Retro-Futuristic USB Drive

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Introduction: Retro-Futuristic USB Drive

Some time ago I got a USB flash drive as a gift. The case of the drive was good-looking, but, unfortunately, it starts to cause a problem with unreliable connection after several months of use. Therefore I had stopped to use that drive. Most people would probably throw such a drive to a bin, but I kept it and I decided to repair it later. And I did it. In an interesting way.

In this instructable, I describe how I made a new and original retro-futuristic USB drive from the old USB drive and a box of another scrap.

My only inspiration was the box of scrap and old electron tubes, which I saw years ago. I had no intention to follow any particular retro-futuristic style – like steampunk, teslapunk and so on.

Step 1: Material and Tools

Material

  • USB flash drive. I used an old one...
  • USB A male connector. I used a connector from a broken USB cable.
  • blue 3 mm LED. I used an old one with a narrow beam angle.
  • resistor 100 Ω
  • 7 mm hot glue gun stick
  • two plastic tubes from a glue stick
  • aluminum tape
  • copper tape
  • blank PCB
  • wires (I used AWG 26)

Material from "Garbage Collection"

  • tube made of transparent plastic
  • knob from an old radio
  • metal grid (from a small basket)
  • plastic sheet with pinholes
  • old capacitors
  • thin coated copper wire (with a diameter about 0.3 mm)
  • wire with a diameter at least 1.5 mm; preferably coated copper wire

Tools

  • soldering iron
  • hot glue gun
  • cyanoacrylate glue (aka super glue)
  • mini drill + sander (aka Dremel tool)
  • drill, drill bits
  • saw
  • small file
  • utility knife
  • pliers
  • Kapton tape
  • matt colorless paint (acrylic-based paint is OK. I used transparent Balakryl)
  • blue and black alcohol-based permanent maker
  • alcohol (for weathering...)

Step 2: Plan

See sketch in the picture above. It should help to clarify what is going on in the next steps.

Step 3: "Datacrystal"

As soon as I got a clearer picture of the final look, I started experimenting with a 7 mm hot glue stick and LEDs. I also tried to drill a hole to the whole axis of the hot glue stick, which showed up as a good idea. You can see the result in the picture above. (It looks better in reality than in the picture.)

The trick to drilling into a hot glue stick is to set very high drilling speed and remove material by melting. I used an old 1 mm dull drill bit. The diameter of the final hole should be almost 3 mm (which is the diameter of the LED).

Resistor for the LED

Blue LED needs typically 3V @ 20 mA. USB voltage is 5V. Therefore:

R = (5V - 3V) / 0.02A = 100 Ω

Step 4: New USB Connector

In the picture above you can see bare PCB of the Flash drive. Without the whole plastic case, it didn't fit a USB slot at all. It is necessary to solder a new USB A connector anyway. (I used an old connector from a broken USB cable. I only had to remove all the plastic with a utility knife...) In the picture above you can also see USB connector pinout. Corresponding pins should be wired together... GND and +5V wires should be connected to the resistor with the LED. It should be a straightforward soldering task.

I cover the PCB with a Kapton tape and I also secure wires with hot glue after soldering.

Step 5: Body

As a basic body, I used plastic tubes from glue sticks. It could probably look better if I would use copper or brass tubes, but I didn't have any at all. At least, plastic tubes are lightweight.

The printing on the plastic tube does not need to be removed, because it will be covered with an aluminum tape later.

I cut off tubes to the right length and cut out a notch for USB A connector and also a hole for a capacitor. This capacitor has only a decorative purpose and it is not connected at all. See pictures...

Step 6: Body – Plating

I cover whole outside of the bottom and upper body with aluminum tape.

Step 7: Body – More Plating

Then I added some decoration using a copper tape. I also covered the edges of the transparent tube with this tape.

Step 8: "Datacrystal Chamber" – Separators

Between the body and the datacrystal chamber should be separators. (It would look bad without them.) They also have an important purpose: they hold the datacrystal in the axis of the chamber.

I made them from blank PCBs (FR4). First, I drilled a 7 mm holes for the datacrystal, then I removed material from margins until separators fitted the body.

Then I glued pieces of pinhole sheets to separators as a decoration.

It should be clearer from the pictures...

Step 9: "Datacrystal Chamber" – Grid Ring

As another chamber decoration I decided to add a grid ring. I used a metal grid from a basket for office supplies. I cut off the grid to the desired width, then I bent it to ring shape and then I soldered both ends together. Finally, I soldered a piece of wire (from paperclip) to the ring.

I also added some weathering using a blue alcohol-based permanent marker.

Step 10: Coils

I added a copper coil to the upper and bottom body parts close to the middle part. I used a coated copper wire with a diameter = 0.3 mm. Every end of wires I led inside the body and secured with cyanoacrylate glue.

Step 11: Clamping Wires

All three main body parts are actually held together using three thicker copper wires (they are functional and decorative at the same time...) I placed them symmetrically around the body.

Step 12: Upper End

As the upper end of the body I used a knob from an old radio. Mainly because it fitted perfectly and it looked quite good. I drilled a hole in the axis of the knob for another old capacitor, but it wasn't necessary...

Step 13: Bottom End

I used a piece of PCB as the bottom end of the body. I drew my initials and year on it and then I etched it. If I didn't have a PCB, I would use a piece of plastic or a washer or something ...

Step 14: Final Assembly

After I finished all the parts, it was time to put everything together. See again the sketch in the picture above...

I glued some parts together using cyanoacrylate glue or hot glue. I didn't glue the middle transparent tube to the body.

Step 15: Weathering

The main goal of this step was to reduce the newness and the metallic shine and add more personality to the drive.

I tried to make some weathering using alcohol-based permanent markers and it worked quite good. The color stayed in scratches and so on, after raw cleaning. It highlighted imperfections.

Then I coated it with matt acrylic paint. It blurred marks from the permanent markers, but at the end of the day it showed up as unexpected improvement. I did coating in three layers.

Step 16: Last Step

The last step is missing...

I wanted to make also a wooden box for this drive, but I had no useable wood, and I also have had only elementary tools for woodworking. (I couldn't throw a log on a table saw or on a band saw and so on.) Therefore I had only a raw cardboard box for some time (see in a picture above). Searching for useable wood was surprisingly hard. I wasn't able to get a better piece of wood than a spruce lath. Unfortunately, spruce wood is not very suitable for making boxes, because it's very soft and too much splitting.

I improvised a lot in making the wooden box. Therefore I decided not to share how I made it. It could probably insult some experienced woodworkers.

Anyway, I hope I inspired you with this instructable :-)

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    22 Comments

    1
    Jdjacksjr
    Jdjacksjr

    10 months ago

    Perhaps one of the best examples of ingenuity I have seen on this site. Impressive creative combo. Nice work.

    0
    MarPok
    MarPok

    Reply 10 months ago

    Thank you! :-) Honestly: you sent my ego into the stratosphere for a few days.

    0
    2010stingley
    2010stingley

    Question 11 months ago

    Please email me about the usb please it is so cool I really would like to make one when I am older.🙂
    From Simon Tingley

    FMMGIQ8K437E0VT.LARGE.jpg
    0
    MarPok
    MarPok

    Answer 10 months ago

    Thanks, Simon, I'm pleased you like it :-). And I apologize for my late answer I didn't get a notification.
    First, I have to say it would be hard to make it the same as I did it. For example: to get the same transparent tube would be virtually impossible. Or the knob from an old radio. Or maybe even the thick copper wire. You will have to improvise in a few steps and use what you will have... Do not hesitate to improve my design :)
    I would recommend you to "start small". Start with the Step 3. Step 3 is quite easy. I don't know how old and experienced you are... If you have zero skills in electronics, try to search on the Internet "how to start with electronics". Or ask somebody older or more experienced for help (Father, friend, ...). And so on.
    Good Luck!

    1
    ThummarwitshW
    ThummarwitshW

    1 year ago

    This is so cool. look like star wars usb drive

    0
    robotlord2004
    robotlord2004

    Reply 12 months ago

    I know, right!

    0
    agentBures
    agentBures

    1 year ago

    Teda, to muselo dát příšernou práci....

    0
    throbscottle
    throbscottle

    1 year ago

    So cool! But there is one thing that could improve the looks... maybe... Uranium glass!

    0
    MarPok
    MarPok

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks. Uranium glass? I've just read an article about uranium glass on Wikipedia and wow! Interesting!

    0
    throbscottle
    throbscottle

    Reply 1 year ago

    There are a few projects here on Instructables where it is used to good effect. I think they light it up with a UV LED but you'd have to check.

    1
    AlyssonR2
    AlyssonR2

    Tip 1 year ago

    A super looking device. I love making things out of scrap boxes - and this is a particularly fine example of a simple fix.

    The end result could pass for steampunk, Teslapunk, Cyberpunk, grunge-SF, or even tech fantasy - and all kinds of things weird and wonderful.

    A tip for this kind of project, though - if you are sure that you are not going to need to dismantle and rework it, the area around the USB plug could do with epoxy resin encapsulation in order to prevent a reoccurrance of the original problem - broken connections.

    A suggestion for a future build - replace the USB connector with some oddball connector, and then add in an obviously home-brewed adaptor to make the fantasy tech piece compatible with early 21st Century computers.

    1
    MarPok
    MarPok

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks for your comment :). Yes, it is somehow satisfying to make something of scrap...

    I planned to use a DIN connector (DIN 5) and DIN-USB adapter originally, but I changed my mind because it would make the drive more difficult to use with a laptop.

    0
    RobertC2
    RobertC2

    Reply 1 year ago

    That last bit was brilliant!

    0
    woofman
    woofman

    1 year ago

    Very nicely done. Looks particularly good attached to laptop. The right angle of the USB is terrific.....great job!

    0
    MarPok
    MarPok

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you :)

    2
    perec3
    perec3

    1 year ago

    Great imagination! Thanks

    0
    MarPok
    MarPok

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks :)

    1
    jessyratfink
    jessyratfink

    1 year ago

    That is fancy!! Loved watching it come together :D

    0
    MarPok
    MarPok

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks :-)