In USB-C Power Delivery (PD) standard, the PPS (Programmable Power Supply) mode is an optional mode that lets you request a non-standard voltage from a charger, with the ability to set a current limit of your choice, too. Having learned this, [Jason] from [Rip It Apart] decided to investigate — could this feature be used for charging Li-Ion battery packs, which need the voltage and current to vary in a specific way throughout the charging process? Turns out, the answer is a resounding “yes”, and thanks to a USB-C tester that’s programmable using Lua scripts, [Jason] shows us how we can use a PPS-capable USB-C charger for topping up our Li-Ion battery packs, in a project named DingoCharge.
The wonderful write-up answers every question you have, starting with a safety disclaimer, and going through everything you might want to know. The GitHub repo hosts not only code but also full installation and usage instructions.
DingoCharge handles more than just Li-Ion batteries — this ought to work with LiFePO4 and lithium titanate batteries, too. [Jason] has been working on Ni-MH and lead-acid support. You can even connect an analog output thermal sensor and have the tester limit the charge process depending on the temperature, showing just how fully-featured a solution the DingoCharge project is.
The amount of effort put into polishing this project is impressive, and now it’s out there for us to take advantage of; all you need is a PPS-capable PSU and a supported USB-C tester. If your charger’s PPS is limited by 11V, as many are, you’ll only be able to fully charge 2S packs with it – that said, this is a marked improvement over many Li-Ion solutions we’ve seen. Don’t have a Li-Ion pack? Build one out of smartphone cells! Make sure your pack has a balancing circuit, of course, since this charger can’t provide any, and all will be good. Still looking to get into Li-Ion batteries? We have a three-part guide, from basics to mechanics and electronics!
Since the widespread adoption of USB 1.1 in the 90s, USB has become the de facto standard for connecting most peripherals to our everyday computers. The latest revision of the technology has been USB 4, which pushes the data rate capabilities to 40 Gbit/s. This amount of throughput is mindblowing compared to the USB 1.x speeds which were three to four orders of magnitude slower in comparison. But data speeds haven’t been the only thing changing with the USB specifications. The amount of power handling they can do has increased by orders of magnitude as well, as this DIY USB charger demonstrates by delivering around 200 W to multiple devices at once.
The build comes to us from [tobychui] who not only needed USB rapid charging for his devices while on-the-go but also wanted to build the rapid charger himself and for the charger to come in a small form factor while still using silicon components instead of more modern gallium nitride solutions. The solution he came up with was to use a 24 V DC power supply coupled with two regulator modules meant for solar panel installations to deliver a staggering amount of power to several devices at once. The charger is still relatively small, and cost around $30 US dollars to make.
Part of what makes builds like this possible is the USB Power Delivery (PD) standard, which has enabled all kinds of electronics to switch to USB for their power needs rather than getting their power from dedicated, proprietary, and/or low-quality power bricks or wall warts. In fact, you can even use this technology to do things like charge lithium batteries.
Continue reading “DIY USB Charging The Right Way” →
Powering external devices directly from a PC’s I/O ports has been a thing long before USB was even a twinkle in an engineer’s eye. Some of us may remember the all too common PS/2 pass-through leads that’d tap into the 275 mA that is available via these ports. When USB was first released, it initially provided a maximum of 500 mA which USB 3.0 increased to 900 mA.
For the longest time, this provided power was meant only to provide a way for peripherals like keyboards, mice and similar trivial devices to be powered rather than require each of these to come with its own power adapter. As the number of computer-connected gadgets increased USB would become the primary way to not only power small devices directly, but to also charge battery-powered devices and ultimately deliver power more generally.
Which brings us to the USB Power Delivery (USB-PD) protocol. Confusingly, USB-PD encompasses a number of different standards, ranging from fixed voltage charging to Programmable Power Supply and Adjustable Voltage Supply. What are the exact differences between these modes, and how does one go about using them? Continue reading “Powering Up With USB: Untangling The USB Power Delivery Standards” →
If you want to hack around with the communication protocol that USB Power Delivery devices use to negotiate their power requirements with the upstream source, a tool like Google’s Twinkie really helps. With it you can sniff data off the line, analyze it, and even inject your own packets. Luckily for us, the search giant made the device open source so we can all have one of our own.
Unfortunately, as [dojoe] found out, the Twinkie isn’t particularly well suited for small-scale hobbyist manufacturing. So he came up with a revised design he calls Twonkie that replaces the six layer PCB with a much more reasonable four layer version that can be manufactured cheaply by OSHPark, and swaps out the BGA components with QFP alternatives you can hand solder.
That said, it’s still likely to be a challenging build for the home gamer. There’s quite a few 0402 passives on there, and while those are doable with an iron, it can certainly be tricky. To take some pressure off, [dojoe] says he tried to optimize the board layout as much as possible for hand assembly. He was even able to avoid needing hot air by straddling the PCB with USB-C mounts intended for vertical applications.
Given the current chip shortage, [dojoe] says the biggest problem might actually getting your hands on the STM32F072CB microcontroller at the Twonkie’s core. To that end, the board supports TQFP44 and QFN44 footprints, and you can even use a STM32F072C8 at the cost of some functionality. With a bit of luck, hopefully you can find a chip that will work in the parts bin.
With USB-PD slowly making wall wart power supplies obsolete and becoming the do-it-all standard for DC power, it’s a popular conversion to slap an off-the-shelf USB-PD module in place of the barrel jack in a laptop. Not when it comes to [jakobnator] though, who fitted his Dell with an upgrade lovingly and expertly crafted for both electrical and mechanical perfection.
The video that you can find below the break is a long and detailed one, but in that detail lies touches that set the conversion apart from the norm. We’re treated to a full-run-down of USB-PD module design and chip programming, and then the mechanics of the 1-wire chip through which the Dell ties itself in with only Dell power supplies. Programming this chip in particular is something of a challenge.
It’s the mechanical design that sets this one apart. He started with an odd-shaped space that had contained the barrel jack socket and a ferrite choke, and designed a PCB to fit it exactly. 3D-printing a model to check for fit is attention to detail at the stratospheric level. The result is a fit that looks almost as though it was part of the original manufacture, and which should keep the laptop useful for years to come.
This may be the most elegant USB-C laptop conversion we’ve seen, but it’s not the only one.
Continue reading “A USB-PD Laptop Conversion In Extreme Detail.” →
Hackers love their ThinkPads. They’re easy to work on, well documented, and offer plenty of potential for upgrades. For the more daring, there’s also a wide array of community-developed modifications available. For example, [Berry Berry Sneaky] has recently put together a step-by-step guide on swapping the common ThinkPad rectangular charging port (also used on ThinkBooks and other Lenovo machines) for USB-C Power Delivery.
Now to be clear, this is not a new concept. But between freely sharing the STL for the 3D printed adapter, providing a full parts list, and providing clear instructions on how to put it all together, [Berry Berry Sneaky] has done a fantastic job of making this particular modification as approachable as possible. For the cost of a common PDC004 Power Delivery “trigger” module and a bit of PETG filament, you can add yet another device to the list of things that work with your shiny new USB-C charger.
While not strictly necessary, [Berry Berry Sneaky] recommends getting yourself a replacement DC input cable for your particular machine before you crack open the case. That will let you assemble everything ahead of time, making the installation a lot quicker. It will also let you keep the original rectangular power jack intact so you can swap it back in if something goes wrong or you decide this whole unified charging thing isn’t quite what you hoped for.
Not a member of the ThinkPad Army? No worries. We’ve seen a lot of interest in using these configurable USB-C trigger modules to upgrade all manner of devices to the new Power Delivery standard or sometimes put together custom battery chargers for their older mobile gadgets.
USB is one of the most beloved computer interfaces of all time. Developed in the mid-1990s, it undertook a slow but steady march to the top. Offering an interface with good speeds and a compact connector, it became the standard for hooking up interface devices, storage, and even became the de-facto way to talk old-school serial, too.
In late 2014, the USB Implementers Forum finalised the standard for the USB-C plug. Its first major application was on smartphones like the Nexus 5X, and it has come to dominate the smartphone market, at least if you leave aside the iPhone. However, it’s yet to truly send USB-A packing, especially on the desktop. What gives? Continue reading “USB-C Is Taking Over… When, Exactly?” →