2nd August 2016
Project

Thermaltake 4x USB 3.0 Front Panel

The Thermaltake Urban S31 is a feature-packed PC case, with an external SATA dock, space for 6x hard drives, 3x optical drives and 4x USB ports on the front panel.

After upgrading to a Z170 motherboard with 2 USB 3.0 headers (4 ports), I decided to design a front panel that replaced the 2x USB 2.0 ports with another 2 USB 3.0 ports.

The Board

The board itself is simple. The USB 3.0 motherboard cables are only mounted onto the board, with 2 mounting holes required for each port. The audio section is a direct copy of the design of the original, to allow original parts to be used.

Board design
Board design in KiCad.

The board was ordered from OSH Park, and is available to purchase using the following link:

Order from OSH Park

The new board is very similar to the original, with the exception of the different mounting holes, and removal of the USB 2.0 traces. The first version of the board (pictured below) had the silkscreen on the wrong side (oops), which has been fixed in the version shared at OSH Park.

Old board vs new board
Original Thermaltake board, with my board for comparison. My board has an added feature – the silkscreen is on the wrong side. In this picture, the new board is upside down.

As parts are needed from the original board, the top section of the case must be removed.

First, remove the exhaust vent on the top of the case.

The section housing the front panel is held in place with two screws. To remove these, you need to access the area above the top optical drive bay. Once these are removed, the front panel housing can be lifted up.

It is important to be careful at this stage, as the cables are still attached to the housing. Unscrewing and removing the button board and front panel surround will give access to the front panel board. The board is held in place with a screw on either side. With these removed, carefully slide the board out of its slot. Pull the other end of the wires attached to the board through the hole in the case (make sure they are unplugged first!).

You should now be left with the front panel board, completely free of the case.

Desolder the USB 3.0 cable (unless you purchased an extra one), both audio jacks and the audio header cable. Specialist tools are helpful, but not required. I managed to remove the parts using an Antex XS-25 and a spring operated solder sucker.

Once the parts are removed, simply solder them onto the new board as indicated by the silkscreen. I added a dab of super glue under the USB ports, to keep them securely in position.

Finished Board
New board fitted to the front panel surround. I chose to solder the audio header in place with the board already fitted.

Now all that is left to do is reassemble the case.

Slot the USB headers through the cable hole, and screw the front panel housing back together. Attach the other boards to the housing, and slot it back onto the case. This might take a few attempts, as the USB cables need to be routed carefully around the clips, while remaining flat enough to allow the housing to sit flush with the rest of the case.

Screw the housing back into place, replace the top case vent, and enjoy the extra speed from your new USB 3.0 ports!

Downloads

The KiCad files related to this project will be added here at a later date.

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