DIY USB and SATA panel mount connectors (#P13)

Next batch of connectors incoming! (yes, I’m onto something)

I bet most of you are familiar with USB panel mount connectors, which (I guess) are a by-product of the slot mounted USB ports of PC mainboards in the late 1990s, early 2000s. Back then, boards had none or few USB ports on their back I/O panel, but often one or two available via pin header. So people obviously needed some slot adapter for them, something like this:

If you slap on a different connector on the other end and omit the metal bracket, this is basically what you get these days when buying USB panel mount connectors. I’ve never been a fan of these, they were designed to be mounted on a thin sheet of metal that is supported all around. Screw them onto a 1.5, 2, even 3mm panel and the USB is deeply recessed to the point that some USB plugs do not make good contact. Also, material thickness for the mounting block is sometimes…questionable.

I am about to need something like this, and contrary to the late 2000s, 3D printers are now a thing. Why not make your own?

To be honest, I would be way too lazy to do this for a single USB port. But: Like in my current setup, I want not only USB power available, but also SATA power (an infinite improvement over the really shitty 4 pin Molex connectors). And while USB panel mounts are ubiquitous (in China), SATA power connectors are not. I hunted down one of these back in the days, one of very few that did not offer Molex power connectors to eSATA slot brackets. But this one has mounting screws so close to the connector that you actually need a modified SATA male power cable on the other side. It’s shit, but it’s still the best that was offered. So that has to go.

And when designing one panel mount adapter for SATA, it’s not that far to making another one for USB, is it…

Once again not the finest of 3D prints – but this is the prototype, and even the final one wouldn’t be visible once put into place.

This one fits bare USB connectors like those on 2.0 gender changers (or the real bad USB 3.0 ones). Make it wider for a regular USB plug that really has to fit your panel cutout.

When extending to the mounting side, there’s a little play in contrast to the press fit as shown above, but that’s nothing a dab of hot snot couldn’t fix. I’ll do that once I got the final version ready to mount, so that I can get a flush mount.

SATA, on the other hand, is still up for discussion. My current model has a female SATA power connector, this one is designed to house a male one:

Yes, I know, the 3D print looks saggy like a pregnant pot-bellied pig, that’s because of the missing support structure of the print. While I’m experimenting with 3D shapes, my colleague is using these prints to learn something about his printer, which sometimes yields very interesting products…

Anyway, this is an excellent press-fit and the slightly curved line only makes removal the connector significantly harder ;) There’s enough space in the back to fill that with hotmelt glue, so once that’s set, it’s in there forever.

Same thing here: As the connector is fixed manually, any amount of protrusion can be made within certain limits. I’ll do that once I have decided for the male or female connector version.

(these need to be scrapped, look at the badly printed Wan Hung Lo brand logo! :mrgreen: )

Male power connectors with exposed contacts are always frowned upon, for a reason, I know. But contrary to the 4 pin Molex connectors, gender changers for SATA power are extremely hard to find. One can make spectacular contraptions to do that via several adapters in a row, but I’d like to avoid such botches (I had to, several times). Thinking with the male outlet is: There are extension and Y cables widely available, so when a male connector is required, just use an extension, and if a female one is needed, use a Y cable that is basically fed backwards. Y’s are always one male plus two female connectors, I cannot remember seeing one the other way round. The male connector might stay there unused or be snipped away. And for converting to Molex, that’s also done via Y cables or straight adapters, no problem. So even if that male SATA connector isn’t common and would expose 3.3V/5V/12V pins, I think it might be the best option for my needs…

Here are the RSDOC (RS Design Spark, highly recommend!) and exported STL files for both adapters. I bet someone fluent in STL (or G-Code?) could absolutely write a generator for these with plug dimensions and mounting hole distance as parameters. I’m not, so I’m handcrafting these for the time being ;)

SATA RSDOC / SATA STL / SATA on thingiverse 4128302

USB RSDOC / USB STL / USB on thingiverse 4128296

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My own needs for USB panel-mount connectors is needing USB plugs that don’t fall out of USB jacks. For instance, I use a variety of KVM’s on my desktop. The USB plugs are frequently loose or getting unplugged by accident as the wrong cable get’s pulled on, or a box moves slightly on the desk. I searched for replacement USB connectors that had thumbscrews, and other retainers, I found a few, but the availability was always bad. I get by with rubber bands around the cable and then around the entire switch box. It isn’t pretty, but it works for now.

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