Author Topic: AcidFire's modular keyboard system - Nexus [In Development]  (Read 102584 times)

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Offline AcidFire

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AcidFire's modular keyboard system - Nexus [In Development]
« on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 11:25:40 »
Current Status:
I've assembled & tested the first revisions of the boards and am midway through updating the second revisions of the PCBs, bringing them in line to be the production design.

Latest Media:
Testing the LED arrays:

Playing with the layout:




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So I came to geekhack purely because I happened to stumble across the Ergodox while searching for a keyboard solution to my pain in my wrists. And because Dox and Litster were awesome enough to open source their designs, I was able to use the laser cutters we have at work to take the design for a test drive. What I found just laying my hands on the boards echoed what I've read from a few people, mainly that the thumb cluster wasn't entirely comfortable for me at the same height as the other keys. A couple of test cuts later and I've landed at this:


Comparison w/ Ergodox:


I made some minor modifications to the key layout, dropped the thumb pad 9mm, and everything felt a bit better in terms of fit. I still want to offset the pinkie keys down a bit more, but for now I'm happy to test my new layout. So before I lay out and order PCBs, I set up a test the old fashioned way:

Installing diodes made it super simple to connect my columns. The best part is, it takes minimal effort to remove the hot glue & solder, so when I do finally get PCBs made it won't take me long to recover my keys for the new board.

And because the black & clear acrylic sandwich looks so slick:


I'm also a bit proud of the way I've designed the thumb area, as it allows for a variety of different layouts to be used/customized, and then connected to the mainboard:


More to come!
« Last Edit: Tue, 27 August 2013, 11:17:58 by AcidFire »

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard
« Reply #1 on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 11:33:16 »
Beautiful work.

One day I might look into these.

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Offline llovro

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard
« Reply #2 on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 11:34:12 »
Wow. Good job at doing this. Case looks really classy. Can't wait to see more :D

Offline PixelScript

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard
« Reply #3 on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 12:06:28 »
Wow, this looks brilliant! Awesome job!

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard
« Reply #4 on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 12:15:49 »
Yeah, if you could start selling these that would be great.

Offline linziyi

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard
« Reply #5 on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 12:19:28 »
It looks like a grand piano ;D
would be awesome if the case works with ergodox, I would definitely want one!
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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard
« Reply #6 on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 12:22:43 »
It looks like a grand piano ;D
would be awesome if the case works with ergodox, I would definitely want one!
The thumb pad is lower than the rest of the board. It needs a different pcb.

Offline AcidFire

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard
« Reply #7 on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 12:24:28 »
Thanks for the positive responses so far everyone, it's very encouraging :D

Yeah, if you could start selling these that would be great.
The thought crossed my mind, since I have direct access to the tools (including a Pick & Place machine) I would hopefully be able to keep it on the affordable side too. I'll keep this thread updated if I decide to go down that path.

It looks like a grand piano ;D
would be awesome if the case works with ergodox, I would definitely want one!

Unfortunately due to the staggered nature it wouldn't work directly w/ the Ergodox, however if you're interested in having a case for the Ergodox cut in those colors PM me and I'll see what I can do for ya ;)


Offline Larken

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard
« Reply #8 on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 12:24:39 »
woah. that is beautiful. the curves and legs remind me of a grand piano.
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Offline AcidFire

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard
« Reply #9 on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 12:34:35 »
woah. that is beautiful. the curves and legs remind me of a grand piano.

I'm starting to think I'm going to have to do a mixed white&black keyset lol. I also updated the thread title, considering now that you guys have said it all I can see when I look at it is grand piano  ;)

Also, while these are a bit big, I'm sure I could find similar to look like piano legs heh:
http://www.mbs-standoffs.com/Aluminum-Standoffs-Diameter-12-Standoff-12-Aluminum-Black-Anodized-Finish_p_3001.html
« Last Edit: Wed, 19 June 2013, 12:49:37 by AcidFire »

Offline ITzNybble

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard - The Grand Piano
« Reply #10 on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 12:45:57 »
Wonderful work, such a beauty
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Offline Glod

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard - The Grand Piano
« Reply #11 on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 13:13:57 »
i think you can guess what i think of this. freaking awesome

not sure i like the legs though, i know it goes with the piano theme but they just seem like out of place with the design

maybe if you had a chunk of acrylic cut just like i have on my ergodox in wood.

edit. btw i love the solid color acrylic case for the ergodox, you could get those cut and sell them easily, i would buy one.

edit2: oh snap thats not an ergodox is it on the right? win!
« Last Edit: Wed, 19 June 2013, 13:16:26 by Glod »

Offline Larken

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard - The Grand Piano
« Reply #12 on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 13:31:56 »
Now that I took a closer look at it, I have to say that this was more impressive than I thought it was. That's 10 layers of acrylic in the design, isn't it? And just a thought for your consideration - a fullhand design with integrated wrist rests are better for tenting. It's very tiring to float your hands all the time with a classic case when its so high up all the time.

By the way, the cuts you made are so much cleaner than the default ergodox cases. I bet you could sell those to people if the costs of your cutting isn't too high.
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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard - The Grand Piano
« Reply #13 on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 13:35:00 »
Just noticed the book in op.
I like your choice in literature. Read most of the series myself.

Offline Photekq

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard - The Grand Piano
« Reply #14 on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 13:39:24 »
Looks great. Good job, man.
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Offline Jagriff

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard - The Grand Piano
« Reply #15 on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 13:48:25 »
Please start selling that black acrylic ErgoDox case!

Offline AcidFire

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard - The Grand Piano
« Reply #16 on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 14:15:47 »
Now that I took a closer look at it, I have to say that this was more impressive than I thought it was. That's 10 layers of acrylic in the design, isn't it? And just a thought for your consideration - a fullhand design with integrated wrist rests are better for tenting. It's very tiring to float your hands all the time with a classic case when its so high up all the time.

By the way, the cuts you made are so much cleaner than the default ergodox cases. I bet you could sell those to people if the costs of your cutting isn't too high.

Nope, it's 7 layers, 3 layers of 6mm acrylic & 4 layers of 3mm. It would be 10 if i was cutting the 6mm layers out of 3mm tho.

I will have to look into selling the black cases, please keep in mind that I don't have 1/16" black acrylic, just 3mm (1/8"), so it would change the thicknesses a bit,  if someone felt like volunteering to try out a case, PM me and we'll go from there.

As for the full hand, thats the first thing I noticed, so I'll be updating the design when I get the chance to provide proper support. The great thing about it being multilayered is that it's easy to make tweaks like that without having to cut the whole thing again.

i think you can guess what i think of this. freaking awesome

not sure i like the legs though, i know it goes with the piano theme but they just seem like out of place with the design

maybe if you had a chunk of acrylic cut just like i have on my ergodox in wood.

edit. btw i love the solid color acrylic case for the ergodox, you could get those cut and sell them easily, i would buy one.

edit2: oh snap thats not an ergodox is it on the right? win!

The legs are quite temporary, and are mostly there to help me figure out what height/angle works for me without having to continually recut an acrylic stand for it. However, it's also possible to find much nicer looking legs that would still allow for the adjustment, so we'll have to see what the future brings.
« Last Edit: Wed, 19 June 2013, 14:21:27 by AcidFire »

Offline Rayne

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard - The Grand Piano
« Reply #17 on: Wed, 19 June 2013, 14:23:37 »
wow, this really is a beautiful piece of art work. Great job sir, i would love to try typing on one of these.
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Offline AcidFire

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard - The Grand Piano
« Reply #18 on: Thu, 20 June 2013, 02:25:06 »
Now that I took a closer look at it, I have to say that this was more impressive than I thought it was. That's 10 layers of acrylic in the design, isn't it? And just a thought for your consideration - a fullhand design with integrated wrist rests are better for tenting. It's very tiring to float your hands all the time with a classic case when its so high up all the time.

By the way, the cuts you made are so much cleaner than the default ergodox cases. I bet you could sell those to people if the costs of your cutting isn't too high.

I completely agree about the floating, so tonight I did a new design:



I widened the edges a bit, and extended the palm rest, updating the design of the curve as I did. I also moved the pinkie keys down a few millimeters, which feels more comfortable to reach with. The result is far more comfortable than the previous iteration, so now I may just have to cut some pretty 6mm clear spacer pieces and peel off all that protective paper. I'll be able to test better when my new keycaps come in, but I think this is pretty damn close to where I want to be with it design wise.
« Last Edit: Thu, 20 June 2013, 02:27:56 by AcidFire »

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard aka The Grand Piano
« Reply #19 on: Thu, 20 June 2013, 15:52:22 »
Now that I took a closer look at it, I have to say that this was more impressive than I thought it was. That's 10 layers of acrylic in the design, isn't it? And just a thought for your consideration - a fullhand design with integrated wrist rests are better for tenting. It's very tiring to float your hands all the time with a classic case when its so high up all the time.

By the way, the cuts you made are so much cleaner than the default ergodox cases. I bet you could sell those to people if the costs of your cutting isn't too high.

I completely agree about the floating, so tonight I did a new design:

Show Image


I widened the edges a bit, and extended the palm rest, updating the design of the curve as I did. I also moved the pinkie keys down a few millimeters, which feels more comfortable to reach with. The result is far more comfortable than the previous iteration, so now I may just have to cut some pretty 6mm clear spacer pieces and peel off all that protective paper. I'll be able to test better when my new keycaps come in, but I think this is pretty damn close to where I want to be with it design wise.

Looks great, lookin forward to it hitin production.

Offline TheSoulhunter

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard aka The Grand Piano
« Reply #20 on: Thu, 20 June 2013, 16:38:35 »
Nice, good job!

Offline lkey144

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard aka The Grand Piano
« Reply #21 on: Thu, 20 June 2013, 17:00:02 »
AcidFire, Are you done with the modification of the PCB? Are you planning on uploading them to the ergodox website?
Is it essentially just a Quadradox, with the thumb cluster split out of each of the main boards? If so, are you planning on using Ben's firmware?
 
Needless to say, you have piqued my interest.
Great work

Offline AcidFire

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard aka The Grand Piano
« Reply #22 on: Fri, 21 June 2013, 00:06:53 »
AcidFire, Are you done with the modification of the PCB? Are you planning on uploading them to the ergodox website?
Is it essentially just a Quadradox, with the thumb cluster split out of each of the main boards? If so, are you planning on using Ben's firmware?
 
Needless to say, you have piqued my interest.
Great work

I haven't begun to work on the PCB yet as I've been trying to settle out on my layout first, but while it'll be similar to the ergodox layout there is definitely going to be a few changes:

- Each half will have a ATMEGA32u4 w/ an open source bootloader. I had considered just using the Teensy 2.0's, however open source & open hardware is very much a part of what I do for work that I don't feel right using something close sourced when I have other options. The ironic thing is, I'm using a full controller in each because I plan to use a Bluegiga WT12 bluetooth radio (which is closed source) in each half (eventually) to set the whole thing up as wireless and compatible w/ my mobile devices. If I produce a kit for this, the bluetooth would be an optional add on. If someone knows of a more open module that would allow me to actively switch between bluetooth connections (without having to cycle through them), i'd love to take a look at it.

- The keys themselves will most likely be a 7x5/8x5 matrix layout connected to a MCP23018, keeping it from eating all the I/O on the 32u4 as I have a few other things in mind and leaves more of it open to be hacked/used for other things down the road.

- The thumbpad will most likely be connected on an MCP23008 so that its simple to address/change, move, etc w/o needing large connectors.

Using an I2C bus for the keys allows for simple modifications & tweaks, especially w/ customizing the layout as the MCU will be laid out on a seperate board, and additional peripherals/keypads/foot switches could be added w/ minimal effort.

So basically, there will only need to be 4 pin connectors between each board and each half will have three boards for now (not including the bluetooth.)

There a few more additions/plans I have for the board that I'll be keeping a surprise for now, but I think they'll add an interesting touch to the project ;)

The other reason as well that I'm not planning to use existing firmware is that I plan to produce a proper configuration tool that would allow myself & others to configure/set keys w/o having to mess around with the firmware. I have it laid out right now to support 8+ layers, possibly more, all stored on the boards so that you can take your setup with you and not need the software.

As I've already had a few people inquire to a kit both here and in my office, the rough number I have for the base setup w/o keycaps is between 200-250, and probably another 50-100 for the wireless addon. Also, since I don't think I had made it clear at the start, everything I produce for this project will be released open source/open hardware, either when the project is complete or after I've made a kit available for sale.

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard aka The Grand Piano
« Reply #23 on: Fri, 21 June 2013, 00:31:19 »
Flawless!
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Offline Photoelectric

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard aka The Grand Piano
« Reply #24 on: Fri, 21 June 2013, 01:36:40 »
That is awesome!! The grand piano look is unmistakable!!  Piano-Dox  ;D
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Offline Larken

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard aka The Grand Piano
« Reply #25 on: Fri, 21 June 2013, 03:07:12 »
Amazing job, though I'm not convinced of the new position of the thumb cluster.

Would it be possible for you to post top down pictures of your new design juxtaposed with the ergodox plate beside? It's hard to tell the exact positions from angled shots.
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Offline AcidFire

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard aka The Grand Piano
« Reply #26 on: Fri, 21 June 2013, 04:05:50 »
Keep in mind when you see this, the drop of the thumb area makes a big difference in whats reachable:

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard aka The Grand Piano
« Reply #27 on: Fri, 21 June 2013, 06:09:34 »


As I've already had a few people inquire to a kit both here and in my office, the rough number I have for the base setup w/o keycaps is between 200-250, and probably another 50-100 for the wireless addon. Also, since I don't think I had made it clear at the start, everything I produce for this project will be released open source/open hardware, either when the project is complete or after I've made a kit available for sale.

Is that with or without switches? I'd love to order one without, saving my whites for it.

Also, if the wireless also supports wired I'm totally in for (at least) one, if it doesn't I'm totally in for a wired.
« Last Edit: Fri, 21 June 2013, 07:17:38 by CommunistWitchDr »

Offline AcidFire

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard aka The Grand Piano
« Reply #28 on: Fri, 21 June 2013, 09:22:01 »


As I've already had a few people inquire to a kit both here and in my office, the rough number I have for the base setup w/o keycaps is between 200-250, and probably another 50-100 for the wireless addon. Also, since I don't think I had made it clear at the start, everything I produce for this project will be released open source/open hardware, either when the project is complete or after I've made a kit available for sale.

Is that with or without switches? I'd love to order one without, saving my whites for it.

Also, if the wireless also supports wired I'm totally in for (at least) one, if it doesn't I'm totally in for a wired.

I'm sure I'll be able to make a kit available without switches given how many people on here already have their preferences ;) How much that'll change price I'm not sure yet, probably 40-50.

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Re: AcidFire's custom keyboard aka The Grand Piano
« Reply #29 on: Fri, 21 June 2013, 09:28:15 »
I'm sure I'll be able to make a kit available without switches given how many people on here already have their preferences ;) How much that'll change price I'm not sure yet, probably 40-50.

Yeah, sounds right. It's 44 on massdrop. It can be more or less depending on where you get your switches and how many you get.