Custom Mechanical Keyboards

[Wyager] was shopping around for a mechanical keyboard, and after noticing custom PCB manufacturing had come down in price so much, he decided to build his own. The end result is a keyboard that’s so elegant in its design, that it could, with a little work, become a very interesting Kickstarter project.

The design had three requirements: cheap, mechanical switches, and extremely customizable. The cheap requirement was solved by splitting the keyboard into two parts with a master/slave arrangement. The boards are connected by a 1/8″ TRRS jack conveying an I2C bus. Since both boards are identical except for the code running on the Teensy dev boards, [Wyager] saved a bit of cash by using two of the three PCBs that came with his OSHPark order.

The mechanical switches – Cherry MX Blues – are rather expensive parts for a failed project. For fear of failure, [Wyager] first ordered a PCB containing the footprint of only one key. With the footprint correct, he graduated to a 2×2 matrix. Once that was verified, the 6×5 matrix was ordered. Everything worked perfectly the first time, something we can’t say about many of our projects.

The code, board files, and schematics are available over on the github

Hackaday Links: March 9, 2014

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Thinking about starting a CNC machine, 3D printer, or laser cutter project? Misumi has you covered. They’re offering up $150 worth of free stuff with a coupon code. [CharlieX] is putting together a BuildLog laser cutter, a whole bunch of people on reddit are building 3D printers, and I have most of the rods for an i3 build. Just use the promotion code First150 on your order. Actually, read the terms and conditions, but rest assured – this is legit.

A few months ago, we saw this Enigma cypher machine that combines the classic late-30s aesthetic of the original with modern hardware – including a few 16-segment displays. Now there’s a Kickstarter for the Open Source Enigma replica, and it looks like it’s going to end up being pretty popular. Here’s the site with all the deets. Check out that QWERTZ keyboard.

[Jason] has a love of LEGO and a terrible keyboard. Combine the two and he came up with a functional LEGO keyboard. The electronics are, sadly, an old PS/2 membrane keyboard, but the mechanicals are a work of art – all the keys are mounted on a grid of Technic parts that can be positioned over each of the membrane buttons.

Want a really cool look for your next enclosure? How about LED pipes? They’re those clear plastic bits that direct the light from LEDs around corners and can make any enclosure looks like a Star Trek set piece. You can cut these things with a laser cutter like the Alima team did with their indoor air quality meter. Looks pretty cool.

Satisfying way to ‘Build’ Projects

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When you’re writing code for your next big creation, chances are that you build/debug the project 100’s of times a day. Sure, the keyboard hotkey gets the job done, but is it really that satisfying? [Victor] sends in this quick project on turning an Emergency Stop Push button into a ‘Build’ button.

From the looks of it, this project uses a Teensy 2.0, which sports an ATMEGA32U4. Since this part features a USB controller, it is a piece of cake to get it to mimic a keyboard. The circuit is also very simple; the pushbutton contacts are wired from ground to a digital input. On detection of a ‘press’, the Teensy will send out the keyboard combination to build your project: Ctrl-B, F7, etc… If you prefer working within the Arduino IDE, this could upload sketches as well (Ctrl-U).

Adding a little fun to ‘building’ your projects does come at a cost though. Besides forfeiting a Teensy, you also have to give up a precious USB port. [Victor] does mention Bluetooth, but that could break your budget for this sort of project. A possible alternative to the Teensy could be to implement Virtual USB on a low-cost standalone Arduino.

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Keyboard Spoofs 4 NES Controllers for Chiptune Goodness

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This toy keyboard is being used to play music on an NES. As you probably already know, the hardware inside those original controllers was dead simple. They’re just a parallel to serial shift register that reads from all of the keys. To get this keyboard up and running [heavyw8bit] simply mounted eight chips inside the gutted toy, connecting two of them to the keyboard keys, and the rest to the array of push buttons he added to the right.

So what’s the point of using this as a quadruple game controller? Are you expecting to see what a full speed-run of Contra looks like using this as the controls? That’s not the point at all. This becomes a musician-friendly frontend for the NES synthesizer ROM called NESK-1. [heavyw8bit] wrote the game/program in order to allow you to use the original console hardware to play all of the sounds you know and love. Our favorite is the arpeggio example heard at about 2:35 into the clip after the break.

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Laptop Keyboard EL Panel Backlight

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[nullpointr] wanted a backlit keyboard for his Asus Transformer Prime so that it would be a bit easier to use in low-light situations. He considered a few different options and ended up adding electroluminescent panels behind the keys.

Those paying close attention might wonder why we called this a laptop in the title. Well, it’s a tablet with a keyboard dock and that’s a mouthful. This actually really helps to simplify the modifications because the motherboard and other bits are all in the screen portion of the device. EL panels are also a nice choice because you can cut them to size and they still function. With a bit of case work, three panels were made to fit side-by-side.

The part that just isn’t going to make it in the original enclosure is the inverter that drives the panels. It’s the black box to the left. [nullpointr] added a USB-form-factor jack to the side of the case that allows the inverter to be disconnected quite easily. This way the Transformer Prime can still go with him on the road, it just won’t light up unless he also hauls around that add-on.

Way way back we saw someone do this with fiber optics and an LED. Unfortunately that project link seems to be dead so we figure it’s about time someone revisited the concept.

USB Ableton foot controller reuses old keyboard

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No, Hackaday hasn’t started advertising shoes, this is [Matlek’s] foot controller for Ableton Live.

Matlek plays guitar and needed an easy way to control Ableton Live, which he uses as a looper. Ableton normally expects keyboard input, so that’s exactly what he gave it.

An old dell keyboard was gutted down to its controller board. This exposes  the leads the keyboard uses to scan the key matrix.  From there it is simply trial and error connecting different pins together and seeing which keys are printed on the PC screen (A text editor works well for this). Only 8 characters are needed to control the looper, so [Matlek] chose digits 1-8.

Since some of the wires are going to be sharing pins, a small piece of stripboard comes in handy between the buttons and the keyboard controller. [Maltek] used basic momentary push buttons for his mini key matrix, though we think that box looks sturdy enough to support some larger stomp box style buttons.

Everything comes together inside a sturdy shoebox, which also serves to insulate the exposed keyboard PCB from shorting out.

The only major downside to the project is that the box is light enough that it slides easily on the floor when recording or triggering loops. Adding some heavy items (or dare we say, some shoes) would solve this problem. Self adhesive rubber feet on the bottom of the box would help too.

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Building a small keypad for strategy games

A month ago [Andreas] started playing Starcraft 2 again. As he was not comfortable with the default hotkeys on a normal keyboard, [Andreas] decided to build his own.

He started by salvaging keys from an old keyboard he had lying around, then 3D printed the case you see in the picture above to fit them. The keyboard electrical design is a simple matrix and it appears that he etched the PCB himself. To provide the required USB connectivity, the Atmega8U2 was chosen. It comes with a pre-programmed USB bootloader that [Andreas] chose to activate when the left key is pressed at the system startup. The HID class was implemented using the LUFA-USB Framework and the final product is definitely good looking.

All the files required to duplicate his design can be found here. You can also checkout another starcraft keyboard and an ergonomic keyboard that we previously featured.