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.
There’s a certain kind of joy that comes in throwing something together from spare parts, or from finding utility in a proof of concept for another project. [Clewsy] is cooking up something clacky and built this baby keeb to prove some stuff out, such as reading a key matrix. Now it’s become a music/media controller that looks great next to a giant matching volume knob.
Beneath the gently backlit Gateron blues is a custom ATMega32u4-based board, which is viewable through the clear acrylic bottom plate. That’s a nice touch. We’re not sure if the wood came from a picture frame, but if not, they seem like a great candidates for enclosure material.
This keeb looks fantastic, and we are partial to both the clear and the chrome keycaps. We can only hope [Clewsy] sends the details of the next build our way.
If you want to get started building keyboards, you can’t go wrong with a macro keyboard like this one. If you have way more than four macros in mind, build something bigger, like a custom game pad with a joystick.
Each finger hovers over a C-shaped group of three switches — one actuates by moving the finger forward, another by moving backward, and the third by pushing down like a regular button. The thumb gets a 4-way joystick. All of these inputs are wired up to an Arduino Pro Micro, which has sort of become the standard for DIY macro pads and keyboards. We think this looks fantastic, and really raises the bar for DIY macro pads.
Building a macro pad inside of a 3D printed enclosure is hardly news these days. Neither is adding 3D printed keycaps to the mix. But if you go as far as [James Stanley] has, and actually print the switches themselves, we’ve got to admit that’s another story entirely.
Now you might be wondering how [James] managed to print a mechanical keyboard switch that’s the size of your garden variety Cherry. Well, the simple answer is that he didn’t. While his printed switches have the same footprint as traditional switches, they are twice as tall.
But can printed switches really stand up to daily use? [James] wondered the same thing, so he built a testing rig that would hit the switches and count how many iterations before they stopped working. This testing seems to indicate that the keys will either fail quickly due to some mechanical defect, or last for hundreds of thousands of presses. So assuming you weed out the duds early, you should be in pretty good shape.
Naturally, there are a few bits of copper inside each printed switch to act as the actual contacts. But beyond that, all you need to build one of these printable pads yourself is a USB-HID capable microcontroller like the Arduino Pro Micro. If you used the ESP32, you could even make it Bluetooth.
[Adam Welch] has built macro pads in the past out of pre-fab key matrices and handfuls of Cherry MX clones. But all the stickers and custom keycaps in the world wouldn’t make those macro pads as versatile as a stream deck — those visual shortcut panels with tiny touchscreens for each button that some streamers use to change A/V settings or switch between applications.
Let’s face it, stream decks are expensive. But 0.96″ OLED displays are not, and neither are SMD tactile buttons. Why not imitate a screen deck on the cheap by making it so the screens actuate buttons behind them? [Adam] based this baby on the clever design of [Kilian Gosewisch]’s FreeDeck, and they ended up working together to improve it with a dedicated PCB.
The brains of the operation is an Arduino Pro Micro, which addresses each screen individually via two 74HC4051 mux ICs. Thanks to an SD card module, there’s no need to flash the ‘duino every time you want to change a shortcut or its picture. Even if this deck doesn’t hold up forever, it won’t break the bank to build another one. Poke past the break for the build video, which has all the links you’d need to make your own, including a handy configurator.
Have you built a macro keypad yet? This is one of those projects where the need can materialize after the build is complete, because these things are made of wishes and upsides. A totally customized, fun build that streamlines processes for both work and play? Yes please. The only downside is that you actually have to like, know how to build them.
Suffer no more, because [Andy Warburton] can show you exactly how to put a macro pad together without worrying about wiring up a key switch matrix correctly. [Andy]’s keypad uses the very affordable Seeeduino Xiao, a tiny board that natively runs Arduino code. Since it has a SAMD21 processor, [Andy] chose to run CircuitPython on it instead. And lucky for you, he wrote a separate guide for that.
Practicalities aside, the next best thing about macro keyboards is that they can take nearly any shape or form. Print a case from Thingiverse as [Andy] did, or build it into anything you have lying around that’s sturdy enough to stand up to key presses and won’t slide around on your desk.