Author Topic: Novatouch'd Topre Realforce with 6.25U Spacebar  (Read 1063 times)

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Offline BliTzKiN

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  • Location: Singapore
Novatouch'd Topre Realforce with 6.25U Spacebar
« on: Mon, 18 December 2017, 08:48:05 »
I finally decided to swap the stock Topre sliders on my Realforce for Novatouch ones! This is a short guide on what I did, thought I would the entire process in-case anyone is interested in doing the same.

Completed pictures!


Maxkey SA Ninja


GMK Olivetti


Barebones

  • Novatouch'd Topre Realforce with 6.25U GMK Spacebar. Bottom row layout < | 1.5U | 1U | 1.25U | 6.26U | 1.25U | 1U | 1U | 1.5U | >

So I got my first Topre board (a Realforce 87U) a couple of weeks back and I enjoyed using it over the period. After silencing and lubing, it has become my favorite tactile switch compared with the various switch types. As much as I loved the PBT keycaps that came stock, I knew at the time I bought it that I would eventually like to be able to put Cherry stem keycaps on a Realforce because of the variety.

It started when I was just experimenting swapping out a couple of the sliders and pairing them with different Cherry Stem keycaps. At that point, I wanted to know if it was worth going through with the entire project or if the Novatouch stems would affect the tactility in any drastic way. One of the main goals for this project is that I wanted to be able to use a standard 6.25U spacebar and not be limited by PBT 6u Topre spacebar for color variations. Typically the solution most people used was to purchase a PBT 6U Topre spacebar that was as close to the color combination of keycaps they wanted to use.
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Notice that the Novatouch sliders (Purple) are seated a little lower than the stock Topre sliders (Black) when the keyboard is fully assembled. This could be the reason why some people face issues with certain keycaps bottoming out with an audible sound. At this point, the thin silencing rings from KBDfans are already installed on both sliders.
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Messing around with different profile keycaps to see how they would feel with the Novatouch sliders.

Esc key is a SA Profile R3.
GMK Oilvetti (blue fonts) are on F1-F3, 1-3, Q-E and Z-C.
ASD keys are fitted with Thick PBT in Cherry Profile.

After shifting the keycaps around, I found out that SA profile had no issues when bottoming out. There was no audible 'clack' to it and actually provide the best replication of the stock Topre 'Thock', definitely was my favorite profile of the lot. The GMK and Cherry profile keycaps seemed to face the same issue, because of the lower profile, some keycaps would produce an audible sound when bottoming out. It sounds a lot like plastic on plastic so my speculation is that the inside bridges of the keycaps are coming into contact with the switch housings. The sound produced was not consistent as it depended on how hard I was trying to bottom out the keycaps. When typing regularly, (of which I bottom out just a bit), the sound was definitely noticeable every so often but it was not at a point where I would get irritated by it. The taller rows did not seem to be affected by this problem.

edited: If you use O-rings with the lower profile keycaps, it actually prevents the bottoming out 'clack' that you might experience with GMK/Cherry. Credits to spiceBar for the detailed explanation, I tried it out and confirm that it does indeed reduce the audible sound from bottoming out.
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The first real problem that I faced was converting the left control key into an Novatouch slider. Because of the design of this particular switch (left control switch housing is different from the rest), I was not able to simply convert the stems from the Topre to a Novatouch. Instead, I had to transplant a whole switch housing from the Novatouch to be fitted in the particular spot. As you can see below, the stock switch housing comes in an abnormal shape from the other housings. Usually the cutout for the housing is a complete square, however for the Left Control key, there is a kink in the bottom right side of the square. This was stopping me from being able to transplant the Novatouch housing. My solution to this was to mark a complete square using a pencil for the switch housing and file it down so that it would be able to fit the Novatouch's housing. For anyone who's interested, the only sides I did any filing to was the right as well as the bottom. I initially thought that I would only have to file it width wise but later realized that the height of the cutout was slightly smaller than needed for the Novatouch's housing as well. If you have a Dremel with a small attachment bit, it would make the job a lot easier. What I did was to start of with a Dremel and remove as much of the material I had marked out as possible, I would stop about 1MM-2MM away from my marked lined and finish off with a small file. This allows you to have better control of when to stop and it'll help with the finish being as clean as possible. 

Stock Left Control housing
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Modded Left Control Housing
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All sliders except the spacebar converted to Novatouch sliders. Bottom row layout in this picture < | 1.5U | 1U | 1.5U | 6U Stock Topre | 1.5U | 1U | 1U | 1.5U | >
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This layout would fit most keycap color sets if you are okay with using colored spacebars made specifically for Topre 6U. However, my end goal for this project is to be able to fit a 6.25U standard spacebar so it will be fully compatible with more key cap sets.
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To be able to fit a 6.25U spacebar, I had to extend the cutouts on the plate for the stabilizers. The switch housing of the spacebar will remain in the same position for this, only the stabilizers will have to be moved outwards. I shifted the entire stabilizer housing about 2.5MM in the direction shown below. In order to accommodate the larger spacebar, both 'Alt' keys have to be replaced with 1.25U (Standard ANSI). I'm okay with this change because most group buy keycaps come with the option for 1.5U & 1.25U mods whereas 6U spacebars are rare to come by.
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At this point the project could more or less be completed, the extra steps I took after this is purely for cosmetic purposes.

Because of the reduced size of the 'Alt' keys, there will be some extra space left over between both 'Windows' and 'Alt' keys on both sides. I solved this problem by shifting the key positions ever so slightly with the same method as before. There are limitations to moving these specific keys because the standoffs for screwing the PCB to the plate gets in the way. I shifted them as much as I could so that the housings were barely touching the standoffs. Just a little warning, shifting these keys were okay because the distance moved would not affect the connection with the PCB. If you are intending to move other keys, make sure it is not too far off so it does not lose contact with the PCB.

Large spacing between 'Win' and 'Alt' keys.
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Directions to shift the keys
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That's it! You should now be able to use most keycap sets if they come with 1.5U & 1.25U mods. Completed pictures up top, I'll take better pictures when I have time this week.
If anyone needs to know more details feel free to drop me a PM! Thanks for reading.
« Last Edit: Thu, 04 January 2018, 20:57:41 by BliTzKiN »

Offline Will_26

  • Posts: 39
Re: Novatouch'd Topre Realforce with 6.25U Spacebar
« Reply #1 on: Mon, 25 December 2017, 05:53:49 »
Fantastic write up and guide. Was looking for some info on switching sliders in a Realforce and this has all of it and more. Thanks! Do you know if there is a Topre space-bar similar in colour to GMK 9009 alphas? I'm tempted to do the same as you but not too sure whether I would do the space bar mod.

Online amoswetherbee

  • Posts: 65
Re: Novatouch'd Topre Realforce with 6.25U Spacebar
« Reply #2 on: Mon, 25 December 2017, 08:05:28 »
You could have alternatively accomplished 6.25u spacebar compatibility without cutting the plate by grabbing the Topre stabalizer adapters from Shapeways. Still leaves that large gap between the 1.25u Alt which you took the extra step to make look bettr which surprised me that the alt key still works the same after moving the plunger.

Either way, nice mod and a whole lot of effort. How does that bottom row feel? The extra space around the Alt keys triggers me. How did you modify the plate so precisely? Spacebar stab was 9.5mm to the left and right?

Hopefully Xondat or Norbauer will be successful with their custom plates for the Realforce to add true compatibility without hacking the plate. What tools did you use? Any shifting or wobble?
« Last Edit: Mon, 25 December 2017, 08:18:22 by amoswetherbee »

Offline BliTzKiN

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  • Location: Singapore
Re: Novatouch'd Topre Realforce with 6.25U Spacebar
« Reply #3 on: Fri, 29 December 2017, 20:47:41 »
Fantastic write up and guide. Was looking for some info on switching sliders in a Realforce and this has all of it and more. Thanks! Do you know if there is a Topre space-bar similar in colour to GMK 9009 alphas? I'm tempted to do the same as you but not too sure whether I would do the space bar mod.

Glad to help! I haven't seen any Topre spacebar that is about the same color as GMK's L9 used in the Alphas. The white PBT is pretty close but definitely not the same since L9 is leaning more to an off white/beige shade. As amoswetherbee mentioned below, you could get the stabilizer adaptors from Shapeways. I've never used them before so I can't vouch for how well they work, but it does seem like a pretty convenient solution since it won't require modding the plate.

You could have alternatively accomplished 6.25u spacebar compatibility without cutting the plate by grabbing the Topre stabalizer adapters from Shapeways. Still leaves that large gap between the 1.25u Alt which you took the extra step to make look bettr which surprised me that the alt key still works the same after moving the plunger.

Either way, nice mod and a whole lot of effort. How does that bottom row feel? The extra space around the Alt keys triggers me. How did you modify the plate so precisely? Spacebar stab was 9.5mm to the left and right?

Hopefully Xondat or Norbauer will be successful with their custom plates for the Realforce to add true compatibility without hacking the plate. What tools did you use? Any shifting or wobble?

Thanks for sharing about the adapters from Shapeway! I honestly din't know there was this option until you mentioned.

I was also pretty surprised at how much the plunger could be shifted off the center of the switch before the key would stop registering. I experimented before making any modifications to the plate by detaching the PCB from the plate and moving it a little at a time, all the while checking to see if it still works. I only proceeded with the modding once I was sure there was enough space to move the keys and still have it work.

The bottom row feels great! I din't need any time at all to get used to the layout since it's pretty similar to standard ANSI. As for precision, I really just took my time with the measurements and drawing on the plate with a pencil where exactly I needed to make the cuts. Finishing off with a small hand file definitely helps with the accuracy of the cutout. I shifted the stabilizer housings about 2.5MM to their respective directions. I'm not sure where you're measuring the 9.5MM from, the closest measurement I had to that was the center of the actual stabilizer to the original cutout for the housings, that was about 9-9.5MM if it's what you're referring to. I din't experience any shifting or wobble of the keys that were re-positioned, probably because when you screw the plate to the PCB, the excess material from the rubber domes come in between the two and prevent any movement once the two are tightened together.

I used a Dremel with a small drill bit and a hand file to make modifications to the plate.

Offline Findecanor

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Re: Novatouch'd Topre Realforce with 6.25U Spacebar
« Reply #4 on: Fri, 29 December 2017, 23:19:35 »
Meh. 6u Space bar is superior because you get bigger Alt keys and Topre profile > Cherry profile IMHO.
"Normal is the greatest enemy in regard to creating the new. To get around this you have to understand normal not as reality but as just a construct." -- Alan Kay
Daily driver: Phantom (Lubed Cherry MX Clear, Lasered Cherry PBT keycaps with Row A. Plastic "Frankencase". Custom firmware, Swedish layout)

Online amoswetherbee

  • Posts: 65
Re: Novatouch'd Topre Realforce with 6.25U Spacebar
« Reply #5 on: Sat, 30 December 2017, 01:44:07 »
Meh. 6u Space bar is superior because you get bigger Alt keys and Topre profile > Cherry profile IMHO.

First time I heard that 6u was superior from anyone other than GMK with their new Uniqey C70. It isn't exactly the most compatible length if you are looking at custom keysets.