PD Buddy Sink – USB Power Delivery for everyone

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.
PD Buddy Sink – USB Power Delivery for everyone

PD Buddy Sink solves this problem, letting any hacker or maker use USB PD in their projects. Think of it as a smart power jack. To use it, first configure a voltage and current via the USB configuration interface. Then whenever the Sink is plugged in to a USB PD power supply, it negotiates the power your project needs and provides it on the output connector.

The Idea

One day I was digging through a box of wall warts, trying to find one that would work for my latest project. I needed one with 12-16 V output at no less than 0.5 A, and with a reasonable output connector. Untangling cords and checking labels was taking a while, and I started thinking. “If I could use USB Power Delivery, I wouldn’t ever have to do this again.” Since USB PD power supplies can provide a multitude of voltages at sizable currents, all you’d need is a little circuit board that takes the place of a power jack and tells the power supply what your project needs.

I searched the web, and to my surprise, no such device was available! I realized that I would have to create it myself, so I started figuring out the device’s requirements. It would be a small circuit board with a USB Type-C connector on one side and a screw terminal block for power output on the other. When plugged in, an on-board microcontroller would negotiate the power for your project. For simplicity and flexibility, the configuration should be done by USB. To avoid drawing excessive power, the output would have to be controlled by a MOSFET so as to only turn on once negotiation is complete.

A couple days later, I had a hardware design. A couple weeks later, I built a prototype, and the first PD Buddy Sink was born.

PD Buddy Sink

PD Buddy Sink is a smart power jack for USB Power Delivery. Configure it with the voltage and current your project needs, then plug it into any USB PD power supply with a high enough power capability. It negotiates with the power supply and turns on its output, giving your project up to 3 A at 5, 9, or 15 V, and up to 5 A at 20 V.  With the latest firmware release, the Sink can also make requests from USB PD programmable power supplies, providing any voltage from up to 4-21 V at 20 mV increments.

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. Alternatively, use the (still experimental) configuration GUI.  The configuration interface works with Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows 10.

Project Status


I developed the first PCB prototypes (v0.1) in early February 2017, and built them mid February. This design had a few errors, which were fixed in v0.2.  The next revision (v0.3) was a complete redesign for automated assembly.  This got a few more optimizations for the first stable release, v1.0, released in mid-July 2017.

The PD Buddy Sink’s firmware is stable, with a few more features planned. It provides a USB serial console interface for editing and saving configuration, and is able to negotiate with power supplies to request fixed voltages and currents. An option for GiveBack is available, which allows the power supply to reduce power temporarily if another device needs more. The firmware allows users to control PD negotiations and show the power supply’s capabilities while in Setup mode. In support of these features, I designed a splitter board which allows users to connect the Sink to their computer and an external USB power supply simultaneously.  The firmware also allows requests from USB PD programmable power supplies, which offer a wide range of voltages (20 mV increments at up to 3-21 V, though the Sink can’t run at less than about 4 V).  To the best of my knowledge, the PD Buddy Sink is compliant with the USB Power Delivery Specification, Revision 2.0, Version 1.3, and with Revision 3.0, Version 1.1.

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