We are at that age where we like to experiment. We like to take things apart, see how they work and then put them back together again. This is made possible by our resident mad scientist, Himal Shakti. One day, Himal got an idea. He wanted to build
frankenstein’s monster a charger that could charge more than one device at the same time. But he also didn’t want to spend too much on it. So his solution? He decided to make one using parts readily available.
Gathering the (body) parts
Building a charger is not something that can be done easily. Or is it? Well, that’s what we decided to find out. Now, first off, if you are not familiar with electronics, we recommend that you get the assistance of someone who does know electronics. This is so that you do not harm yourself.
Most of the components required are easily accessible, if you have them lying around. In fact, as you’ll find out, we used a number of recycled components to give life to this creation.
We got our hands on some old phone chargers
This was the basis of creating the phone charger. It’s not the charger that interested us, but rather, it was the PCB or printed circuit board inside. An old Huawei phone charger and a random Chinese charger were willingly sacrificed for this experiment.
In order to get to the PCB, you will have to take out any screws holding the charger together and pry open the housing with a knife, flat screwdriver or similar tool. Once you have pried open the casing, carefully take out the PCB out of the casing, and make sure you don’t damage the board. Most chargers are manufactured in a way that the two pins that go into to the wall socket are connected to two points on the PCB. Make a note of this for later on in the process.
We took a trip to Pettah
Once we gathered the required amount of PCBs, we were ready for the next step. This involved a shopping spree on a budget. The most viable option we found for this was a trip to the land of plenty, aka Pettah.
We were looking for a container to house the Phone charger, and also some electrical wiring along with a way to connect all the chargers to a single outlet to power it all up. For electronic components, the best place is First Cross Street in Pettah.
Putting everything together
As you can see from the image above, we managed to locate two boxes, each priced at a very low price of LKR 22/-. We decided to make things easier and get two. A bit of super glue helped us affix both boxes atop each other. For vanity’s sake, make sure you glue only the edged of the boxes lest the glue hardens and you’re left with a foggy mark on a usually transparent box. Or you can get a box that is not transparent. That works too.
Once the boxes were glued together, it was time to begin assembling the phone charger. We found and old radio and stripped it of its power outlet and cut a hole in the back of our charger box according to the measurement of the outlet socket. Then we drilled two holes through both boxes to pass the cables. Speaking of cables, we got regular two core cables (otherwise known in layman terms as blue/brown cables).
Some assembly required
Since we were starting off with a dual charger prototype, we laid out both PCBs in the boxes and then measured exactly where to place the cut out for the charging ports. You wouldn’t want to find out that the gap is too small to fit a cable now, would you? If you take a look at the PCB of the charger, you will see the two points that you need to connect to the cables.
Depending on the PCB, the polarity of the charger (live and neutral ports) will be marked. If they are not marked, pick one for positive and one for negative. For added stability, we used some high quality double sided tape to fix the PCB to the box. This also ensure that there is no electrical leak from the PCB either.
Using a Soldering iron and some thin to medium gauge solder, we attached a pair of cables to the two ports on one of the charger PCBs and ran the remainder of the cable through the hole we drilled, all the way to the power outlet. We repeated the process for the other charging PCB as well and ran that cable too through the hole. Lastly, we attached the cables to the power outlet.
Powering up Franks’ Phone Charger
Something you should keep in mind here is that depending on the amount of PCBs you have, you will have a corresponding amount of cables. So if you have 3 PCBs, you will have three live cables (brown) and 3 neutral cables (blue).
When connecting the cables to the power outlet, make sure that you connect all three live cables to one port and all three neutral cables to the other port. Not doing so can result in electrocution or the PCB short circuiting and damaging itself and those around it.
All the cables were soldered, all the ports were nicely cut out with space for cables. Everything was glued into place. It was time to see if our phone charger would work, or go up in a ball of smoke. We ran a cable from the the phone charger to the power outlet, crossed our fingers, and switched everything on.
As you can see, everything was working without a problem. Then came the next challenge. Would it work as we expected? We’ve seen 2, 3 and 4 port phone chargers and hubs before. The only issue we saw with devices such as that was that as you plug in more devices, the power or amperage received by each device is collectively divided.
This meant that you would have a faster charge time with a single device plugged in rather than charging 4 devices at the same time. With our DIY charger, since there were individual circuits, we would not see a drop in amperage. At least that was the theory.
The ultimate test
Since our phone charger has separate circuits not linked to each other, theoretically, they would be able to power a device to its maximum amperage, which in this case was around 1A. We decided to put that to the test.
We decided to pair off the DIY phone charger that we made against an Orico 4 Port charger. Our test subjects were a Oneplus 2 and a Huawei Y6 II. We used Ampere for testing the power received from the chargers. The higher the value, the faster our devices would charge.
As you can see from the screenshots above, the DIY phone charger which we now christened “FranK” was maxed out at around the 570mA mark. This, we suspect is due to one of the charging PCBs being of a random brand and using lower quality components in comparison to the other PCB.
Over on the side of the Orico charger, with two devices plugged in, Ampere rated the power levels at around the 800mA margin which was again pretty standard. It should also be noted that the cables used also affect the charging speed. Usually cables from brands such as Auki, Anker and Orico tend to have more throughput when charging devices.
For a DIY phone charger, we weren’t disappointed at all
All in all, despite a few drawbacks, we had with us, a device that can couple as a phone charger or basically charge any device through USB. It also cost less than LKR 1000/- and was made using recycled parts that were readily available at home. Admittedly, it has no fast charging options or other fancy features, but for a budding electronics enthusiast to play around with, this was certainly a good way to kick things off.
What do you think about Frank the phone charger? Let us know in the comments bel