C can be used to deliver up to 100W but is limited to a few set voltage levels. For voltages that USB-C doesn’t support, [Brian] turns to an inexpensive ZK-4KX buck-boost DC-DC converter that allows for millivolt-level precision for his supply’s output. Another key aspect of using USB-C is making sure that your power supply can correctly negotiate for the amount of power that it needs. There’s an electronic handshake that goes on over the USB connection, and without it there’s not a useful amount of power that can be delivered. This build includes a small chip for performing this negotiation as well.
With all the electronics taken care of, [Brian] houses all of this in a 3D-printed enclosure complete with a set of banana plugs. While it may not be able to provide the wattage of a modern production unit, for most smaller use cases this would work perfectly. If you already have an ATX supply around, though, you can modify [Brian]’s build using that as the supply and case too.
One of the most appealing aspects of USB-C is that it promises to be a unified power delivery system. You’ll no longer need to have a separate power cords for for your phone, camera, and laptop; physically they’ll all use USB-C connectors, and the circuitry in the charger will know how much juice to send down the line for each gadget. But in reality, we’ve all got at least a few pieces of older equipment that we’re not about to toss in the trash just because it doesn’t support the latest USB spec.
Case in point, the old Canon camera that [Purkkaviritys] modified to take infrared pictures. Instead of abandoning it, he decided to make a custom USB-C charger for its NB-4L batteries. Since they’re just single cell 3.7 V lithium-ions, all he had to do was wire them up to the ubiquitous TP4056 charger module and design a 3D printed case to hold everything together.
He did go the extra mile and replace the SMD charging indicator LEDs on the PCB with 5 mm LEDs embedded into the 3D printed enclosure, though you could certainly skip this step if you were in a hurry. We imagine if you print the enclosure in a light enough color, you should be able to see the original LEDs glowing through the plastic.
Sometimes the most useful hacks aren’t the flashiest, they’re the ones that improve an already great tool and make something better. Through hole components are still the fastest and perhaps most satisfying way to prototype a new electronics project so it’s extra frustrating when the happy hacker discovers their new devboard is too wide to fit in a standard breadboard. [Tobias] had the same thought and redesigned the standard ESP32 “NodeMCU” style devboard to be almost exactly the same, but narrower.
Not to trivialize, but that’s pretty much it. And we love it! The new design retains the great support of the original devboard but adds a few nice tweaks. Obviously there’s the small size change that allows it to fit on a standard 5×5 breadboard leaving sockets available on either side for interfacing. Even in this smaller size [Tobias] managed to retain the boot mode and reset buttons though the overall pinout has changed slightly. And for easier connections ye olde micro USB socket has been swapped for sleek modern USB-C. You have cables for that common standard now, right?
How do you get one? As far as we know [Tobias] isn’t selling these but the design is completely open source and the design, fab, and BOM files are all in the github repository. [Tobias] even went so far as to include the extremely handy interactive BOM to speed up hand assembly. The real trick here is that the board is designed to facilitate the extremely inexpensive turnkey assembly now available from our favorite fab houses, with an example cost of $8/piece for a run of five. The repo includes a properly formatted BOM and fab files to make ordering them a snap. See the bottom of the README for details about what to order.