For everyday use — like connecting a mouse or webcam to your laptop — an inexpensive USB hub with enough ports will get the job done. However, in production or test environments, robustness and reliability are paramount. Chasing bugs inherent in inexpensive USB hubs is distracting and time-consuming, and failed processes can shut down lines or negatively impact your product quality. Even worse, a cheap hub may be able to damage your critical production systems.

If you have experienced this, you know how important a USB hub with robust design, suitable for a production environment, can be. It is therefore very important to consider the true cost and impact of the USB hub to your company as you specify equipment that meets your reliability needs for real-world production testing.

Acroname’s S77 USBHub2x4 is designed from the ground up by engineers who understand these issues intimately and have addressed them – to keep your lines running. Acroname evaluated four different “industrial” USB hubs for robustness and reliability in production environments. Specifically, we looked at each design for:

  • ESD and surge current protections
  • Current limiting
  • Inrush current mitigation

In this series of three articles, we will review each design for these critical design considerations for USB hubs intended for production environments. As the first article in the series, we will introduce the contenders and then look at their designs for ESD and surge current robustness.

At first glance, a hub is a hub — but not all hubs are created equal. Of course, there are differences in functional specifications:

  • Bus-powered or self-powered
  • Number of ports
  • Connector types
  • USB 2.0 Speed (1Mbps, 12Mbps or 480Mbps) or SuperSpeed (5Gbps or 10Gbps)

However, after choosing the functional specs you need, it is important to consider the design behind the numbers.

Build quality, proper treatment of grounds and shields, current limiting, electro-static discharge (ESD) and surge protection might not make much difference to your mouse, but they are all critical considerations in a production environment. Just because a USB hub comes in a metal housing or is labeled “industrial” doesn’t mean it was designed to be rugged or reliable.