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Beam Spring 104+SSK+122+62 Reproduction Project! Round 1 now shipping

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Ellipse:
Today is the public launch of the Brand New Beam Spring Keyboards Project!  For those not familiar, I also coordinate and continue to mail out all of the Brand New Model F Keyboards, a project which has more than $1.6 million in orders so far, and will continue to mail them out before the beam spring project continues. 

To repeat, the new beam springs don't ship and are not a focus until I've sent out the new Model F Keyboards.

This project is based on reservations.  You need to sign up on the interest form to reserve your Beam Spring Keyboard so please sign up if interested.  I expect to offer these keyboards first come, first served based on the timestamp of when you signed up on the interest form! 

Interest form link:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdR8ygHtryVYyIl_bbVbNqW9NZgh98COkkf4U7lIhejhZ-Dkw/viewform?usp=sf_link

Details on the features and pricing are below.  This was designed to be announced after the new Model F project ended but there was another project in the works to reproduce the beam spring module exactly (good for the purposes of spare parts for the original keyboards), so I thought it would be a good time to post.

With some down time a while back before orders started going out for the Brand New Model F Keyboards project, the very first beam spring keyboards in probably four decades have been successfully manufactured and assembled.  Injection molded tooling, no 3D printed parts!













STATUS

* 150 Keyboards completed and in stock now.  The next batch of 150 will be on the next container ship, expected to arrive later this year.  Another batch is also in the works.

*Please note that although the first batch of 150 Brand New Beam Spring Keyboards (a mix of 104 Key and SSK style) keyboards is assembled and in stock, nothing is shipping until I get out the new Model F keyboards (except maybe a "beta tester" sample or two). 

* In no way has the beam spring project caused a delay of the Model F project.  The beam spring project was only completed as the factory was either waiting for stuff before continuing the Model F assembly or finished assembling the Model F parts on hand. 

SUMMARY OF EVERYTHING THIS BUY INCLUDES

*Reproduction IBM 104-Key Full Size and 84-Key SSK style Beam Spring Keyboards, made to the exact original parts specifications with some key (pun intended!) exceptions: 

* New feature:  Uses regular Cherry MX compatible keys.  The keyboard uses your Cherry MX type key sets!  No need to be limited to special IBM sets.  The key module design has been updated to be MX compatible.  See below for the expected double shot Cherry MX style key set offering.

* New ultra-low height capacitive beam spring modules to allow for the most compact Beam Spring keyboard design!  Since we did not need the metal bar for the old style IBM keys in each beam module, I was able to keep the exact IBM design but cut out only the space in the module that did not affect the key press distance.  Key travel distance is the same as IBM; the two critical metal parts in the modules are the same (the fly plate and the rectangular piece of metal it attaches to).  Besides that, the beam modules still are the exact same design and dimensions as the originals, so it is a 100% reproduction in the performance sense, with one improvement:  the two small posts inside the beam module have been enlarged slightly for an even snappier and louder sound when the flipper moves up to hit the inside of the module as the key is pressed.  This means however that they are not drop in replacements for the originals.  In addition, I scrapped the inner foam and contamination shields above the modules; the beam modules friction fit directly to the case tops using a locked/keyed connector (see photos below).  There is some foam below the PCB as a noise shield for the capacitive sensing as well as an aid to help ensure a tight fit of the beam modules against the PCB.  The keyboard will not win any design awards but it is a modern beam spring keyboard which is what counts the most!  The keyboard case uses countersunk Torx style screws.

* Each keyboard is expected to include a small first aid kit of a few spare fully assembled beam modules for future usage. 

* xwhatsit, QMK, and Via compatibility.  Full NKRO.  USB-C connectivity with an externally accessible USB-C port for easy cable removal.  PCB has been designed so that it uses the same open source xwhatsit Model F controllers (16 columns x 8 rows)

* LED lock lights on the 104-key model.  They come with just holes as the factory default so you can see a bit of the LEDs through them, but you can put an overlay that can be purchased from Unicomp to make it look like the Model M keyboards (tan brown overlay or the modern looking black color overlays.

* Layout Customization options:  Two choices only, besides the fact that you can choose your own Cherry MX key set.  As opposed to the vast customizability of the Model F offerings the New Beam Spring Keyboard Project only has two choices:  104 Key ANSI or 84 Key ANSI.  Every keyboard has an aluminum ultra-compact case and black powdercoating.  If interested in ISO please let me know in the interest form but that's not a likely possibility.

* Solenoid possibility.  There is room for a solenoid, though the New Beam Spring Keyboards are too thin to accept the extra beefy custom solenoids offered with the Model F project.  A slightly smaller solenoid is expected to be made available for the beam spring keyboards, closer to the smaller solenoids originally offered by IBM in many of their beam spring keyboards.

* Possibility of offering Double shot keys:  I may order a small batch of them to include as an add-on option - the color schemes may be limited to the pictured color scheme or black/white like the beam spring originals.  Please express your interest in the interest form

* Cost:  Approximately $500 to $600 each for the early birds - about $4 or so per module if you think about it (plus the cost of every other part of the keyboard)!  Rather than the made to order model of the Brand New Model F Project, for this one I have already purchased two batches of 150 keyboards each at a higher expense than expected due to project cost overruns.  Instead of increasing the price for everyone I expect to offer the first 100 keyboards at one price as a reward to the early birds.  Then the next group will be offered at $100 or so higher in pricing, and the final remaining units will be offered $100 more than the last group.

Notes and Disadvantages of Beam Spring Modules

* Many of you have heard of the beam spring keyboards but have never tried one.  They are very different from Model F keyboards in several ways.

* First, the beam spring keys wobble noticeably, just like old fashioned typewriter keys if you've ever typed on one.  However my reproductions wobble much less than the keys in my two original beam spring keyboards as I made the tolerances tighter.  It may take some time to get used to typing on it but not too much stands up to the uniqueness of the IBM Beam Spring typing experience!  MX stabilizers are expected to be included but I've found that the beam mechanism actually works better without stabilizers for the most part - only the space bar needs a stabilizer.  The modules are wide enough to allow an extra wide key, even like the right shift key, to work 100% even pressing it on the edges.  IBM's beam spring keys were kept not too big so they did not require stabilization outside of the space bar, to my knowledge.

* Next, the beam spring modules require more work to maintain, though the keyboard comes fully assembled (besides you having to install the keys themselves).  Documentation and videos will be provided in the future.  The main issue is that the fly plates (the metal parts that connect to the flippers) can easily separate and require opening up the keyboard for repair.  The advantage with the new Beam Spring keyboards is that the keyboard case opens up and you have direct access to the beam modules - just open up the bottom of the keyboard.  For this reason the beam spring keyboards are only for those willing to learn how to repair and maintain these keyboards, not for those who just want a keyboard with 100% uptime.

* Given the smaller case made of aluminum, and the slightly snappier beam modules as described above, the sound is not going to match IBM's 40 year old beam spring keyboards exactly.  Please don't expect that.  These are not exact reproductions of beam spring keyboards, case and all; these are reproductions of the IBM beam spring modules (with some upgrades noted above).  There is far less case, inner foam, and other materials to deaden and dampen the sound of the new Beam Spring Keyboards compared to the originals.

* I want to reiterate again that in no way is this project being prioritized over the new Model F project, for which I am continuing to mail out orders and will continue doing so for the remainder of this year into early next year.  Nothing's happening with the beam springs for now:  the beam spring keyboards are going to sit in their boxes until the Model F keyboards have gone out.  Although the first batch of keyboards are in hand I will note that these specifics are all subject to change and subject to typographical error.

Ellipse:
And here are some various manufacturing photos and parts photos. The first photo shows the very first prototype beam metal parts, with a little extra metal where it shouldn't be! This was fixed of course for the production parts.









HoffmanMyster:
Approved :thumb:

Note that although some units are in stock, Ellipse has communicated that those are spoken for and this buy is for the remaining units awaiting production. Therefore, this does fit the requirements of the Group Buy subforum.

Ellipse:
Yes confirmed.  In addition to Brand New Beam Spring Keyboards talk and talk about joining the current round of keyboards being produced and assembled at the factory, I'd like this thread to also focus on recommendations for the next round, including additional layouts, a discussion of the proposed double shot key set, and seeking help to contribute open source alternative keyboard case designs for future rounds of this group buy.

Below I have copied my replies to recent discussions that have been going on on the Deskthority thread for this project:

Regarding the fly plates - I did not mean to exaggerate defects of IBM beam spring keyboards, just to discuss the potential and realized pitfalls of the technology itself in terms of expected maintenance and repairability time. I will leave the question of beam spring maintenance frequency to those who use their beamsprings as daily drivers. Beyond when I was setting up my IBM beam spring keyboards after receiving and cleaning them and re-seating a key or two (many years ago I put the "I" key flipped for example - did not notice the difference in the key slope initially!) I had to reattach a number of the fly plates, but I have not had to do anything memorable after occasional testing in the ensuing years since then. They are more likely to fly out when the board is open and I am making adjustments or testing the modules not installed in a keyboard.

Case height is 24mm (not including the parts that stick out on top). Just under 47cm width and about 16.5 cm length.

Regarding the interest form, everyone should please be realistic in what they can spend later this year when considering signing up :) - one person put that they would order 500 keyboards - not likely!

webwit and others - no HHKB or ISO this time, as the keyboards are already produced. There may be another round with these options (and with additional case color options) but not likely for a while, if at all. Definitely nothing before I get the Model F project mailed out. For everyone: if you really want the beam spring and are flexible with using the US ANSI layout I recommend signing up to order it, if that is preferable to not getting a spot in the list. You can also sign up and note "only ISO" if you want to be in on the possible next round.

The doubleshot keys are expected to only be available in US and a few extra UK ISO keys (the latter for futureproofing and to allow more sets to be sold) so they will include more than 103 keys most likely - everyone would get all the keys. Nothing's finalized yet. The MOQ requires all sets to have the exact same keys.

Regarding the case design alternatives I would be happy to receive open source submissions for more stylish additional case offerings as future upgrades (I'll send to the factory for some quotations), however none would be factory installed options. The current design reflects the goal of making a Brand New beam spring keyboard with the smallest feasible footprint. The goal is to get these shipped as they are and then to allow additional stuff to be offered in the future, including case designs ranging from Model M style and modern mechanical keyboard style all the way to original beam spring keyboard case styles. Personally I'd like to see the 3278 A01 style cases with the momentary push buttons (I looked into this, but the ones of similar size are too deep to fit in the current case's interior dimensions). Also the 3101, 3277, 3278 and others are good to consider if anyone's up for making the cad files.

Another benefit to the extra big case would be the additional sound deadening offered. As there's nearly no deadening material or pounds of extra case, and the tolerances are far tighter, the new beam springs do reverberate noticeably more, like the Model F, as opposed to the dead sound of my original beam springs with nearly zero reverberation sound.

zrrion if you'd like to facilitate the ability to easily create plates and PCBs for various layouts as you mentioned, that would be great but I don't know if the demand for beam springs in various additional layouts would warrant the effort.

nickg SSK style num pads should be possible with the QMK and Via firmware but others would have to chime in on this. And again as noted above, the feel and sound are close to but still different from the original beam spring keyboards in the ways I mentioned. If you are looking for the 100% same experience you will not find it without turning to an original keyboard.

Regarding floating case designs, the goal was to minimize the additional parts of the original beam spring keyboards so the cost would not be even higher, which is why there is no additional interior top or bottom plate. I could imagine this keyboard itself becoming a drop in "inner assembly" for a larger case, maybe like an original IBM style case if someone wanted to mod their keyboard after it is delivered.

ZyBeR as noted in my initial post stabilizers are included but not needed or recommended outside of the space bar. Given the height of the beam modules it is impossible to mount the stabs on the PCB, which is why they are plate mounted.

A general question - for 122 layouts do people prefer the grouped together function keys at top or would it be better to space apart the F1-F4 (and 4 keys above it), F5-F8, etc. as it is done on a Model M? Would an interesting 122 layout be Model M 103 plus 4 keys on top of each function key and of course 10 keys on the left side unchanged?

mmm if you see photos of disassembled beam modules, the original switch had a metal insert which attached the white part of the beam module to the key. I'd guess that if they made it shorter, the white part would not have been long enough to hold the metal part by friction fit. But I have no idea. Maybe someone could ask the inventor **** Harris on his thread?

Yes the sound is noticeably different without all the extra material serving as significant dampening. I'll be posting some "Beam Spring QC secrets" videos later showing how you might even be able to tune the sound of each switch based on how sharp you want the clickiness, to some degree. By default the factory tuned them not to be overly snappy so that they are more like the originals, but I tuned my own new beam spring to be extra snappy. In other words the factory toned them to have less high frequency/high pitch sound but I expect that the end user can change this. The more snappiness, the more reverberant sound.

Pete the pictured caps are not spherical but they are doubleshot. I hope to make them available for purchase but they won't be a required purchase to get the keyboard. Each product line has its own serial number. A question to everyone - do people care about the serial labels? Every minute counts when shipping out hundreds of boards! I like the serial labels though.

lachmoewe yes but I hope to offer additional layouts myself with input from what people are looking for. PRIPARA_PLAYER regarding JIS and other one-off or super low demand offerings I don't know how feasible it will be for the CNC milling adjustment charges - I'd have to talk with the factory.

Thanks for the feedback tiltowait. For beam module flyplate attachment I use a scrap space bar wire from the Model F project, cut off at one end. Maybe one of these should be included with each keyboard. If you have a photo of the IBM one please share it. I've just seen them note and illustrate in the manual that a paper clip is best.

Redmaus as noted in my original post much of the Model F project timeline was spent waiting on the various factories involved as opposed to constant action, so there was much down time / spare bandwidth for both me and the factories involved. In no way is the beam project delaying the Model F project which remains the priority.

Regarding the wait list, more than half the 300 spots are currently taken, just a few days after the project was announced (though some attrition is to be expected, allowing for a wait list and a possible future round). This was completely unexpected. I may have to change the "100 keyboards at each price" initial goal because more than 100 keyboards have been reserved so quickly. I'll have to do some math on figuring out a more blended pricing so as not to reward someone managing to notice the thread and sign up a few hours before someone else - that was not the intention.

shampoo beam springs are louder than Model F's so I would not recommend them if Model F is the limit to the permissible noise in a given room.

goofy9x I believe the doubleshots are PBT but not confirmed.

Ellipse:
As an update I have posted the monthly update on the project web site blog.  It summarizes the goings-on of the project and my posts made after the prior update.

The most recent post is for the new Model F project, and the post before that (both on the same page) is the update for the Brand New Beam Spring Project launch being discussed on this thread.

https://www.modelfkeyboards.com/blog/

I expect to continue mailing out keyboards for the rest of this year into early next year, after which the Beam Spring Keyboards will be the focus.

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