Intro: Altoids Tin USB Hub
This is a 3 port usb hub with a flexible male port leading out. The entire thing is very simple to build and is a fun hardware hack. The hub is also built into an altoids tin, now you'll get some hilarious looks from people when they see you plugging your flash drive into an altoids tin!
make sure to vote for this in the hardware hacks contest :)
Step 1: Gather Materials
You'll need the following building materials,
•an altoids tin (not the mini one)
•a packet of instamorph
•a USB hub
You'll need the following tools
•Dremel with flexi-shaft attachment
•Dremel engraving tip
•Dremel Silicon Carbide Grinding Stone head
•x-acto blade kit
•mug, beaker, or Pyrex container
Step 2: Hacking the Hub Part I
first you'll need a four port flexible USB hub, I got mine from staples for under $10. Next is the hard part. You'll need to remove the hard rubber casing from the female ports. WARNING this is very dangerous, carefully take a knife or scissors and slice off the edges of the rubber casing, until you can get the blade underneath. Then you need to peel back the case. Next you need to strip the THICK rubber insulation from the wires.
Step 3: Hacking the Hub Part II
Now you need to remove the hard rubber casing from the center using the same method as before. Once that is done you'll need to grab an altoids tin. My female ports are detached because I needed to find out of the while thing would fit together as is, and I am very skilled at soldering so reattaching the wires was no problem. If you chose you may do the same.
Step 4: Prepping Your Altoids Tin
First You'll need to take your altoids tin and mark out on the front the size of the slot you want to fit the female ports in. The dimensions should be roughly 2-1/4 inches long by 3/8 inches wide
Step 5: Cutting Your Altoids Tin
Now that you have your cutting lines marked, you can begin cutting the tin. You will need to start by using an engraving tip. When you are cutting you need to run through the cut multiple times and perforate a seam. This will take a while, and the power setting should be 5-8 to start with, and then by the end should be at 15-18. Once the cut is well formed, you should switch to a cut off wheel, and continue the long cut. if you are skilled you can try cutting the short edge with the wheel, but if you aren't you should continue with an engraving tip.
Step 6: Making the Instamorph
first take a Pyrex or lab quality glass beaker or cup and fill it with 250 ml of water. Then heat the water until it is near boiling. Next pour some instamorph into the container, it doesn't matter how much you put in because you can always add more. Now you'll need to follow the instructions on the instamorph package. Once the plastic is pliable move on to the next step.
Step 7: Shaping the Instamorph
Take instamorph and shape it using your shirt or another fabric to help guard against burns. Now shape and spread it across your slot on the altoids tin. Next place the instamorph in warm water to keep it pliable and remove it once it is suitable to sculpt. Now take one of the female USBs and cover it in tape to protect it, then push it through the instamorph in three areas to make three separate ports for the USBs to fit in. The female port shouldn't penetrate, so you'll have to use x-acto blades to cut out the rest. This will take a while, so be patient and careful. Once all of the ports are cut, reheat the water and dip the finished product in it for 1 minute, this'll help get rid of any shavings stuck to it.
TIP: place all of the shavings in the hot water, they will reform into a ball for later use.
Step 8: Attaching the Instamorph
now that you have formed the barrier out of instamorph, which will prevent the USB from shorting out on the metal case. You will need to attach your barrier. I used glu-dots but any type of tacky glue should work.
Step 9: Cutting the Male USB Notch
Now you're gonna need to cut a notch so that the male USB can lead out of the tin while it is closed. For this you can use a drill, metal snips, or a dremmel. Once you have cut the notch make sure that the USB can fit inside the opening when the tin is closed. Then polish and grind it to remove any sharp edges.
Step 10: Finishing Touches
You are almost done, now all you have to do is place the female USBs through the instamorph. Once you have done that place the entire hub inside the tin and check to make sure the metal isn't contacting any of the componentry.
Step 11: Final Product
congrats, you have just built your very own USB hub that fits inside of an altoids tin, now all that's left to do is test it out. Try plugging some flash drives into it. If it works make sure to go and brag to your friends about how awesome this new USB hub you built is. And don't forget to vote for this in the hardware hacking contest!
-keep on building and enjoy your new creation :)