Raspberry Pi Zero USB hub mod with case

If you were lucky enough to get your hands on one of the new Raspberry Pi Zero’s, one of the first things you are likely going to want to do is hook it up to a USB hub to add things like WiFi and a keyboard and mouse. Of course you can just connect an ordinary USB hub, but there isn’t many compact solutions available just yet. There are a few methods that have been posted online so far, from hacking an off the shelf USB hub, to manufacturing a custom hub yourself. These are all great, but are either a little unpolished or require some advanced maker skills, so I thought I’d have a go myself at something that is a but more approachable by the average maker, and uses predominantly off the shelf parts. So here is what I came up with.

My approach is based on the USB hub mod by Frederick Vandenbosch but wraps it up in a bit of a neater package, and avoids some of the trickier soldering.

To create your own you’ll need a Pi Zero, a USB hub (Frederick uses a LogiLink UA0160 but you can also use a Belkin F5U404), a short Mini to Micro USB cable and a bit of wire. For the case you’ll want to download and laser cut my design files from here, and you’ll need some nylon M3 nuts and bolts (9 sets in total, at least 30mm in length).

You’ll want to copy Frederick’s instructions on disassembly, and attaching the power leads, but once you’ve done that, just use the purchased USB cable for connecting the hub to the Pi instead of wiring direct to the USB port (those connections are might small).

Once you’ve added the power lines, simply build up the case as pictured by attaching the Pi to the Pi layer first (use the nylon screw + bolts, then cut the remainder of the screw shaft off), then stack everything else together, making sure to add the centre screw (this is used to keep USB hub tightly in position) and tightening everything up and cutting screws to length.

We’re pretty sure someone will start selling a much better solution real soon, but in the meantime we hope this provides a manageable solution for the general maker right now that also looks pretty nice sat on your desk.

Rombus3000 - A Raspberry Pi mini arcade machine

Like many makers, a mame arcade machine has been on my list of things to build for quite a while. Recently though I had the pleasure of catching up with the Pimoroni guys and got to check out their PiCade arcade machine they launched on Kickstarter a few months back. Needless to say, playing around with the PiCade made my urge to build an arcade machine bubble back to the surface. I toyed with just buying one of the PiCade kits, which really are exceptional, but that’s not really my style as I tend to like to hack / re-purpose old technology, so instead I decided to modify an old 80’s desktop computer game instead.

The game itself was an old Grandstand Scramble desktop arcade machine which I stripped bare and mounted a Raspberry Pi 2 with a 5” HDMI TFT screen inside along side a PiCade controller board (available to buy seperately) to provide the control inputs needed aswell as an audio amplifier. The chasis was modified to accept additional buttons around the back and sides, and a custom controller panel was designed and laser cut to hold a miniature joystick and more buttons, and was mounted to the front.

For sound, a 4 ohm speaker was mounted in the old battery compartment and then everything was connected up using spade connectors and attached to the appropriate ports on the PiCade board via screw terminal blocks. The PiCade board connects to the Raspberry Pi via a short flexible micro USB cable, as well as a short AUX cable for the audio input. The original barrel jack was then modified by attaching a female USB connector on the end of the original wires and connected to the Raspberry Pi by another short flexible micro USB cable to provide power.

As a couple of added extras, WiFi and wireless keyboard dongles were attached to allow for internet access / keyboard usage without the need to open the chassis, and for the final touches, a custom decal was designed and printed on a brushed aluminium sticker as a nod back to the original Grandstand Scramble decal.

With the actual build itself complete, the final bit was to install and configure the Retropie software and upload a few ROMs and the gaming fun could now begin.

All in all, this was actually a pretty quick build which was mainly due to how easy it was to bolt everything together, from the TFT screen to the PiCade controller board, and the simplicity of Retropie. In less than a weeks hacking I now have a one of kind, retro arcade machine, which I’m pretty pleased with (if I do say so myself).

If you are looking at building your own arcade machine then, this is definitely a setup I would recommend, and for those not so comfortable hacking their own machine together, the PiCade kit uses essentially the same setup in a more flat-pack setup.

Whichever route you take, I’m certain you’ll end up with a great little arcade rig.

Happy gaming!

Vectorise all the things

Lately I’ve been working on some educational kits that I’m hoping to release soon. One important element for me is to be able to brand the products up so people know the kits are authentic circuitbeard. Originally I was just going to raster etch them, however this takes way too much time, so today I spent a bit of time creating vector versions of my logos to speed things up.

Laser cut logos

With the new vector versions, it now takes just seconds to brand an item, rather than minutes. It may not sound like much, but when you are talking about creating lots of kits, every saving is a worth while saving (I’ve been learning this lesson a lot lately).