Author Topic: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard  (Read 3418 times)

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Offline Diserasta

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[IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« on: Mon, 25 September 2017, 23:54:15 »
Hi there,

Myself and a buddy were talking a while back and we noticed that's no real options if you want a reasonably slim, small keyboard to carry around. This was for the longest time due to MX stemmed switches being so tall. Recently, Kailh unveiled some low profile switches that are scarily small, so we decided to take a crack at the design thing.

We designed and tested the layout (on paper and by playing with a planck), designed a PCB, and are currently sourcing parts and working through the case design.

The design philosophy is thus:
  • Maximal length equal to a 15" laptop - This is about as tall as an A4 page (300mm ish)
  • As thin as possible - For shoving into a bag with the laptop and running
  • Fully programmable - a QMK firmware driver would be written and tested by us before release
  • As highly functional as possible - As a programmer by trade, I find myself having to use mods and switch layers much too often when using my preonic, so I wanted to pack as many of the buttons I like into one layer as I can
  • Ortholinear - For extra comfort

The proposed layout is here:


3D Platformer noted that the number row was out of line (thanks dude :) ), so after a bit of playing and testing, we have a second proposal that has the number row aligned with the alphas:


For clarification, the Fn keys on the keyboard are dummies. They're to be programmed with whatever the user desires. The keycaps for them will be provided in several variants. They can be labelled with the default mapping (shown below), as Fn, or blank.


We are currently in the process of securing keycap sources for the switches (as they use a different stem from MX), and have reached out to both GMK and Signature Plastics.

The current projected thickness for the full keyboard is ~20mm or about 0.8", but we're shaving off thickness everywhere we can, and can probably shave a few more mm from this, if all goes well.

UPDATE:

The current prototype uses SMD LEDs under each key, and a USB-C connector.
If the KB is connected to a USB-A port, or cannot provide the full USB-C power for whatever reason, the LEDs will operate in "legacy" mode. Legacy mode simply limits the max brightness of the LEDs, and scales down the brightness steps. This should be plenty bright, but if you have proper USB-C, and feel like pushing the brightness to max, each key will produce some 250mcd of light.

The keys themselves will be the Kailh PG1350 Low profile switches. Images and a general review can be found here: https://www.anandtech.com/show/11851/kailh-introduces-low-profile-mini-chocolate-keyswitches

These switches have a total travel of 3mm, and actuate around 1.4mm. They are tiny tiny little things.



What do you think of the design? Would you like to see the case in plastic/acrylic or metal? Would you buy it?

We'd love to do a group buy if there's interest. :)

EDIT: Spelling
« Last Edit: Tue, 03 October 2017, 17:04:29 by Diserasta »

Offline SpAmRaY

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #1 on: Tue, 26 September 2017, 05:26:51 »
I'm going to say GMK can't help you on the keycaps and I doubt signature plastics would either as neither of them make keycaps to fit kailh low profile switches. :confused:

Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk

Offline Diserasta

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #2 on: Tue, 26 September 2017, 07:31:24 »
I'm going to say GMK can't help you on the keycaps and I doubt signature plastics would either as neither of them make keycaps to fit kailh low profile switches. :confused:

Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk


That was my initial reaction, but my design partner noted that there's no harm in asking, so we did.

Both companies have been extremely helpful and, last we checked, were discussing the feasibility of creating tooling with their engineers.

GMK is currently the more prompt of the two, and have said that they can probably do keycaps for us, MOQ and tooling cost TBD.

Offline dante

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #3 on: Tue, 26 September 2017, 08:04:01 »
I would be interested but only if it's a split keyboard and has USB-C.

Offline Diserasta

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #4 on: Tue, 26 September 2017, 08:08:14 »
I would be interested but only if it's a split keyboard and has USB-C.

USB-C will be pretty much mandatory due to the current draw of even the smallest RGB LEDs. So yeah, it'll be USB-C.

As for split, I had never thought about that. We'll talk it over and see what we can do. If there's enough support, we can split it.

Offline Niekocaster

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #5 on: Wed, 27 September 2017, 06:27:55 »
I think this could be a cool idea, but a full grid spacing would be nicer, even if it excluded RGB.

Offline Diserasta

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #6 on: Wed, 27 September 2017, 06:45:11 »
I think this could be a cool idea, but a full grid spacing would be nicer, even if it excluded RGB.

By full grid spacing do you mean no 2u keys, just 1u and the 3u spacebar?

Offline Coffee

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #7 on: Wed, 27 September 2017, 06:53:14 »
Wish there was a "silent" low profile switch. I'd probably be all over this if that were the case.

Offline Diserasta

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #8 on: Wed, 27 September 2017, 07:09:09 »
Wish there was a "silent" low profile switch. I'd probably be all over this if that were the case.

Kailh does manufacture a linear in the low profile PG1350. Matt3o did a basic once-over on the ones he got

Would any of those three be up to scratch for noise?

Offline Niekocaster

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #9 on: Wed, 27 September 2017, 13:34:42 »
I think this could be a cool idea, but a full grid spacing would be nicer, even if it excluded RGB.

By full grid spacing do you mean no 2u keys, just 1u and the 3u spacebar?

no. I mean only 1u keys including space

Offline Diserasta

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #10 on: Wed, 27 September 2017, 17:58:21 »
I think this could be a cool idea, but a full grid spacing would be nicer, even if it excluded RGB.

By full grid spacing do you mean no 2u keys, just 1u and the 3u spacebar?

no. I mean only 1u keys including space

Ah. Gotcha. So something between the preonic and atomic in size.

There was a bunch of discussion between the two of us designing this KB whether to go full 1u grid, but we both found 1u shift and enter to be too easy to miss. The split space was my suggestion, as it gave you an extra key if you only hit space with one hand (I do this a lot), without going full 1u, and assigning 4/5 keys to space.

Now neither of us are experts with ortho layouts, so full 1u grid may not be as bothersome for most as it is for us. As my stats lecturer once said "MORE DATA IS REQUIRED".

Offline 3DPlatformer

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #11 on: Wed, 27 September 2017, 18:54:51 »
I like this idea of a super thin board with low profile switches, but the layout looks a little funky. The numbers are in the wrong columns. Also, why are there so many Fn keys? Didn't you say you wanted to avoid using layers as much as possile?

I would be interested but only if it's a split keyboard and has USB-C.

I think making this a split board would make it harder to carry around which is the main idea.

Any thoughts on a wireless mode?

Offline Diserasta

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #12 on: Wed, 27 September 2017, 19:31:41 »
I like this idea of a super thin board with low profile switches, but the layout looks a little funky. The numbers are in the wrong columns. Also, why are there so many Fn keys? Didn't you say you wanted to avoid using layers as much as possile?

I would be interested but only if it's a split keyboard and has USB-C.

I think making this a split board would make it harder to carry around which is the main idea.

Any thoughts on a wireless mode?

Splitting the board would indeed make it more of a hassle to carry.

Re: the function keys, they're more meant to be "program these to whatever". The ones near the arrow cluster I'd assign to pgup/pgdn, the one near caps would be a leader key.

I also didn't want my personal hatred of layers to get in the way of those who like them. I'll probably only have one or two layers on the thing myself, but I'd like the keeb to be highly functional for most if not all users. You do you fam.

Re: Numbers. Oh drat. You're absolutely right. I knew something was up but I've spent so long staring at the layout I don't see most of it anymore. I've updated the original post with an alternative that has numbers in line.

Re: Wireless - Honestly, we can't. Not with LEDs anyway. The power draw of an RGB LED array destroys the power budget of any battery that we could conceivably fit in the case (Remember the total thickness is less than an inch). We did spend some time considering a wireless version, and mocking up a design, but that's a project for another day. This is one of those "it'll happen in V2" things, but thanks for bringing it up. It's certainly an option if we replace the RGB LEDs with single colour.

Offline Niekocaster

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #13 on: Thu, 28 September 2017, 06:42:38 »
I think this could be a cool idea, but a full grid spacing would be nicer, even if it excluded RGB.

By full grid spacing do you mean no 2u keys, just 1u and the 3u spacebar?

no. I mean only 1u keys including space

Ah. Gotcha. So something between the preonic and atomic in size.

There was a bunch of discussion between the two of us designing this KB whether to go full 1u grid, but we both found 1u shift and enter to be too easy to miss. The split space was my suggestion, as it gave you an extra key if you only hit space with one hand (I do this a lot), without going full 1u, and assigning 4/5 keys to space.

Now neither of us are experts with ortho layouts, so full 1u grid may not be as bothersome for most as it is for us. As my stats lecturer once said "MORE DATA IS REQUIRED".

I may be an anomaly (that's the correct word right?) but I prefer a full grid layout

Offline 3DPlatformer

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #14 on: Thu, 28 September 2017, 18:08:58 »

Re: the function keys, they're more meant to be "program these to whatever". The ones near the arrow cluster I'd assign to pgup/pgdn, the one near caps would be a leader key.


So does that mean that 'Fn' would be the legends for the keycaps that ship with the board? Maybe you could include caps with legends that match the default mapping in addition to the Fn keys.

Offline Diserasta

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #15 on: Thu, 28 September 2017, 21:06:31 »

Re: the function keys, they're more meant to be "program these to whatever". The ones near the arrow cluster I'd assign to pgup/pgdn, the one near caps would be a leader key.


So does that mean that 'Fn' would be the legends for the keycaps that ship with the board? Maybe you could include caps with legends that match the default mapping in addition to the Fn keys.

Good idea! I've updated the top post. Check it out.

Online InvidiousIgnoramus

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #16 on: Sat, 30 September 2017, 06:01:25 »
That's quite a lot of 2u keys, wow. If you can find a manufacturer to produce keys for it, I'm all in.
I long for the day when I find a beamspring. (At a not insane price)

Offline Diserasta

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #17 on: Mon, 02 October 2017, 16:38:02 »
That's quite a lot of 2u keys, wow. If you can find a manufacturer to produce keys for it, I'm all in.

We may end up just having to have two keys and a custom keycap, but I'd rather avoid that scenario. For now, it looks like GMK may be able to manufacture keycaps for us, and we'll play around with stabs or no stabs on the 2u keys.

In any case, happy to hear you're on board. Did anything in particular attract you to this KB?

Offline psiclone

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #18 on: Mon, 02 October 2017, 22:03:34 »
What is the \\ key for?

Offline Diserasta

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #19 on: Mon, 02 October 2017, 23:51:35 »
What is the \\ key for?

It is a leader key. A key that you press and follow with another key (as opposed to press at same time hotkeys). It's a sort of convention with the people I work with that the leader in vim is \\ (double tap backslash).

In the default keymap the leader key will be used for bootmagic options, such as switching caps and ctrl and Leader -> <Number-row> will output the F keys. (e.g. \\3 will output F3. Thus Alt+F4 would be \\Alt+F4 (Mods are not affected by leader). By default, the leader will wait 1000msec (1 second) for the next input, and then timeout. When the leader times out, the Leader LED will blink.

Since the keyboard will be programmed in QMK, this is all re-programmable.

Offline kultra

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #20 on: Tue, 03 October 2017, 07:47:07 »
Very close to what I'd like:
  • +low profile
  • +programmable
  • +non-staggered keys
  • -missing the F keys, a lot of editors/IDEs use two modifiers + F keys
  • -space should be 1u or 2u, use thumb to press one key; I'd put there CTRL and ALT, SPACE and BACKSPACE
  • -split
I'm interested if it doesn't cost a fortune. I stopped buying keyboards because I realized how broken the staggered layout is.
Let's split is interesting, but is missing the F keys and the keys aren't low profile. IIRC there were a few interested in a let's split with F keys.

I'd implement another layout for one of the keys under thumb, when you press it to have
  • arrows instead of j k l i, or h j k l if you like VIM
  • page up/down instead of e d
  • home end instead of s f
No need to move the hand for arrows, page up down. If it's fully programmable I can make my own layouts.

Interesting idea, I'm curious how the project will progress.


Offline Diserasta

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #21 on: Tue, 03 October 2017, 08:06:13 »
Very close to what I'd like:
  • +low profile
  • +programmable
  • +non-staggered keys
  • -missing the F keys, a lot of editors/IDEs use two modifiers + F keys
  • -space should be 1u or 2u, use thumb to press one key; I'd put there CTRL and ALT, SPACE and BACKSPACE
  • -split
I'm interested if it doesn't cost a fortune. I stopped buying keyboards because I realized how broken the staggered layout is.
Let's split is interesting, but is missing the F keys and the keys aren't low profile. IIRC there were a few interested in a let's split with F keys.

I'd implement another layout for one of the keys under thumb, when you press it to have
  • arrows instead of j k l i, or h j k l if you like VIM
  • page up/down instead of e d
  • home end instead of s f
No need to move the hand for arrows, page up down. If it's fully programmable I can make my own layouts.

Interesting idea, I'm curious how the project will progress.


Re: "The keys aren't low profile"

This keyboard *is* being designed with Kailh low profile switches. What do you mean precisely? Keycaps?

Re: Other layouts
The keyboard will support QMK, so you can create your own layouts.

Thanks for the thoughts in any case. I'll keep it in mind.

It does seem like people like their split layouts.

Offline xondat

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #22 on: Tue, 03 October 2017, 08:19:33 »
When you say low profile, do you mean that the overall board is quite thin, or that the case won't cover the bottom of the keys?

If it's the former, what sort of thinness do you think is achievable?

Offline Diserasta

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #23 on: Tue, 03 October 2017, 08:24:35 »
When you say low profile, do you mean that the overall board is quite thin, or that the case won't cover the bottom of the keys?

If it's the former, what sort of thinness do you think is achievable?

I mean the former. We're using Kailh Low-Profile switches. Our current CAD drawings say 0.8 inches from bottom of case to top of keycap, and we think we can still shave another 1/10" from that.

Offline kultra

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #24 on: Tue, 03 October 2017, 09:32:00 »
Re: "The keys aren't low profile"

This keyboard *is* being designed with Kailh low profile switches. What do you mean precisely? Keycaps?

I prefer low profile switches (like scissors switches) found in old IBM laptops or ultranav keyboards. I don't like the classical mechanical switches or Topre, they are too tall for my taste.
Are you referring to these switches:
http://www.tomshardware.com/news/kailh-laptop-switches-scissor-light-pipe,34652.html ?

Maybe you should place a link to them in the first post.

Offline Diserasta

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Re: [IC/Feedback] Low-Profile 65% Mechanical Keyboard
« Reply #25 on: Tue, 03 October 2017, 17:05:56 »
Re: "The keys aren't low profile"

This keyboard *is* being designed with Kailh low profile switches. What do you mean precisely? Keycaps?

I prefer low profile switches (like scissors switches) found in old IBM laptops or ultranav keyboards. I don't like the classical mechanical switches or Topre, they are too tall for my taste.
Are you referring to these switches:
http://www.tomshardware.com/news/kailh-laptop-switches-scissor-light-pipe,34652.html ?

Maybe you should place a link to them in the first post.


Great idea. I should've done that initially. I've linked a general review as well as a picture next to an Outemu Purple (normal MX switch). The switches are tiny.
« Last Edit: Tue, 03 October 2017, 17:07:36 by Diserasta »