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Cherry Keyboard Switches and Manufacturing

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I want to start considering countries in addition to China as sources for the electronic products and components that I purchase.

Cherry AG became a public company last June, with the result that there's a fair amount of current information about the company's operations. It looks like Cherry continues to make all of its switches in Auerbach, Germany. It also has a factory in Zhuhai, China, but that factory makes peripherals such as keyboards and mouses. Apparently, Cherry has been a major player for many years in the Asia-Pacific market for gaming peripherals, but there are unsurprisingly sensitivities around competing with established companies that use Cherry switches in their own products. This would seem to explain why Cherry is not a significant brand for peripherals outside the Asia-Pacific region.

I'm interested in knowing whether there are other brands of switches that are made in Europe, North or South America, or countries in Asia in addition to China. It would also be interesting to know whether GMK, which makes its keycaps in Germany, has competitors outside China. What about keyboards? As I understand it, Fujitsu/PFU make their Realforce and Happy Hacking Keyboards in Japan. Are there other keyboards, in particular enthusiast keyboards, being made outside China?

For people who are interested, GBC, an investment bank, has a YouTube video of a presentation that Cherry gave in December about its operations, competitors and outlook. The presentation is in German, but the slides are in English, and closed caption auto-translate is helpful. There is more information about production in this presentation than in Cherry's annual report:

This screen capture from the presentation shows Cherry's operations:

Cherry appears to be quite dominant at the high end of the market. Re "Premium Laptops", one of the points made in the presentation is that Cherry has developed a low-profile switch that is beginning to gain traction in the high-end laptop market. The presenter also noted that Cherry does not do business with Razer, for what he called "political reasons":

the only other modern switch company outside china that comes to mind is Hua-Jie in Taiwan, but they recently discontinued both their AK series of alps clones and their AX series of MX clones.  as far as I know only the AK line has ever made it to the west, and they were frankly not very good.

for keycaps, there's Signature Plastics made in USA.  they're usually pretty decently made, but they are quite thin and I've never had a totally straight spacebar from them.

the truth is, if you want to meet a price point people are willing to pay at a quality people consider acceptable you generally have to go to China.  Domikey does a better job making keycaps than anyone else and they do it in Guangdong.  there are several companies that make switches to a higher standard than Cherry in China.

if you're trying to build a board without any Chinese or Cherry stuff, I think grabbing some NOS taiwan jet axis switches off aliexpress is probably your best bet.  stick it in one of many custom chassis, use signature plastics keycaps.  regardless of how good it is, that would be a really cool build.

Thanks @butre,

Sorry if I wasn't clear. I'm fine with using Cherry and just want to know if there are other makers outside China that I can put on my list. Same for GMK.

Leaving aside large companies like Fujitsu/PFU, which as I mentioned make their keyboards in Japan, it appears that some smaller companies may be manufacturing case components locally. I don't know how current this is, but KeyCult wrote a blog post in 2020 saying that it's machining some boards itself.

there is a lot of vintage stuff made in pretty much every country you can think of, just in modern times it's a bit scant.
this page contains a list of keyswitch manufacturers, many of which are from China, but there will be quite a number of brands that you recognize as being American or European.

Keycult is one of those custom boards I mentioned, they are made in the US but are quite difficult to obtain and extraordinarily expensive.


--- Quote from: butre on Fri, 10 June 2022, 14:01:10 ---Keycult is one of those custom boards I mentioned, they are made in the US but are quite difficult to obtain and extraordinarily expensive.

--- End quote ---

Right now I'm just trying to identify makers of components, or full kits, that are alternatives to what's available from China and of reasonable quality. I see cost and relative availability as different questions. Thanks for the link to historic info.

I think that I came across a reference recently to a maker of PBT keycaps in South America. Does anyone know who it might be?


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