Author Topic: New: The Fulcrum keyboard, featuring sideways 5-way switches and "Word Keys"  (Read 676 times)

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Offline dschil138

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Hi! I'm new here. I'm a daily r/ergomechkeyboards lurker but I had no idea this forum existed! I recently posted my new keyboard over there and someone told me I should post it here as well.

I hope this is the right place to do it, please let me know if not.



This is the Fulcrum, which is a 20-key keyboard, extended with two horizontally-mounted 5-way switches on the thumbs. This allows you to use the natural range of motion on your thumbs, as opposed to how normal keyboards force them to use the same type of keys as your other fingers. It also avoids the tendency of ergo boards to have them stretch awkwardly over a thumb cluster in order to hit multiple keys.

Using these joysticks has been a game-changer for me. It feels so much more natural than regular thumb clusters, and more easily paired with other keypresses as well. I mostly use them for modifiers and layer switches.



There is a github repo with more info, but I'm more than happy to answer any questions here too!

The only other thing that I think people might find notable about the design is the inclusion of "Word Keys" in the layout. The words "the" and "and" each have their own dedicated key. This has been great in practice, and I think makes sense on paper too: we never question giving Z or Q their own key, but the trigram "the" is more common than either of those letters (~2-3 times as common actually, at least according to my keylogger data).
« Last Edit: Fri, 20 January 2023, 20:28:51 by dschil138 »

Offline vvp

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How reliable are those 5-way switches?

Offline dschil138

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Working great so far! Should I expect them to break down somehow? This is my first time working with them.

I will say that the operating force is higher than I'd like, and someone the pointed me to a model now that is much lower, so I wouldn't be too disappointed about swapping them out eventually.

My original plan wasn't to have the joysticks be that long, but it was needed to get leverage on the switch to overcome the operating force. Otherwise you'd move the whole board around when you use them.

Offline vvp

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I do not know. That is why I'm asking. You should find the rating of them in their specification. Let us know if you have it.

E.g. Cherry MX Blue is rated for 50e6 presses, Brown for 100e6 presses.

Offline dschil138

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I've not been able to find a datasheet for them despite some effort. FWIW, this is the lower operating force model I will use next time. Looks like it's rated for 200,000-1,000,000 which should be plenty

Offline vvp

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It does not look enough to me. It is 50 to 500 times smaller rating than Cherry MX.
It would not be such a problem but you have Nav and Num modifiers on it. It means that the 5-way switches will be used a lot if you are a software developer.

I managed to wear out a Cherry MX Brown keyboard in about 10 years. The Brown switch has rating of 1e8 presses. Looks like I would wear out the 5-way switches ... well ... in about a year.

Anyway, it is yours built. You can replace them easily if needed.

Nice keyboard though. But I prefer less layering ... ie more keys myself.

Edit: It does not compute. The Brown switches in my keyboard must have had about 10 times lower quality than the official specification. The keyboard should have lasted longer.
« Last Edit: Sun, 22 January 2023, 16:25:40 by vvp »

Offline nevin

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a lot of those "button press" style switches (the joystick) are just small tact switches that have a thin dome of spring steel or other metal over the traces on the pcb. yes, they tend to be a good bit stiffer than normal keyswitches. i can't find an exploded view of the switch. guessing it is like this instead of rubber pad over traces like larger d-pads or typical in your tv remote.

be gentile with it and it should last. get frustrated with it and press hard and it won't last long. (just talking about tact switches in general) once the domes get damaged, all you can do is replace the switch.
Keeb.io Viterbi, Apple m0110, Apple m0120, Apple m0110a, Apple 658-4081, Apple M1242, Apple AEK II, MK96, GH60/Pure, Cherry g84-4100, Adesso AKP-220B, Magicforce 68

Offline dschil138

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I actually just went and bought 30 of those lowering operating force ones last night lol. I should have them in a few weeks so we'll see if they are much better.

I'm not worried about any of the switches failing tbh. I will almost certainly make a new version of the board before any of the switches fail, and even if they do it's not difficult to just put a new one in.

The utility of using them is worth like 100x more to me than the time it would take to solder in a new one once a year.