I want a Framework-made, as open hardware as possible, dock.
I went through a lot of pain to find a dock that works in Linux, and it still doesn’t quite work:
Then I realized I just introduced a giant, unknown, proprietary man in the middle in most of my critical paths: display, network, input, everything goes through that obscure, barely functional black box, just so i can plug my Framework laptop on a couple of monitors and a keyboard.
How about we take that amazing knowledge Framework has accumulated working on that USB-C stuff to make a standalone version of the framework board but as a single-purpose computer that is, really, basically a glorified USB-C hub?
I don’t quite expect this to fit in the original expansion card form factor, but now that we’re talking about eGPUs, it certainly opens the door to more ambitious formats…
This was discussed before in Framework as a brand hardware ecosystem? (specifically docking stations) but that seemed rather out of place, here seems like the right place to discuss this idea…
I would like a simple dock that takes 6 or 8 Expansion Cards and has its own power supply. It would be relatively expensive but the reuseability would be huge.
Definitely in favor of the idea. Especially for people who use their laptop as their main device in work, and then take it home with them a docking station is a very cool thing. Setup like 2 displays, power, ethernet, mouse and keyboard. But there a problem comes up. PD and two displays is theoretically possible, but not with 2x 4k 60FPS. So I think we would have to use at least two USB-C ports to make it properly work. But as I said, would be really cool to have it made by Framework itself
Most users don’t need that kind of screen real estate. I’m using a single widescreen. Not going back to multiple screens. This works better for me.
I’ve been toying with a six port dock design, with the bottom right specifically for the ethernet module. I intended to join each bay to an internal six port dock. Who knows?
what would you think of turning them all 90 degrees and having 1 row and have each internal port be able to forward or back and also have modeler support pieces for each card type and ship the like 6-8(what ones the customer wants) free with the 6 port dock
Would having 3 of the ports backwards make more sense? I feel like having 3 facing forward for front I/O and 3 backwards (for ethernet and display/keyboard) would make more sense to me. Also the removable stand to allow for both horizontal and virtical placement looks sick!
Yes, it can easily be done. I found some small female usb-c breakout boards that would allow each bay to be connected to an internal hub.
One comment/request: One thing I like about my current TB4 dock (had to get one in Jan due to a work-issued Macbook, but also using it a lot with my FW 13 11th gen): Accommodate/think about a way/attachment that would let the dock/hub be clamped onto a desk.
That clamp/mount makes for an even tidier desk top, with various wires conveniently out of the way (monitor, scanner) and the dock itself immune from sliding around when I move wires.
So, what’d that need in terms of electronic components? The first USB 3 hub I found on a quick parts search is the TUSB8042A (going at 10€ individually or 5€ in quantity). Just 4-port, but let’s cut ourselves some slack. It should do most of the USB lifting.
The bigger issue is probably power supply. To be practical this thing should probably have some power input and do USB-PD to the laptop, and have power to spare for the devices. Does this mean it’ll be as complex as the new power adapter? Or could it take power from an existing (eg. the one for the Framework 16) USB-PD power adapter, use that for “bulk” power, and just provide comparatively small step-down for the maximum it’s delivering on the front ends?
As people have different views about which layout of slots is practical (front vs. rear), might it make sense to consider a generic PCB with USB-C sockets that go to the main board through FFC?
The idea is a fairly simple one, to connect the six bays to an internal usb c hub, you would need a usb c hub with six ports. The female boards are attached to each bay and wires soldered to those boards then terminate at a plug which plugs into one of the six ports on the hub, if there is a power delivery port on the hub, that could be used on one of the bays on the dock. Of course, the hub is then connected to the computer. The hub is removed from its housing and attached internally in the dock. I haven’t found a suitable hub yet, only a narrow one with five ports. I want one that is small with six and only six usb c ports, that is, no other ports of different types. Though, you could use one of those if you really wanted, I suppose.
Hub inside enclosure:
Don’t forget, it’s only an idea, I’m not actively working on it, just playing around when I have a few minutes spare.
I would also like a dock for my framework. All of the available docks either lack ports I would like or just have ports I would never use so the modular dock idea appeals to me. I would like some feedback on the following idea - Would it even be possible?
The most flexible dock solution to me is to have a small thunderbolt 4 dock just like pluggable’s TBT4-HUB3C dock. The three downstream outputs could then be sent to three framework expansion bays. One would go to the back to be passed straight to any thunderbolt device needed but the other two would be passed out of the side. This would then enable separate ‘sub-hubs’ to be created that would have two male USB-C connectors that would plug into the dock. These sub-hubs could do whatever was needed by the person. The diagram below shows would they would connect
This means that people could print their own enclosures and install USB hubs with different outputs depending on their needs.
I’m not an electrical enginner but it all seems feasible to me
Just thought of another option. The sub-hub could also act as a stand where the main hub would connect vertically and the framework laptop seated next to it. I would personally love this arrangement - it look awesome on the desk…
There could even be a guide so that when the laptop was put into the stand the USB-C connector on the side of the laptop would automatically connect to the dock so you wouldn’t even need to plug a cable into the laptop (Yes, I AM that lazy…)