I keep saying I need to stay away from auction sites, but then I wouldn’t have as much fodder for Hackaday, would I? As I write this, I’m waiting on a Dell AT101W, which will be my first keeb with Alps switches. Well, hopefully it has Alps SKCM salmon or black switches — according to Deskthority, it might have rubber domes. If it doesn’t keyboard, I will probably salvage the switches and build something more ergonomic. Either way, I’m thinking we need a post about Alps switches, because some people think they’re even better than Cherry MX switches.
About a month ago, [50an6xy06r6n] shared their hot swap 3D-printed circuit board for keyboard design with the mechanical keyboard subreddit. It’s more of a prototyping tool than a permanent fixture, though nothing is stopping you from using it permanently. Well, now it’s even better, and open source to boot.
[50an6xy06r6n] came up with this to test split ergo layouts faster and not have to solder anything — the switch pins make contact with the row wires and folded diode legs. In fact, prepping all the diodes is probably the thing that takes the longest.
The design can be generated from layout data, or you can convert directly from a KLE JSON file. We love how delightfully clean this keyboard breadboard generator looks, and we wish we had thought of it!
[50an6xy06r6n]’s PCB generator currently supports Cherry MX/clones and Kailh Choc switch footprints. If you want ALPS, somebody’s gonna have to send [50an6xy06r6n] some ALPS to make that happen.
As long as all the contact points are good, you should be able to use this as the final PCB indefinitely. We’ve certainly seen our share of 3D-printed wire guides. Really, you could print the whole thing, including the switches.
What’s the worst thing about split keyboards? If they have one general fault, it’s that almost none of them have a number pad. If you can fly on that thing, but struggle with using the top row numbers, you will miss the num pad terribly, trust us. So what’s the answer? Design your own keyboard, of course. [ToasterFuel] had enough bread lying around to cook up a little experiment for his first keyboard build, and we think the result is well done, which is kind of rare for first keebs.
This design is based on the Redox, itself a remix of the ErgoDox that aims to address the common complaints about the latter — it’s just too darn big, and the thumb clusters are almost unusable. We love how customized this layout is, with its sprinkling of F keys and Escape in the Caps Lock position. Under those keycaps you’ll find 100% Cherry MX greens, so [ToasterFuel] must have pretty strong fingers to pound those super clackers.
Everything else under the hood is pretty standard, with a pair of Arduino Pro Micros running the show. [ToasterFuel] had to wire up the whole thing by hand because of the num pad, and we’re impressed that he built this entire project in just three weeks. And that includes writing his own firmware!
Already found or built a split you love, but still miss the num pad? Why not build one to match your keyboard?
There’s more than one way to make a mechanical macro pad, and this wooden wonder represents one of our favorites. [Tauno Erik] had an old rubber dome rectangle keyboard lying around that still worked, but the poor thing was missing some of its caps. After salvaging the controller, [Tauno Erik] got to work on the tedious task of figuring out the mapping of the matrix, which was made easier with a Python script.
Almost every component of this beauty is wood, including the mounting plate and those thicc and lovely keycaps — their top layer is solid oak, and the bottom bit is birch plywood. In order to interface the ‘caps with the switches, [Tauno Erik] designed and printed connector pieces that sit inside the extra large keycaps and accept the stems of the key switches.
Speaking of switches, we’re not sure if [Tauno Erik] ended up using Cherry green switches, browns, or a mix of both (that would be interesting), but each one is mounted on a custom PCB along with a diode and a pull-up resistor. You can see more build pictures at [Tauno Erik]’s site, and stick around for a visual tour of the completed build after the break.
Wood is a great choice for keycaps, and we imagine they’ll only look better with age and use. A more common use for wood on a keyboard build is in surprisingly comfortable wrist rests.
The super fun thing about macro pads is that they’re inherently ultra-personalized, so why not have fun with them? This appealing little keeb may have been a joke originally, but [dapperrogue] makes a valid point among a bunch of banana-related puns on the project page — the shape makes it quite the ergonomic little input device.
Inside this open-source banana is that perennial favorite for macro pads, the Arduino Pro Micro, and eight switches that are wired up directly to input pins. We’re not sure what flavor of Cherry those switches are, hopefully brown or green, but we suddenly wish Cherry made yellow switches. If you want to build your own, the STLs and code are available, and we know for a fact that other switch purveyors do in fact make yellow-stemmed switches.
Contrary to what the BOM says, we believe the sticker is mandatory because it just makes the build — we imagine there would be fewer double takes without it. Hopefully this fosters future fun keyboard builds from the community, and we can’t wait to sink our teeth into the split version!
There are a bunch of ways to make a macropad, including printing everything but the microcontroller.
Reddit user [duzitbetter] showed off their design for a 3D-printed programmable macro keyboard that offers a different take on what can be thought of as a sort of 3D-printed PCB. The design is called the Bloko 9 and uses the Raspberry Pi PICO and some Cherry MX-style switches, which are popular in DIY keyboards.
The enclosure and keycaps are all 3D printed, and what’s interesting is the way that the enclosure both holds the components in place as well as providing a kind of wire guide for all the electrical connections. The result is such that bare copper wire can be routed and soldered between leads in a layout that closely resembles the way a PCB would be routed. The pictures say it all, so take a look.
Bloko 9 is available as a paid model, and while going PCB-free thanks to 3D printing is a technique others have played with, it is very well demonstrated here and shows there is still plenty of room to innovate on the concept. DIY keyboard and macro pad design is also fertile ground for hackers; we have even seen that it’s possible to 3D print one right down to the switches themselves.
System76, a computer manufacturer known for selling machines which run Linux, recently unveiled the complete sources for their forthcoming Launch mechanical keyboard. Made with familiar tools, mass produced, and backed by a stable company it looks like the Launch will be a compelling entrant into the world of mechanical keyboards.
Back in March of 2020 System76 published a blog post about a new project they were embarking on; a mechanical keyboard with an unusual layout. At the time there was scant information available besides a summer 2021 target and little was heard until last week when they opened up access to the Launch repository. Everything should be recognizable if you’ve ever looked at the sources for a customized mechanical keyboard before, which is what gets our attention. Electrical sources are authored with KiCad and should be easy to tweak or fabricate. And mechanical components are provided in STEP files with mechanical drawings, presumably because they intend to actually manufacture these.
Feature wise all the usual hallmarks of a well designed keyboard are here. The Launch uses hostswap sockets to make it easy to install the usual Cherry MX compatible switch options, and includes per-key RGB backlighting courtesy of SK6805 LEDs. The ATmega32U4 runs the popular and extremely capable QMK firmware instead of something bespoke, so it should be easy to customize to the user’s desire.
System76 touts an unusual key layout, but if you’ve seen a 75% keyboard before it shouldn’t be too threatening (though we do wonder about that shrunken right shift). The most unusual feature is that it features a USB hub capable of full speed 10 gigabit USB 3.1 Gen 2 on two USB-C and two USB-A ports. It’s worth checking out the schematic to appreciate how much more complicated the hub design is than the rest of the keyboard, which is practically vestigial in comparison.
The remaining unknown is how the Launch integrates with Pop!_OS, System76’s awkwardly named remix of Ubuntu. They promise deep, compelling integration and we’re excited to see how that manifests.