A USB Hub with a Raspberry Pi Zero

Computers available today come with only one or two USB sockets. With the multitude of USB or Universal Serial Bus devices we use today, it is easy to run out of sockets. For example, you may have to connect your mouse, keyboard, printer, webcam and microphone, all operating on USB technology, to your computer. With only two ports available, it is obviously a difficult task.

However, there is an easy solution. You can use an inexpensive hub. According to the USB standard, which also covers USB hubs, they can support up to 127 devices. Typically, a USB hub has four ports, but some models can have more. Operation of a hub is plug-n-play. You plug the hub into your computer and plug your devices, including other hubs, into its ports. Chaining hubs allows you to build up dozens of available USB ports on your computer.

USB devices can use their own power supply or they can draw power from the computer they are connected. Devices that draw power from the host computer are mostly low power devices such as mice and digital cameras. According to the USB standards, a USB 2.0 port can power devices drawing a maximum of 500 mA and a USB 3.0 port allows devices to draw up to 900 mA maximum.

Self-powered devices connecting via the USB port do not need to draw power from the host computer. For example, your computer does not need to supply power to printers and scanners connected to it. For connecting many unpowered devices to your computer, you will need a hub that has its own power supply, so that the devices do not load the computer’s supply. Such hubs have their own power supply that supplies power to the bus.

If you have the single board computer, the Raspberry Pi or RBPi, especially the Zero version, it is easy to convert it into a USB hub. Frederick had a LogiLink UA0160 USB hub lying around and he used it together with an RBPi Zero to make a powered hub with four ports. He removed the board from its casing and connected the power points to the power points of the RBPi Zero. Since the form factor of the hub board matches that of the RBPi Zero, the entire assembly looks neatly done.

For supplying power to the hub, you will need to connect PP1 of the RBPi Zero to the 5V point of the hub and PP6 of the RBPi Zero to the GND of the hub. Next, you have to connect the USB OTG from the RBPi Zero to the USB port of the hub. For this, use two wires to connect PP22 of the RBPi Zero to the D+ on the hub and PP23 of the RBPi Zero to the D- of the hub.

Use an ohmmeter to check for any shorts between the hub and the RBPi Zero. Additionally, make sure all connections are correct. Use some insulating material such as a plastic board between the hub board and the RBPi Zero, before bundling everything together. If possible, get a case to house the combination and you are done.