Author Topic: Something A Little Different 26% 16MM Stenward/Plerkhin small form factor steno  (Read 1948 times)

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Offline Tiramisuu

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I am going down the path of creating something a little different with pieces ideas taken from many different places..




http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/#/gists/5262dbf4f03288f32240790e6648e494

I am going to try to create a very small form factor practical usb steno keyboard to use with plover.
I am currently using a gherkin very effectively to practice my stenography and I believe that the smaller form factor
will be comfortable.

Form factor wise I am going after the size of a 30% Edward ( from left to right 40%, gherkin 30%,  30% 16mm )



I am intending to create a sandwich case with stainless steel top and bottom (lasergist)
Cut a frosted acrylic center (not sure from where)
and have pcbs made (easyeda)

Because the top plate switch spacing is non standard I'm not going to be able to just generate gerbers from swill (rats).

It looks like I am going to be doing design in kicad for the pcb and plates (god help me)

I am likely going to create a batch of 10 prototypes...   For hardware I am intending on using the promicro,  I'm planning on using holtites in the pcb's as I am going to be trying a few things with the switches.

Professional Steno Machines vary in weight from about 8-12g (no typo).   The light springs currently available stock are the gateron clears 35g linear.   I am going to try the gat clears with standard springs and cut down to 4.1mm (travel for a cherry mx clone is 4mm).   I have ordered 30g springs and will try the same.   Additionally I have the kailh speed silvers that have raised the activation point up to 1.1mm from 2.0mm and will be trying them with the cut springs as well.  (again profession stenographers tend to use high activation, ultra light weight, and a variety of travel distances - some like long travel so they never bottom out,  some like ultrashort travel so that there is a minimum of movement.   That said I'm also order a batch of the kailh low profile reds (the springs in them are far to heavy so again I will be cutting them down to as close to 0g of pretension as is practical with the collection of springs at my disposal.

Key caps will be dremeled down from flat keycaps.  In a normal layout the G20s are about as good as I have found so far so I will like dremel off the sides of this to fit the tighter configuration with 16mm spacing.  I have been looking for a practical solution to keycaps for a stenoboard.

Steno is different from qwerty...   You stroke chords that represent words and phrases.  Your home position is the cracks between the row and a tight sharp line between the two top row of my configuration is a good thing.  With my gherkin I have top row of G20's upside down to reduce the space between the keycaps and it would be better if it was tighter still.   Finding or making an appropriate keycap with a cherry stem is an outstanding task.   I am trying to avoid keycaps that cost $5 a piece to make.   So far the best sloppy idea I have come up with is 2 laser cut acrylic (1U) flat with glued together with the bottom having a cutout for a cherry mx stem salvaged from a cheap keycap.   A big pain in the bum and definitely a hack job.

conceptually i would like something like this.




There is a very nice implementation of QMK that support the gemini protocol.   This means I can have my regular usb keyboard plugged in to type qwerty and my steno keyboard is seen a serial device and I can type in steno using it without cause strange conflicts.

Right now my biggest challenge is preparing the gerber files to have the pcb created.   I have no idea what I am doing and the step to creating a decent pcb for a keyboard appear to be rather vague.   I think all the bits and pieces are there but they are primarily pointed at someone who wants to learn how to create circuits rather than someone who wants to figure out how to get a working pcb for a keyboard (if you see what i mean)... 

Once there are gerbers... outsourcing the big piece parts seems to be very straight forward...  lasergist, easypda etc...

I have most of the small pieces either here or on order although I need a small stack of promicros still.

I could use advice and opinions on what the quickest way to develop a pcb design is.   What my options are toward developing a custom keycap in small numbers.   where should I get the acrylic cut?

What haven't I thought of?
« Last Edit: Fri, 01 September 2017, 01:01:06 by Tiramisuu »
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Online TalkingTree

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If I'm understanding this correctly, rows have a smaller gap so you need to design PCB and plates accordingly. Do you have any measurement for that?
My projects: Skipad, Toad.

Offline hanya

  • Posts: 84
  • Location: Japan
https://www.dropbox.com/s/rx5nfkubx1tnhfc/26keys.zip?dl=0
How about use this data as starting point for your layout? This contains KiCAD project with minimum components.
I made this by recent nightly build of KiCAD. So you might not able to open with KiCAD 4.X.
Please check the circuit and artwork yourself. You would need to add some screw holes which depends on your casing.
PFU HHKB JP, Sanwa MA-TB38 trackball

Offline Tiramisuu

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  • Posts: 329
If I'm understanding this correctly, rows have a smaller gap so you need to design PCB and plates accordingly. Do you have any measurement for that?

yup... Hence the topic 26% 16mm Stenward/Plerkhin ;)
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Offline Tiramisuu

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https://www.dropbox.com/s/rx5nfkubx1tnhfc/26keys.zip?dl=0
How about use this data as starting point for your layout? This contains KiCAD project with minimum components.
I made this by recent nightly build of KiCAD. So you might not able to open with KiCAD 4.X.
Please check the circuit and artwork yourself. You would need to add some screw holes which depends on your casing.

You rock... thanks... will open this evening, after date night with my wife, on a nightly build of Kicad if necessary.
This idea is really very exciting to me.
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Offline Tiramisuu

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Went through the project you sent me.   Thank you.  I can see and understand what I need to do now.
Looked at your board and schematic and watched a couple of Kicad videos.

I will have read through the keyboard pcb with this now as it actually makes sense with a project in hand.

Looking at the nice empty pcb on the front left and right I am extremely tempted to surface mount a  at32u4 on the pcb and a separate usb connector to try to reduce the thickness of the overall keyboard (thinner standoffs) .. I intend to use a couple of steel plates sandwiching acrylic so it should be very rigid and I don't think I will have to worry about stresses popping solder joints on the pcb.



I am going to do a small batch of 10 with through hole and the pro mini atmega 32u4 as it is fast and simple

BUT/AND....

Can someone point me at a mini usb 2.0 circuit or usb C 3.0 circuit?    I'm thinking I might order some surface mount pcbs in a second batch and see how good my tweezer placement skills can be.   Is this circuit from sparkfun about right???

https://www.build-electronic-circuits.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/32U4_Breakout-v11.pdf

Another question I would ask...  USB C 3.0  Pointless?  USB 3.0 seems like a silly amount of wires for no real gain in a keyboard application.  Are there any compelling reasons to adopt this on a small form factor keyboard?   

Next question of the day wireless or bluetooth.   I hate the logitech dongles but the connectivity is excellent.  Is bluetooth LE and the ATMegaU4 low enough power that you can get serious user time from the equivalent of a couple of double A batteries? Does the case volume and complexity make wireless in a custom keyboard a waste of time/effort.

I found this little guy  https://learn.adafruit.com/adafruit-feather-32u4-bluefruit-le/overview and wonder about having the actual circuit on the keyboard pcb rather than on another daughter board.   Similarly, I am also wondering whether NKRO is even possible over bluetooth or wifi using a serial protocol like Gemini PR or TX Bolt

Holtites.... My first batch is oriented around getting to end of job and testing a bunch of different switch configurations..... Why are these so damn expensive?  Is there a chinese manufacturer that sells AMP connectors of the right size that isn't price gouging hobbyists?  I looked at buying a 1000 and it is still outrageously expensive for a little bit of lead.  The things are still about .12 for 400k.   and I can't find better than around .21 for 1000.
Ill get some for my first round of prototypes but price makes me feel stupid putting them in any other keyboards.

again thanks for the help and opinions.....  Hoping to send my first PCB order out next week once I work through and understand....  Already planning the Second one. lol...
« Last Edit: Fri, 01 September 2017, 22:41:10 by Tiramisuu »
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Offline dorkvader

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Many phones do USB-C for the convenience of the cable / connector, you can plug it in easily, but lower end ones only do USB2 over typeC. This is what keyboardio does and you could do it here. Soldering would be much more difficult. I don't know if the KB HID supports USB3 but you certainly can't send enough info over the connection to require it.

Having surface mounted teensy to ergodox PCB, I think 2/3 of them failed, and I'm not sure why. You can't easily desolder it either, I had to cut the teensy off the PCB with a saw.

also be wary of chinese "amphenol" branded connectors, they are likely not genuine. I think its OK to pay more for very small runs, this is quite common. If you are having MOQ issues, you can pretend you're prototyping for a large production run and offer to pay for some samples. It won't be cheap but it's cheaper than buying 1000 you won't use.
« Last Edit: Sat, 02 September 2017, 15:03:29 by dorkvader »

Offline InvidiousIgnoramus

  • Posts: 50
  • Location: Columbia, SC
A 26%? At what point do we just start calling them macro pads?
I long for the day when I find a beamspring.

Online TalkingTree

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A 26%? At what point do we just start calling them macro pads?

Steno is different from qwerty...   You stroke chords that represent words and phrases.

That's gonna be interesting.
My projects: Skipad, Toad.

Offline InvidiousIgnoramus

  • Posts: 50
  • Location: Columbia, SC
A 26%? At what point do we just start calling them macro pads?

Steno is different from qwerty...   You stroke chords that represent words and phrases.

That's gonna be interesting.
I'm curious as to how that works.
I long for the day when I find a beamspring.

Offline sinusoid

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I'm curious as to how that works.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stenotype
and the opensource software driving this is Plover
For text entry it's faster than an epic level on a regular keyboard, and faster than spoken voice, with reduced amount of typos.

@Tiramisuu,
Curious about your use case. I love the idea of steno, but the thought of remapping all the shortcuts in all the software and then relearning to use it is driving me back. Is it wrong to think it lacks the versatility of a normal keyboard? If so, do you plan on doing anything to fix that?

For keycaps, you can 3d print or laser etch.
You 3d print them using FFF/FDM in 2 parts, the tops on 0.1mm layers or lower to get a smooth finish, the bottoms on 0.2-0.3 face down. I recommend ABS, it sands down nicely and you can chemically weld it with acetone. Test stem sockets prior to that, it takes some time to get them right. You can post here and/or PM me if you have issues.
For laser etching, you'd be doing the tops only, and glue them on existing sanded down caps or 3d printed bottoms. If you want to go that path, contact the company and ask them if they can etch from a height map or a 3d model. Not all lasers have proper power controls/software to do that.

Offline LazyDog

  • Posts: 20
They mentioned that they'd want a regular keyboard and the Plerhkin connected to their PC at the same time. Operating systems were designed for use with keyboards, and steno was designed for transcribing human speech in real time. It wouldn't make sense to exclusively use one with the other. Where they overlap is in the case of producing regular sentences at a speed much faster than they can be typed with a keyboard.

Offline clappingcactus

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  • Location: Ottawa, Canada
This is really cool. And I'm actually probably going to make one of my own. Is there any part of the process you'd like tested in parallel?

Offline Tiramisuu

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Update on the current state of the world's slowest build



I have:
- my PCBs.
- Kailh Speed Silvers
- g20 key caps ( to dremel down to 16mm )
- Custom ordered 15g @ 2mm springs (on order)
- pro micros ( I have a stack here and more on order )
- steel plates ordered with Woodkey's group buy (on order)
- a couple of thousand smd sod 1N4148  (on order)
- case - Undertermined - I will probably outsource an acryilic sandwich
          ... I would much prefer a nice low profile anodized aluminum shell.

Thought appreciated... Have I missed anything?


I have my solder, solder sucker, wick, soldering station in hand
and a hot air gun and solder paste on order.  (using leaded)


While waiting for piece parts for the first 5 boards I have started
looking at doing the PCB entirely as smd rather than using a pro-micro board.
Yes I am a masochist and it provides a very clean low profile layout.
On the plus side having ordered a few thousand each of the caps, diodes, switches etc I won't be stuck waiting on the small bits next time.   Waiting on orders from China is the least fun part of this.

I am undecided whether to:
* refine my current build,
*go bigger (gherkin sized) and see if I can sneak in an adafruit bluetooth module or an raspberry pi 0 W
* OR build a split keyboard.

I have been eyeing an openbuilds c-beam cnc kit.   For a couple of grand I could etch my own pcbs, mill my own plates/enclosures and anodize them in a 5 gallon pail.  I have been having a difficult time coming up with nice keycaps for stenography and a desktop cnc would let me do it myself. 

... All of this would reduce my dependency on outsource to china which while cheap makes actually completing a project a painfully long process.

Thanks again for the help with the first PCB.   I'm really looking forward to modifying it for smd on the next build and having it for a reference really helped me understand the software better than if I had started with a blank slate.

Any thoughts on SMD, CNC, Raspberry Pi, AdaFruit BlueTooth andFaster Chinese ordering gratefully appreciated.

thanks,
T




Keyboard error F1 to continue.

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Offline Tiramisuu

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This is really cool. And I'm actually probably going to make one of my own. Is there any part of the process you'd like tested in parallel?


I am in Canada as well.  PM me if you are serious about working on a build.   I can think of a dozen things I'd like to try but the whole process is painfully slow when outsourcing every little thing.  I have learned a lot so far but even having someone to talk through things with would probably help.
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Offline Tiramisuu

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  • Posts: 329
They mentioned that they'd want a regular keyboard and the Plerhkin connected to their PC at the same time. Operating systems were designed for use with keyboards, and steno was designed for transcribing human speech in real time. It wouldn't make sense to exclusively use one with the other. Where they overlap is in the case of producing regular sentences at a speed much faster than they can be typed with a keyboard.

I have a qwerty keyboard and a steno keyboard both connected to my PC (the steno keyboard uses plover and uses the Gemini Protocol and a virtual serial port).   As a novice student I am still learning stenography and will be for a very long time.   Having the both keyboards readily available is much nicer than having to switch back and forth.   There are several steno folk that I chat with that use their steno keyboards exclusively for software development, document writing and windows,mac, Linux navigation.   I hope to go cold turkey at some point and get off the qwerty keyboards entirely but today I would find that too much of a productivity hit.
Keyboard error F1 to continue.

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Offline Tiramisuu

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 329
I'm curious as to how that works.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stenotype
and the opensource software driving this is Plover
For text entry it's faster than an epic level on a regular keyboard, and faster than spoken voice, with reduced amount of typos.

@Tiramisuu,
Curious about your use case. I love the idea of steno, but the thought of remapping all the shortcuts in all the software and then relearning to use it is driving me back. Is it wrong to think it lacks the versatility of a normal keyboard? If so, do you plan on doing anything to fix that?

For keycaps, you can 3d print or laser etch.
You 3d print them using FFF/FDM in 2 parts, the tops on 0.1mm layers or lower to get a smooth finish, the bottoms on 0.2-0.3 face down. I recommend ABS, it sands down nicely and you can chemically weld it with acetone. Test stem sockets prior to that, it takes some time to get them right. You can post here and/or PM me if you have issues.
For laser etching, you'd be doing the tops only, and glue them on existing sanded down caps or 3d printed bottoms. If you want to go that path, contact the company and ask them if they can etch from a height map or a 3d model. Not all lasers have proper power controls/software to do that.

There are several developers in the plover community programming python with a steno keyboard in vim.   There are another small group who have gone cold turkey and are using their keyboards for mac/linux/windows exclusively <-  some are using layers others are leveraging their dictionaries and mapping steno command to their OS Navigation/Software etc.   I tend to prefer the latter but as a Novice I keep 2 keyboards on the desktop - 1 for steno and 1 for qwerty.   I hope to go cold turkey as it would increase the number of hours I can spend learning steno but I need to reach a point of fluency in steno where the hit to productivity is not quite so high.

For keycaps - yes.. 

3D printing - I have misgivings about the quality of the end product for an initial prototype it is great but when I put it beside a commercial keycap it makes me barf.

laser etch - no-one is terrible excited about the labor component involved with gluing keycap pieces together and the associated rework when everything isn't perfectly plumb.   The crisp quality of this approach makes it a winner for me so far but I keep hoping for a better solution.   I think the market for cherry mx steno keycaps is far below a MOQ for an outsource and DIY injection molding also seems like a bit of a waste of time for such low volumes.  But I could be wrong.
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Offline Tiramisuu

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... and Holtites... Bought some.  Very underwhelmed.  I just don't trust them for reuse and if I'm not able to reuse solder is just a simpler more reliable solution.
Keyboard error F1 to continue.

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