Easy DIY Tiny USB Hub For Raspberry Pi Projects

NEW 4 PORT BOARD!

 

Complete USB hubs and DIY Kits are now available in the Retrocution Shop!

Have you ever needed some extra USB ports when creating a project with a Raspberry Pi Zero? Were external USB hubs or HATS just not an option due to the space constraints of your project? If you answered yes to these questions, or you just want a fun soldering project that will yield you something useful, then this project is for you!

NEW 2 PORT BOARD!

I’m always trying to cram Raspberry Pis into different things for my projects, and a few of the latest things I’ve been working on use a Pi Zero and just don’t have the space for a USB Hub/HAT. I’ve looked around online and there are sites that sell tiny USB hub boards like this, but they are pretty expensive. So I decided to make my own board that is fairly easy to assemble and requires only 6 cheap components. There is a 2 port version (pictured) that is about the size of a fingertip, and a 4 port version that is slightly bigger. I’ve shared the boards on OSH Park and you can order them here:

2 Port Board (new version) – ORDER FROM OSH Park

4 Port Board (new version) – ORDER FROM OSH Park

Complete USB hubs and DIY Kits are now available in the Retrocution Shop! 

OSH Park sells PCBs in quantities of 3 and also offers FREE shipping. You can get 3x of the 2 port boards for $2.95 shipped and 3x of the 4 port boards for $3.55 shipped. That is seriously cheap! After you purchase a board from OSH Park they will also give you the option to order a stencil from OSH Stencils–more on that later.

BACK OF 4 PORT BOARD

MATERIALS NEEDED

1x – FE1.1s SSOP-28 IC (You’re going to have to order these from Chinese sellers to get a good price. eBay and AliExpress are your best bet.)

3x – 0603 10uF ceramic capacitor (Same story with these. Amazon only sells variety packs of smd capacitors and you only need this single value. Look for the best deal on eBay or AliExpress.)

1x – 0603 2.7k resistor (Same story as above)

1x – 12MHz crystal oscillator (make sure they are through-hole type with legs.)

As noted above, when it comes to components like these, Chinese sellers are your best bet. You will probably have to wait a month, but you will get the parts much cheaper than any US-based seller. I always try to order a large quantity of the parts I need so I’m set for a while!

ASSEMBLING THE PCB

*NOTE – Assembly pictures show the old version of the board, but the process is exactly the same for the new boards.

First you’ll want to get the FE1.1s soldered to the board. This can be a bit challenging because the pitch (distance between the legs) of the chip is 0.64mm. I have hand soldered them before but it’s very easy to bridge the pins together. Sometimes you can drag your iron over the legs to clear the bridge (make sure to add some flux!) but if you can’t clear the bridging that way try going over it with solder wick to soak up the solder.

I’ve had great results using a hot air station to solder this chip and that is the way I always solder them now. If you want to try this out you can order a stencil from OSH Stencils after you purchase your boards. The stencil will help you apply the solder paste on the small pads of the PCB.

Using the stencil I am able to get a super clean installation of the chip. My stencil only has cut outs for the chip, because I ordered it before I finalized my PCB design, but if you order one with the boards it will have cut outs for the capacitors and resistor too.

This is the hot air station I am currently using. It is very cheap and there are a lot of different versions of it, but they seem to all be the same–just made by different manufacturers. If you’re not doing a whole lot of SMD soldering this unit should serve you well. I also use it routinely for shrink tubing. You can purchase one here: https://amzn.to/2Rh7lvK Also, if you’re going to be soldering, especially with hot air, I highly recommend picking up a silicone mat to prevent burning and damaging your table. This is the one I personally use: https://amzn.to/374xF2K

Next I like to install the three 10uF capacitors. Since my stencil doesn’t have the cut outs for these pads I just hand solder them. I apply some flux and hold the capacitor in place with the tweezers while I solder each side in place. Make sure to hold the capacitor in place with some tweezers otherwise it will just stick to your soldering iron.

After I get the capacitors soldered, I install the 2.7K resistor the same way.

Once all the SMD components are installed, I install the 12MHz crystal oscillator.

Now that all the components are installed and the flux is cleaned off you are left with some really awesome tiny USB hubs! BTW, these boards are in the ‘After Dark’ finish that OSH Park offers. The standard is purple, but I really like the way these black and copper boards look and there is no extra charge for it either!

If you decide to go with the 4 port boards, the assembly and components required are exactly the same.

Below are some reference pictures showing how you would connect this board to a Raspberry Pi Zero and USB ports.

Pin Headers seem to cause issues with the Tiny USB Hub.  Please DO NOT use them!

A user needed to connect the Tiny USB Hub to USB-C and shared this schematic of how they were able to make it work!  

I hope you find this guide useful and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send me an email.

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RETROCUTION

RETROCUTION

What Do You Think? Let Me Know!

32 Responses

  1. I have been looking for a hub exactly like this for weeks! Just to be clear, the new revisions will be using the same components? I am thinking of ordering the parts now so I have everything ready to go.

    1. Yes all the parts will be the same! The only difference is I changed the pad layout and added 5V and GND connection for each USB input. I received the new boards and have already started testing them. I should be updating the blog tonight or tomorrow with the new boards.

    1. They are now available on my shop page! I have complete assembled boards and DIY kits available.

    1. I am recommending to not use pin headers with these boards because the one user that had trouble with his board not being recognized by his computer had assembled the Tiny USB Hub with headers. I recommended he try to remove them and once he did everything worked perfectly. I actually designed these boards with pin header pads because they’re larger and offer a big enough surface for one to solder wires flat on top of them instead of going through the hole. But after troubleshooting with that user and finding that the pin headers were likely the culprit I decided to be safe and start recommending to not use pin headers. I believe the issue may be caused by differing impedance on the differential traces (D+, D-) since the traces are not exactly the same lengths. This is something that is unavoidable when trying to create a board this small. There is no problem when directly soldering wires to the board, but pin headers may exacerbate the issue with improper impedance matching on the signal traces.

  2. Hi where do I get the stencil? I ordered boards through OSH Park but did not get the stencil offer? How does that even work, OSH stencils is a separate business? If your little shop sold the stencils I’d buy them from you gladly. I have zero SMD experience and this is a trial project to learn it.

  3. This can basically hook into any PC correct?Could be perfect for my sim racing wheel build as I need an internal USB hub that will then plug into my PC

  4. Is there anything I need to do before hand to make this hub work? Nothing shows up when I plug it into the PC. I direct soldered everything as suggested. Any help would be appreciated.

  5. I got it to work but it doesn’t like the GX12 connectors… direct solder a usb cable and not problems. Are you going to have more in stock soon?

    1. Awesome! That’s a really cool project. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to respond to your email earlier, I’m currently out of town and have been on the road all day and I just now got to my laptop. I was going to recommend you try to eliminate any extra connectors/excessive wire length and also try twisting the data lines together. But, it seems you already got it figured out! So happy to hear that. I will be back from my trip around the 20th and my online shop will be open again. Thanks!

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