The standard size USB (Universal Serial Bus) connector, along with the operation of the USB, has stayed relatively the same since 1996, outliving the USB 1, 2 and 3.0 standards. The standard USB is the connector you see on almost every computer peripheral device such as, keyboard, mouse, camera, and jump drive. It is so popular that we use them to modularize connection between the cellphone and a wall power supply. There has been a variety of alternative form factors on the other end of the standard size USB, but the old way of thinking has remained relatively the same.
The USB has been limited by the orientation of insertion as well as the peripheral power distribution and direction. The USB 1, 2 and 3.0 standards have adopted orientation specific type A (male) and B (female) connectors to support the variety of power and data requirements. Connectors we commonly see today are the mini, micro and 3.0 of various shapes and sizes as well as custom Apple 30pin or lightening cable. These cables don’t look like “USB” cables but still use the USB 1, 2 and 3.0 standards to adhere to or reference from.
The USB Type C is slated to replace the standard USB connector we have seen for the past 20 years. When we pair this connector with the USB 3.1 standard a new world of connection opens up. The new infrastructure will be able to provide 11X more power than USB 3.0 and 22X more power than USB 2.0. This means you can now power the laptop and transfer data through the same line, reducing the number of items connected to your laptop or mobile device. You could have an entire ecosystem setup at your home, office or vehicle that can be activated by plugging in one cable. Also, the power is no longer limited by the host-to-peripheral relationship; power can be transferred to and from the host by its “dependent” peripherals. The new USB 3.1 standard requires cables to be capable of 10Gbps or 2X USB 3.0 and 21X USB 2.0. This means you can download your entire flash drive in a matter of seconds or seamlessly stream data from a hard drive in Ultra HD while charging. The Type C connector is also “common” and can be plugged in either orientation. No more fumbling around and getting frustrated with plugging the USB in the right way. If you are like me, I will plug it in wrong three out of four attempts; thanks Murphy.
The USB committees were smart and allow both forward and backward compatible communication across the various USB standards. This is good news for all us who will have legacy devices for the next 10-20 years. The unfortunate consequence of this change is the necessity of another USB adapter to electrically align the pins. But if you have lived in the modern cell phone world, you will know adapters are all part of the growing process of technology. It is hoped that the necessity of adapters will disappear as the USB C becomes the new standard for all application. The USB C is very small and is only slightly bigger than Apples Lightning and the USB micro. The slightly larger size should allow for a more robust design without requiring much more space. With a small form factor it will be able to interface with smart watches to laptops and likely anything else smaller. The USB C paired with the USB 3.1 standard is set up to be the next benchmark for the future of physical connections and is evident by Microsoft, Apple and Android platforms quick adoption of the standard and connector.
Plastics One has developed customer driven projects using the standard, mini and micro USB connectors for our customers. We have experience in navigating the USB waters of design and fabrication. Our capability allows us to change wire types, molding design and electrical configurations to suit our customers needs.