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PD Buddy Sink

USB Power Delivery for everyone

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USB Power Delivery is a cool standard for getting lots of power—up to 100 W—from a USB Type-C port. Being an open standard for supplying enough power to charge phones, laptops, and just about anything else under the sun, USB PD is poised to greatly reduce the amount of e-waste produced worldwide from obsolete proprietary chargers. Unfortunately, like all USB standards, it's quite complex, putting it out of reach of the average electronics hobbyist. The PD Buddy Sink solves this problem: it's a dead-simple USB PD power sink that gives you the power your project needs, and nothing else.

PD Buddy Sink is a small device that performs the necessary communications for being a USB Power Delivery sink. Configure it with the voltage and current your project needs, then plug it into any USB PD power supply with sufficient power output. It negotiates with the power supply and turns on its power output, giving your project up to 3 A at 5, 9, or 15 V, and up to 5 A at 20 V.

PD Buddy Sink is simple to configure. Just plug it into a computer while holding the setup button, and connect to the USB CDC console interface. In the future there will be a GUI configuration tool for even easier setup.

  • Prototype Configuration GUI

    Clayton G. Hobbs11 hours ago 0 comments

    I've now created a prototype configuration GUI with GTK+ in Python. It should be able to run on OS X and Windows, but I haven't tested it on anything other than Linux. If you were paying close attention, you might've seen the link to the Git repository appear in the sidebar a couple days ago, but now it's working well enough that I feel like writing about it.

    The GUI detects all the PD Buddy Sink devices connected to the computer and presents them in a list (which updates automatically!). Each list entry has a button to identify the device: click the button and the Sink's LED blinks fast for a couple seconds. The GUI allows you to easily configure each device's voltage and current. The settings are loaded from the device when it's selected from the device list, and new settings can be saved at the press of a button.

    There are still a few bugs to iron out (mostly regarding serial port permissions and device disconnection), but I'm becoming increasingly happy with this little interface.

  • Wrote a Console Configuration Interface

    Clayton G. Hobbs5 days ago 0 comments

    I just put the finishing touches on the initial PD Buddy Sink console configuration interface. It's based on the ChibiOS command shell, but with some changes I feel make it much nicer. First, it has PD Buddy branding, rather than the ChibiOS branding the original had. The help text has been improved, providing a short synopsis for each command rather than simply a list of commands. There's also no way to exit the shell, because I really don't know why that would be necessary in this application. After all, when you're done configuring the Sink and your changes have been written to flash, there's no harm done by just unplugging it.

    The new code has been pushed to the main firmware repository. This brings the PD Buddy Sink much closer to being fully functional, so I'm really happy about it. Next, I think I'll work on the GUI before returning to the firmware.

    Some implementation details follow, as well as next steps for the firmware.

    As is common with Cortex-M microcontrollers, there's no EEPROM here, only flash. That means the configuration has to be stored somewhere in flash, so the last page makes sense to me. Only a few bytes of flash are needed to store the configuration, but since I had to reserve a whole 2 KiB page for it anyway, I figured I might as well go ahead and do some wear leveling. The page is used as an array of 128 structs, each beginning with a magic value indicating its status. An empty struct is identified by the magic value 0xFFFF (naturally), the one that currently stores the configuration is identified by 0xBEEF, and old ones that aren't being used right now are 0x0000. As the configuration is updated, the page fills from low to high addresses, until eventually it's completely full. Then on the next update, it's automatically erased before the new configuration is written. The flash in the STM32F0s is rated at a minimum of 10k cycles, so with my wear leveling, the Sink can be configured at least 1,280,000 times before the flash might wear out. That should be far more than anyone ever needs.

    There's enough space left over in the struct for a few new features as well, but they're not implemented yet. One half-word is set aside for flags, which will eventually include at least whether we should enable GiveBack and whether we can get power from batteries and variable power supplies. GiveBack support would allow the power supply to temporarily remove power if another device needs extra power, and would be mostly useful in the PD Buddy Sink for battery charging applications. Support for drawing power from batteries and variable supplies requires specifying a voltage range, and they will be lower priority than fixed supplies.

    (N.B. "Variable supply" in USB PD parlance is really just a euphemism for "poorly regulated supply", not the kind of variable power supply you're probably thinking of. For those, USB PD 3.0 support is needed, and they're called "programmable". I'm not aware of any programmable USB PD power supplies on the market yet, but if I've just missed them, please let me know!)

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Andrew Bolin wrote 03/21/2017 at 04:25 point

Hey, I had almost the same idea recently, but you've actually built it!
If you stick it in a box with one of those cheap DPS3005 type regulator modules you could probably take some money from me ;)

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Clayton G. Hobbs wrote 03/21/2017 at 14:28 point

That would be a pretty cool idea. It would be better to use one of the buck-boost versions, like a DPH3205, so it's not limited by the 20 V maximum voltage of USB PD.

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