Programmable USB Hub

A USB hub with per-port power and data disconnects + dev board + I²C, GPIO, and SPI bridges

Aug 28, 2019

Start of Production

With the campaign successful (woohoo!) and concluded, our efforts have now transitioned to preparing-for and starting production.

Overall, this consists of:

We’ll keep you all informed as we progress thru the above, but in this update I wanted to tell you about how the mechanical design of the Front and Rear Enclosure Panels was done … with Python.


For the past year or so I’ve been experimenting with a Python-based mechanical design framework called CadQuery and an associated library for the creation of assemblies called cqparts.

CADQuery & 3D display inside of a Jupyter Notebook

I know this sounds a bit strange, but there are some really nice aspects of code-based mechanical-design, like:

Other code-based frameworks exist, like OpenSCAD and ImplicitCAD, but I’ve been using CadQuery because:

So, let’s take a closer look at how CadQuery was used to design the Front and Rear Panels of the Programmable USB Hub.

Front and Rear Panels

Below is the actual code used to generate the custom Front Panel for the USB Hub. Note, this code example does not include the text-engraving operation — it is just the THRU cutouts.

import cadquery as cq
from jupyter_cadquery.cadquery import show
from jupyter_cadquery import set_sidecar


# Build list of (x,y) points from xs and ys
def permute(data):
    out = []
    for x in data['xs']:
        for y in data['ys']:
    return out

# Center Option is specified so that origin of work plane is consistent.
# The default method is to use center of mass to center the origin, 
# which causes geometry to walk around if operations are re-ordered.    
def top(obj):
    return obj.faces(">Z").workplane(centerOption='ProjectedOrigin', origin=cq.Vector(0,0,1))

# Definition of a stock end plate with 
# corner radius and mounting holes.    
stock = dict(
    height = 29.5, width = 108.5,
    thickness = 2, radius = 3,
    holes = dict(
   	 	diameter = 3.5,
		xs = [-96.5/2, 96.5/2],
    	ys = [11.7, -9.8]

# Make the rectangle
stock_plate = cq.Workplane("XY").rect(stock['width'],    stock['height']).extrude(stock['thickness'])

# Cut the mounting holes and radius the corners
    stock_plate = top(stock_plate) \
    .pushPoints(permute(stock['holes'])).hole(stock['holes']['diameter']) \

# Create the geometry and save to a STEP file

# Show in the WebGL view
show(stock_plate, axes=False, grid=True, ortho=True, axes0=True)

Stock Enclosure Plate

And now we modify that stock plate with all of the cutouts required for the front plate.

# XS and YS are measured from bottom left corner of panel
usb = dict(
    height = 14.75, width = 8.00, radius = 1.75,
    xs = [18.25, 32.25, 46.25, 60.25],
    ys = [16.12]

rgb = dict(
    diameter = 2.75,
    xs = [68.57 + idx*4.57 for idx in [0,1,2,3,4,5]],
    ys = [13.00, 17.13]

# Transform positions measured from bottom-left corner to offsets from center (left-right & up-down) of plate
def corner(points):
    return [(x-stock['width']/2,y-stock['height']/2) for x,y in points]

# This operation could be done with rectangular cut + selection 
# of vertical edges & radius operation.  But, limiting selection
# to just the newly created edges is difficult in some designs.
def round_rect(plane, center, opts):

    w = opts['width']/2
    h = opts['height']/2
    r = opts['radius']

    # Move to bottom left corner, top of that arc
    # Left edge and top left arc
    # Top edge and top right arc
    # Right edge and bottom right arc
    # Bottom edge and bottom left arc

    return*center) \
        .moveTo(-w, -h+r) \
        .vLineTo( h-r).radiusArc((-w+r,   h), r) \
        .hLineTo( w-r).radiusArc((   w, h-r), r) \
        .vLineTo(-h+r).radiusArc(( w-r,  -h), r) \
        .hLineTo(-w+r).radiusArc((  -w,-h+r), r) \

# Start with the stock plate geometry
front_plate = stock_plate

# Cut holes for USB connectors
for xy in corner(permute(usb)):
    front_plate = round_rect(top(front_plate), xy, usb).cutThruAll()

# Cut holes for RGB status LEDs
front_plate = top(front_plate).pushPoints(corner(permute(rgb))).hole(rgb['diameter'])  

# Save STEP file

Cutouts for Front Plate

I’ve found the combination of cadquery, cqparts, and jupyter-cadquery (which allows display of geometry in the same browser window as your Jupyter Notebook) to be a powerful combination and design tool.

I hope you consider trying these open-source tools out the next time you have a part to design.


Thanks to each and every one of you who has helped us get here! Without your support, the Programmable USB Hub would not have become a reality, and we are so grateful!

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