[Andrew] from [Wizard Keyboards] emailed us and asked if we were interested in his story of developing an ergonomic keyboard as a product. Many of us can relate to trying to bring one of our ideas to market. [Andrew], being a mechanical keyboard geek, knew a niche with no product to satisfy it, and had a vision he wanted to implement. He started meticulously going through steps for bringing his keyboard idea into life as a manufacturable product, and gave himself six months to get it done.
After evaluating competing products and setting a price point, he designed the case, the keyboard’s mainboard, and even flexible circuit boards for wiring the keys up. The mechanical design alone had him go through many iterations and decisions, and he walks us through the different paths he’s faced. Whether it’s these insights, a story of a module with fraudulent FCC certification, or an approach to electronics design that led to him passing EMC tests with flying colors, there’s plenty to learn from [Andrew]’s journey.
Sadly, at some point, the project quickly outgrew the intended goal and became a drain. For instance, tuning the 3D printing processes alone took three months instead of one as planned. As the design was done, he got stuck on marketing material production – a field that turned out to be unexpectedly hostile to a hacker like him. After a year of work and five thousand hours of work spent on the project, he took a break, and afterwards, as he was trying to come back, [Andrew] realized that he has burned out. He took a few month long hiatus, and having recovered a bit, revisited the project. Still not thrilled about the product route, he decided that open-sourcing the keyboard would be the best outcome – doing justice to the time and effort spent working on it.
This is where the story ends – for now. [Andrew] has open-sourced everything one would need to create such a keyboard by yourself, designed assembly instructions, and even sells kit parts for those who’d like to take a shortcut. This wasn’t what he aimed for, but it’s a honorable ending – most commercial projects never get open-sourced even if they utterly fail to launch. Thanks to [Andrew], we got an insightful journey, a postmortem, and an open-source ergonomic keyboard project. Product stories grace our pages every now and then – here’s a similarly swerving story about a MIDI controller.
It doesn’t happen all the time, but over the years we’ve noticed that once we feature a project, a number of very similar builds often find themselves in our tip line before too long. Of course, these aren’t copycats; not enough time has passed for some competitive maker to spin up their own version. No, most of the time it’s somebody else who was working on a very similar project in isolation, and who now for the first time realizes they aren’t alone.
Thanks to this phenomenon we’re happy to report that yet another 3D printable magnetic levitation switch has come to light. Developed by [famichu], this take on the concept is markedly different from what we’ve seen previously, which in a way makes the whole thing even more impressive. It’s one thing for multiple hackers to develop similar projects independently of each other, as the end goal often dictates the nature of the design itself. But here we’re seeing a project that took the same core concepts and ran in a different direction. Continue reading “3D Printed Maglev Switches Are So Hot Right Now”
While most people are happy to type away at whatever keyboard their machine came with, for the keyboard enthusiast, there’s no stone to be left unturned in the quest for the perfect key switch mechanism. Enter [Riskable], with an innovative design for a 3D printed mechanism that delivers near-infinite adjustment without the use of springs or metallic contacts.
The switching itself is performed by a Hall effect sensor, the specifics of which are detailed in a second repository. The primary project simply represents the printed components and magnets which make up the switch mechanism. Each switch uses three 4 x 2 mm magnets, a static one mounted on the switch housing and two on the switch’s moving slider. One is mounted below the static magnet oriented to attract it, while the other is above and repels it.
With this arrangement the lower magnet provides the required tactility, while the upper one’s repulsive force replaces the spring used in a traditional mechanism. [Riskable] calls it the magnetic separation contactless key switch, but we think “revolutionary” has a nicer ring to it.
The part which makes this extra-special is that it’s a fully parametric OpenSCAD model in which the separation of the magnets is customisable, so the builder has full control of both the tactility and return force of the keys. There’s a video review we’ve posted below that demonstrates this with a test keypad showing a range of tactility settings.
We have a resident keyboard expert here at Hackaday in the shape of our colleague [Kristina Panos], whose Keebin’ With Kristina series has introduced us to all that is interesting in the world of textual input. She plans on taking a keyboard made of these clever switches on a test drive, once she’s extruded the prerequisite number of little fiddly bits.
Continue reading “3D Printed Magnetic Switches Promise Truly Custom Keyboards”