Are your USB ports boring? Do you need some RGB? Well, this $6 USB 2.0 Type-A port from Tensility International Corporation, listed via Digi-Key, aims to brighten up your dark and dreary USB ports. hat tip for arthur182 for bringing this to our attention.
Image 1 of 2
Rated for up to 30V at 3A (90W via USB A?), this RGB USB port uses an RGB LED with a common anode connected to the power pin. Then the colors can be mixed by controlling the state of the cathode pin of each color. Controlling those pins would be the job of a microcontroller, perhaps the Raspberry Pi Pico’s RP2040 on a custom PCB. In the datasheet, we can see that there are two rows of pins. The ones closest to the front of the USB port handle standard USB 2 tasks. The rear four pins are for the LEDs in a blue, green, voltage, and red configuration. The extra LED pins mean we can’t fit this part onto an existing board. Instead they must be installed on a custom board with traces routed to send signals to the RGB LED. It also looks like a typical USB A port, ready to be soldered onto a PCB that is 1.6mm or less thick.
As we’ve already noted, this port is capable of delivering up to 90W of power, so an interesting use case would be to set the RGBs to indicate a set voltage. Using a buck converter or voltage regulator, we could set the appropriate voltage and trigger the microcontroller to light up a color to indicate. Say red for 30V, green for 12V, and blue for 5V? A simple flick of a switch would set the voltage and trigger the color change. Or we could use PWM (pulse width modulation) to mix a specific color for intermediate voltages. While this won’t be as clear as using an APA102 RGB LED NeoPixel, it will get the job done.
|Forward voltage at 20 mA||R.||1.8 – 2.4V|
|Row 1 – Cell 0||GRAM||2.7 – 3.5V|
|Row 2 – Cell 0||B.||2.7 – 3.5V|
|Light intensity at 20 mA||R.||400 – 800 mcd|
|Row 4 – Cell 0||GRAM||600 – 1000 mcd|
|Row 5 – Cell 0||B.||200 – 500 mcd|
This through-hole component is available via “cut tape” and “reel”. The first allows you to buy small quantities for short runs/individual projects. The latter is a favorite with manufacturers who load the spool ready for a pick-and-place machine to place the components on a run of boards.
If you’re designing your own product or have the chops to port an existing version (something we don’t recommend), then $6 isn’t too much to ask for a bit of polish.