Author Topic: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?  (Read 1783 times)

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Offline Nosezeichen

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Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« on: Sat, 28 December 2019, 05:31:57 »
Hi,

I'm new to this community and just encountered DIY Keyboards. I have done some research and ended up liking the ergodox design.
As the ergodox-ez is expensive I thought about building my own ergodox with existing designs.

I want to build it with the tilt/tent integrated into the cases, see https://github.com/Ergodox-io/ergodox-case/blob/master/Double_BottomLeftCase.STL.
Buying these gets even more expensive than the ergodox-ez, see https://www.shapeways.com/product/SP356KRFZ/ergodox-bottom-left-case-double-slope?optionId=40937119&li=more-from-shop

So I saw some cheap 3D printers online and got interested in maybe buying one. I can imagine that the fixed tilt of the case I want to build will not be ideal and that I would have to itereate over the angle. Than it would be nice to just be able to print the parts myself.

Now to the low cost 3D printers I stumbled upon:

Creality Ender 3D (~180$)
https://www.creality3dofficial.com/collections/ender-series/products/official-creality-ender-3-3d-printer?variant=16132279500849

Creality Ender 3D PRO (~210$)
https://www.creality3dofficial.com/products/creality-ender-3-pro-3d-printer

Anet ET4 A8 Plus (~195$)
https://de.aliexpress.com/item/32829455772.html?spm=a2g0o.productlist.0.0.51a465f4yQDrYD&algo_pvid=09f830d8-9424-4850-9df3-18a2351ed09e&algo_expid=09f830d8-9424-4850-9df3-18a2351ed09e-0&btsid=0a85d58b-a61a-4c90-82d1-de94ea58d06d&ws_ab_test=searchweb0_0,searchweb201602_9,searchweb201603_53

Do you have any experience with these kind of 3D printers and printing cases?

PS: I live in Germany :)

Thanks for yor help!





Offline vvp

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #1 on: Sat, 28 December 2019, 06:18:40 »
I used a Rostock to print a keyboard case. A delta printer is hard to calibrate. I recommend a cartesian printer for beginners (as the ones you posted). I do not have experience with the particular kinds you posted. I have a friend who has experience with Prusa i3 Steel. It works nice. It would do for a keyboard provided the build area si big enough for your models.

3d printing is an hobby of its own. If you do not intend to create your own designs then just get Ergodox EZ. It is about $350. It is likely you will spend more money buying a 3d printer and upgrading it (most cheap 3d printers will require some upgrades). Most good 3d printers are around $400 for a cartesian printer or around $1000 for a delta printer. Cheaper models often have issues (e.g. linear bearings with too much play) and you will need upgrades.

Offline Findecanor

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #2 on: Sat, 28 December 2019, 06:54:30 »
Do look around to see if there is a makerspace in your area that you could join. They tend to have at least one 3D printer, and enthusiasts that have already upgraded and tinkered with them to get good results.

There are other options: Falba Tech in Poland sells various ErgoDox parts: cases routed from wood, glued bamboo or PVC.
Then there's Litster's case design: layers of laser-cut acrylic, but you could use any material in the right thicknesses.
"I'm sorry, a rain drop literally pushed "Submit" on this retarded touchscreen phone"

Offline MajorKoos

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #3 on: Sat, 28 December 2019, 07:05:24 »
Build area is a major concern. 
If the print bed isn't large enough you're going to need to get creative about splitting the case into pieces and then joining the parts once they're printed, especially if you want a strong joint.
Even a 40% case is too much for most printers to print in one go.

Offline Nosezeichen

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #4 on: Sat, 28 December 2019, 07:36:27 »
I used a Rostock to print a keyboard case. A delta printer is hard to calibrate. I recommend a cartesian printer for beginners (as the ones you posted). I do not have experience with the particular kinds you posted. I have a friend who has experience with Prusa i3 Steel. It works nice. It would do for a keyboard provided the build area si big enough for your models.
This sounds promising. I checked the build-area of the printers and compared it to the are the ergodox would need. Seems to fit.
The printing size for all of the printers are 220x220x250mm.
The ergodox takes about 203x178mm area.

3d printing is an hobby of its own. If you do not intend to create your own designs then just get Ergodox EZ. It is about $350. It is likely you will spend more money buying a 3d printer and upgrading it (most cheap 3d printers will require some upgrades). Most good 3d printers are around $400 for a cartesian printer or around $1000 for a delta printer. Cheaper models often have issues (e.g. linear bearings with too much play) and you will need upgrades.

Yes I think of it as a hobby too and would build things with it whenever I can think of something. For example, I'm playing with the thought of building a gaming keyboard like the razer tartarus v2.
Razer Tartarus v2
Maybe I'll modify the ergodox to be more like tartarus.

But first things first...

That's why I thought about buying a low cost beginner 3d printer. To be able to iterate and experiment.
« Last Edit: Sat, 28 December 2019, 07:38:44 by Nosezeichen »

Offline Nosezeichen

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #5 on: Sat, 28 December 2019, 07:51:01 »
Do look around to see if there is a makerspace in your area that you could join. They tend to have at least one 3D printer, and enthusiasts that have already upgraded and tinkered with them to get good results.
Yes, there is a makerspace in my little town, which I know of. It's organized from enthusiasts and a profressor from the local university. They have all the stuff you need and more. But it's only once ore twice a month and didn't go there yet. Maybe I'll first go there and rethink my plans.

There are other options: Falba Tech in Poland sells various ErgoDox parts: cases routed from wood, glued bamboo or PVC.
Then there's Litster's case design: layers of laser-cut acrylic, but you could use any material in the right thicknesses.
I allready stumbled over the falbatech ergodox. If you get a full build, it cost nearly the same as the ergodox-ez and if I need to customize it, I need to build a new case anyway.

Offline Nosezeichen

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #6 on: Sat, 28 December 2019, 07:53:40 »
Build area is a major concern. 
If the print bed isn't large enough you're going to need to get creative about splitting the case into pieces and then joining the parts once they're printed, especially if you want a strong joint.
Even a 40% case is too much for most printers to print in one go.
Should I be concerned with the size?
As I mentioned before the printing size for all of the printers are 220x220x250mm.
The ergodox takes about 203x178mm area.

Offline katotaka

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #7 on: Sat, 28 December 2019, 14:47:12 »
been there, done that



Yeah it's a hobby of its own and you'd better be prepared to invest A LOT of time in it, and probably some extra money for mods for your budget printer to make your life easier.

Since you look like you're going to design your own gaming pad, you might wanna pick a CAD package download Fusion 360 and get familiar with it, while you do further research on the printers before actually ordering one, and oh, Lunar new year is coming very soon you might want to wait if you're ordering from China.




I'm gonna flex a bit below, if you don't mind :p


1up style TKL/NP case set but done cheap
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=19113.msg2627688#msg2627688

Got addicted in Apex so I made a pad to play
https://imgur.com/a/hURYNlN

Since desk space is limited and I couldn't fit them all I decided to smash them together and reduce into angled halves/ortho/CP1800 style layout
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=103881.msg2847825#msg2847825

Offline vvp

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #8 on: Sat, 28 December 2019, 15:38:30 »
Should I be concerned with the size?
As I mentioned before the printing size for all of the printers are 220x220x250mm.
The ergodox takes about 203x178mm area.
No, MajorKoos did not realize you want to 3D print a split design only. Build size is typically a problem when you want to print non-split keyboards.

Offline MajorKoos

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #9 on: Sat, 28 December 2019, 17:15:51 »
Should I be concerned with the size?
As I mentioned before the printing size for all of the printers are 220x220x250mm.
The ergodox takes about 203x178mm area.
No, MajorKoos did not realize you want to 3D print a split design only. Build size is typically a problem when you want to print non-split keyboards.

Yup. 
Split keyboards only unless you get something on the larger side like a Lulzbot.
I've got an Ultimaker and the build area is too small to print a case for a planck.
Here are some 3d printed cases I made for a TS65 and a VE.A
https://imgur.com/a/Ew0Ox

Offline Leslieann

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #10 on: Sat, 28 December 2019, 17:51:30 »
VVP covered a lot, I'll add a bit more.

Start with PLA, it's cheap and easy, when you go make your case I'd recommend PET.
ABS is the norm for cases and available but a big hassle. PLA can work for a case, however PLA will soften even in a warm car, but worse, it's not a complete solid. Over time it will take on the shape of anything exerting pressure on it. So an 11mm sandwich box compressed to 10mm will eventually become a 10mm box with no clamping force exerted on it. Pet is heat resistant enough for a car and will not distort under pressure, though it can be a bit more expensive and a teeny bit more fickle (delaminating is the biggest issue and changing temp or cooling fan up or down will fix it) so experiment a bit before making the final part if you change plastics.

The Makerspace is a good idea, but NOT for making your case, go there to get started/training and get answers/tips. Most will not let your print run without anyone being there (they are a fire hazard), and this is a problem as it can take many hours to do even half an Ergodox. Nothing good in 3d printing happens fast, after you have done this for a while a 12hour print is almost laughable, and it only gets worse as you get larger printers or get into commercial stuff. No Makerspace is going to let you hang out long enough to make a strong case.

Ender is good, however there is a BUNCH of different models, many of which are TERRIBLE. Get a Pro. It has most of the problems fixed without sorting through 30 or 40 different variants. You will eventually need/want to modify it, there is lots of support, just beware that this is the internet and there is lots of variants. It's very easy to think you're printing an upgrade when not only was an upgrade for an older version, but a downgrade for your model, and worse, designed by someone who had no idea what they were doing.

Start playing with CAD NOW.
I'd recommend Tinkercad (web based) for playing around and Fusion 360 (Mac/Windows) for something more robust. Tinkercad is like playing with Lego and in the right hands is surprisingly powerful even though it's easy enough for a child to learn in minutes (people always under estimate what it can do). Fusion is a full on CAD program, but it will take a while to really get the hang of. Yes, there are others, Freecad and Solidworks being two big ones, Freecad works on any major OS, Solidworks only on Windows, however Solidworks, while EXTREMELY powerful comes with a matching price tag. You will need CAD to get the most out of your printer.

Slicing software,
Don't be pushed into buying software like Simplify, at one time it really was better, if expensive, but open source has caught up and passed it again. I recommend Prusaslicer but Cura is also quite good if a bit clunky.


Oh, and beware, if you are prone to migraines in any way, plan on sticking this in another room, possibly with a hepa filter. PLA should be no worse for you than cooking in your kitchen but some of the additives can be problematic for some people and it's probably just a good idea anyhow. Also noise, while some are quiet enough to sleep around (some deltas in particular), many can be quiet noisy so having it in another room is a good thing.  I also have a smoke detector just above it as close as possible.
Filco MJ2 L.E. w/hand milled Vortex case, custom feet/paint/winkey blockoff plate, HID Liberator, stainless steel universal plate, 3d printed adapters, Type C, sound dampened,  Thick PBT caps (o-ringed), Cherry Jailhouse Blues w/lubed/clipped Cherry light springs | HMMK TKL | Magicforce 68 | YMDK75 | KBT Race S L.E. | Das Pro (Costar model) | GH60 | IBM Model M (x2)

Offline Nosezeichen

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #11 on: Sun, 29 December 2019, 11:24:53 »
Since you look like you're going to design your own gaming pad, you might wanna pick a CAD package download Fusion 360 and get familiar with it, while you do further research on the printers before actually ordering one, and oh, Lunar new year is coming very soon you might want to wait if you're ordering from China.

Thank you for your tips! Specially for the fusion for hobbyist version, I wasn't aware of this!

Offline Nosezeichen

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #12 on: Sun, 29 December 2019, 11:54:27 »
VVP covered a lot, I'll add a bit more.

Start with PLA, it's cheap and easy, when you go make your case I'd recommend PET.
ABS is the norm for cases and available but a big hassle. PLA can work for a case, however PLA will soften even in a warm car, but worse, it's not a complete solid. Over time it will take on the shape of anything exerting pressure on it. So an 11mm sandwich box compressed to 10mm will eventually become a 10mm box with no clamping force exerted on it. Pet is heat resistant enough for a car and will not distort under pressure, though it can be a bit more expensive and a teeny bit more fickle (delaminating is the biggest issue and changing temp or cooling fan up or down will fix it) so experiment a bit before making the final part if you change plastics.

The Makerspace is a good idea, but NOT for making your case, go there to get started/training and get answers/tips. Most will not let your print run without anyone being there (they are a fire hazard), and this is a problem as it can take many hours to do even half an Ergodox. Nothing good in 3d printing happens fast, after you have done this for a while a 12hour print is almost laughable, and it only gets worse as you get larger printers or get into commercial stuff. No Makerspace is going to let you hang out long enough to make a strong case.

Ender is good, however there is a BUNCH of different models, many of which are TERRIBLE. Get a Pro. It has most of the problems fixed without sorting through 30 or 40 different variants. You will eventually need/want to modify it, there is lots of support, just beware that this is the internet and there is lots of variants. It's very easy to think you're printing an upgrade when not only was an upgrade for an older version, but a downgrade for your model, and worse, designed by someone who had no idea what they were doing.

Start playing with CAD NOW.
I'd recommend Tinkercad (web based) for playing around and Fusion 360 (Mac/Windows) for something more robust. Tinkercad is like playing with Lego and in the right hands is surprisingly powerful even though it's easy enough for a child to learn in minutes (people always under estimate what it can do). Fusion is a full on CAD program, but it will take a while to really get the hang of. Yes, there are others, Freecad and Solidworks being two big ones, Freecad works on any major OS, Solidworks only on Windows, however Solidworks, while EXTREMELY powerful comes with a matching price tag. You will need CAD to get the most out of your printer.

Slicing software,
Don't be pushed into buying software like Simplify, at one time it really was better, if expensive, but open source has caught up and passed it again. I recommend Prusaslicer but Cura is also quite good if a bit clunky.


Oh, and beware, if you are prone to migraines in any way, plan on sticking this in another room, possibly with a hepa filter. PLA should be no worse for you than cooking in your kitchen but some of the additives can be problematic for some people and it's probably just a good idea anyhow. Also noise, while some are quiet enough to sleep around (some deltas in particular), many can be quiet noisy so having it in another room is a good thing.  I also have a smoke detector just above it as close as possible.

Thank you soo much for the insight Leslieann! This was very helpful! :D

I think I'll use Fusion360 for hobbyists as katotaka mentioned ealier. Fortunately I'm a software developer and the software product that we develop in the company has a CAD core integrated. So I'm allready a little bit familar with CAD (but still a beginner).

I think for the first version of the keyboard I'll stick with the ergodox flat layered design (no 3D printer required, only cnc milling) with some tilting legs. I'll look forward to build this in the local makerspace if possible. I'll start with the a shopping list for the required electronics now :)

After my first build I'll dig into 3D printing and focus on getting 3D printing equipment to build the other cases.

I'd love to here alternatives for the ender pro which allready implement things that I would otherwise had to fix. For example auto bed leveling, I think I don't want to do this manually all the time.


Thank you guys, you're awesome!

Offline Nosezeichen

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #13 on: Sun, 29 December 2019, 11:57:13 »
1up style TKL/NP case set but done cheap
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=19113.msg2627688#msg2627688

Got addicted in Apex so I made a pad to play
https://imgur.com/a/hURYNlN

Since desk space is limited and I couldn't fit them all I decided to smash them together and reduce into angled halves/ortho/CP1800 style layout
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=103881.msg2847825#msg2847825

Nice keyboards you build! :)

Offline vvp

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #14 on: Sun, 29 December 2019, 16:14:50 »
There is also Atom 3D as something between FreeCAD and Solidworks.
https://mecsoft.com/shop/product/alibre-atom3d/
Yeah and Alibre Design. Not as cheap any more but still cheaper than Solidworks.
« Last Edit: Sun, 29 December 2019, 16:17:48 by vvp »

Offline Leslieann

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #15 on: Sun, 29 December 2019, 16:23:47 »
I'd love to here alternatives for the ender pro which allready implement things that I would otherwise had to fix. For example auto bed leveling, I think I don't want to do this manually all the time.
There isn't a lot of alternatives for the Ender.
There is the Tronxy line, but like the Ender line (and anything open source Chinese) it's constantly changing and there are LOTS of duds. You want something common with a support network, and while Ender's support system is poor, there are a lot of communities built around it where you can get help.

While it should stay relatively well calibrated if you never move it (seriously, most cartesians do not move well), if you are worried about hassles my advice is considering spending a bit more and buy a genuine Prusa. It's pretty much the easiest printer to use at the moment, short of big buck commercial stuff, and frankly, it's a bargain for what it comes with (high end hot end and extruder!), has a huge support community, gives back to open source, and is genuinely a great printer.

Here is what I tell people...

If you want easy:
Prusa
If you want low cost starter:
Ender Pro
If you want something a bit bigger and better than the Ender and don't mind a bit of Tinkering and research:
Tronxy (I don't have a specific model, they change too quickly to keep up and not worth my time)
Ballin: (while good, I'd still recommend a Prusa unless you know exactly why you want/need these)
Lulzbot or Ultimaker

If you already have a printer and want to upgrade or you have or access to one, like to tinker and want the best, build your own either from your own design or from an already established design. The best printer is the one you make to your specifications.

Don't knock home builts, unlike almost any other industry, big business actually lost control of this industry and it's dominated by smaller companies and community based designs that evolve at a rate big business simply can't keep up with or pull enough profit margin. A home built can be as cheap as an Ender (or less if you buy a used printer for parts) or it can cost closer to an Ultimaker if you go all out and before you think these are cobbled together, a well done one can work just as well or better than an off the shelf and most off-the-shelf printers are actually open source printers that were designed for home building.
« Last Edit: Sun, 29 December 2019, 16:33:14 by Leslieann »
Filco MJ2 L.E. w/hand milled Vortex case, custom feet/paint/winkey blockoff plate, HID Liberator, stainless steel universal plate, 3d printed adapters, Type C, sound dampened,  Thick PBT caps (o-ringed), Cherry Jailhouse Blues w/lubed/clipped Cherry light springs | HMMK TKL | Magicforce 68 | YMDK75 | KBT Race S L.E. | Das Pro (Costar model) | GH60 | IBM Model M (x2)

Offline Leslieann

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #16 on: Sun, 29 December 2019, 16:41:51 »
There is also Atom 3D as something between FreeCAD and Solidworks.
https://mecsoft.com/shop/product/alibre-atom3d/
Yeah and Alibre Design. Not as cheap any more but still cheaper than Solidworks.
Beware getting in bed with some of these companies even for a trial version, not saying any names, but many of them have EXTREMELY aggressive salesmen.

Not only did one follow me around for 3 years after I did some testing with their software, they went so far as to figure out my phone number and call me. At the time I didn't have a printer or any cad and when I finally explained to them I was simply testing something for a friend they kindly stopped hounding me, 9 months later. This was before Salesforce which makes it easier to do this to potential customers, I never tell them anything valid until I'm ready to buy.
Filco MJ2 L.E. w/hand milled Vortex case, custom feet/paint/winkey blockoff plate, HID Liberator, stainless steel universal plate, 3d printed adapters, Type C, sound dampened,  Thick PBT caps (o-ringed), Cherry Jailhouse Blues w/lubed/clipped Cherry light springs | HMMK TKL | Magicforce 68 | YMDK75 | KBT Race S L.E. | Das Pro (Costar model) | GH60 | IBM Model M (x2)

Offline Findecanor

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #17 on: Sun, 29 December 2019, 16:59:26 »
If you get a full build, it cost nearly the same as the ergodox-ez and if I need to customize it, I need to build a new case anyway.
An ErgoDox can still be built on a budget.

For my keyboard, I bought only the PCB back in the original group-order way back when, and the components separately. I got the switches and most of the keycaps by scavenging from vintage keyboards: old Cherry G80-series keyboards were and are still somewhat cheap and plentiful on German eBay today. I got the keycaps in odd sizes as custom-made or individual blanks from WASD Keyboards, but these days you could get a full set of blank ErgoDox keycaps on eBay from China for less than 30 total.
I had intended to build it without a plate, using in-switch diodes for rigidity, but I decided on doing a few mods that require custom-made plates anyway. Stabilisers for the 21 thumb-keys are not necessary but nice to have: so do look out for the PCB revision that has holes for PCB-mounted stabilisers.
I never built a case though: it turned out that the layout wasn't for me anyway... (I started building one of flat pieces of wood that interlocked but threw away the project half-way.)
« Last Edit: Sun, 29 December 2019, 17:02:28 by Findecanor »
"I'm sorry, a rain drop literally pushed "Submit" on this retarded touchscreen phone"

Offline MajorKoos

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Re: Cheap 3D printer sufficient for DIY Keyboard cases?
« Reply #18 on: Mon, 30 December 2019, 07:46:54 »
The reason I got a 3D printer to start with was to build an Ergodox.
Took about a week of learning to get to a point where I could print a half decent case.
Then, once I'd finally assembled it and got to use my brand new Ergodox I discovered within minutes that it's not the layout for me.