Author Topic: Designing an Ergodox/Redox compatible with both GMK keycaps and Ergodox ones  (Read 13130 times)

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Offline DarkSphere00

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  • Location: Italy
Hello guys,

This is still a very premature project, and it's just an idea for now. I'm starting this topic to gather early ideas and thoughts from you.  If anyone wanted to help me out too on this project, I'd also be very glad!
I do not intend on selling this personally (unless there is request I guess?), but I will make everything open source so that whoever wants can manufacture and assemble its own.


Why it's important (to me at least)
The reason I came up with this idea is that I couldn't decide myself between the Ergodox and the Redox, since both have flaws, and I decided to try to build a new board with the best of each one.

My problems with the Ergodox:
  • While some sets have Ergo kits, it's still difficult if not impossible to use regular GMK sets with it.
  • It's big and bulky, especially that wasted space on top of the top row.
  • The thumb cluster is way too big and far out for my hands
  • It uses a Teensy board, and I wouldn't know how to use that with USB Type-C.

While the Redox addresses almost all of those issues, it has one major flaw:
  • I still have no idea why MattDB wanted 1.25u keys so badly: they're nearly impossible to source in the right amount for sculpted kits, and this makes it incompatible with even the traditional Ergo kits.


The goal
My objective however would be to create a split ergo keyboard, very much similar to the Redox by MattDB, but compatible with whatever keycap set: be it a GMK base kit or a Ergodox kit or whatever other kit of your choice.

I aim at designing a single case at first with two different PCBs (of the same shape and size), and later on unifying the designs into a single PCB with multiple slots to choose from; the only different parts would be two different front plates.
This way one could easily just have a single case and a single PCB and later on choose the desired layout, only having to buy/make the plate accordingly.  If someone installs hot swap sockets then he could even own the two plates, change layouts by changing the switch location, putting on the desired front plate to cover the unused holes, and putting on the desired set of keycaps.

As it will be based on the Redox, each side will have 35 keys, 4 of which will be in the thumb cluster which I believe it's shaped just right (although I know this is very personal), without any key too far away like in the original Ergodox.
The case will offer support for Ergodox-EZ's tenting kit like the Iris does, which isn't too much expensive and it's excellent.
The software will be QMK, and it will use Elite-C (would have preferred QMK Proton-C but there is no compatibility for split keyboards yet).


Future plans
I will add later on support for RGB underglow, which should be pretty straightforward and in my opinion looks really nice.

With the right help I'm also thinking about adding something like a display on one side and a rotary encoder on the other, but this is just an idea for now and I'd like to hear what you guys think about it.

Lastly, per-key RGB: I might think about this in the long term, so that everybody can choose what they prefer, but it's really one of the last things I'll be spending my time on (unless obviously someone does it for me).


"How will I be able to get it?"
Difficult to say for now.

As I'm based in Europe, when I'll have a definitive layout and a working PCB I'll try to contact Mr. Falba, who runs FalbaTech, to see if he would be available to produce a case for it and possibly the PCB too.
I don't however know the scene in the rest of the world, so I would need some help from someone more experienced than me.

As I've said however, I'll share everything publicly and make it open source.


Progress made and what I'm working on
As I've already said, at the moment this is little more than an idea and I need to gather information from you, so please write whatever you think about this because I need feedback.

The first thing that I need to work on is finalizing both the layouts: when that is done, I'll design the actual PCBs, and when I'll have the first prototypes I'll test those.

I'll keep updating this post and the one below while I make progress.
« Last Edit: Sun, 09 February 2020, 17:39:07 by DarkSphere00 »

Offline DarkSphere00

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  • Location: Italy
This is the very first idea, made on Keyboard Layout Editor:




The left half is what it would look like when using a GMK set, while the right half represents a traditional Ergo kit.

The layout on the left can easily be achieved with just a base kit, or an alpha kit with an icon modifier kit.
« Last Edit: Sun, 09 February 2020, 17:30:08 by DarkSphere00 »

Offline prolevelfish

  • Posts: 2
  • Location: Alberta, Canada
Damn I was literally about to pull the trigger on a Redox, then I saw your post. You bring up a very good point. I figured the >1u outer columns would give a bit better pinky-feel, but it would be a shame missing out on so many keysets.....

Whatever I do, I am very interested in your project! Following; can't wait to see your updates.

Offline Findecanor

  • Posts: 4640
  • Location: Koriko
This idea reminds me of the Ogre Ergo, which uses pretty much keys only from a standard ANSI set.

However, these days, many sets do come with some extra keys. And many group buys have both ErgoDox and 40% kits with more keys.
Man must shape his tools lest they shape him
-- Arthur Miller

Offline DarkSphere00

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  • Posts: 25
  • Location: Italy
This idea reminds me of the Ogre Ergo, which uses pretty much keys only from a standard ANSI set.

Yeah I've seen the Ogre Ergo and I think it really is a cool keyboard, as I myself have stated in its tread.  I Love in particular that he is aiming to maintain compatibility with both standard keycap sets and the ergo ones.
I have seen however that we haven't had any updates since January...
The reasons I have decided to still go on with my project are mainly three:
  • I think it is extremely important for an ergonomic keyboard to be tilted, so that will be something I aim to include in the final design of whatever I'll come up with
  • I dislike the way the thumb cluster is organized: having only three keys feels like a waste of space to me, especially if you consider that the whole concept of having a thumb cluster is based upon the idea that the thumb is the strongest finger and using it for the spacebar only is a waste.
  • Lastly, I like the idea of having a rotary encoder, which I think will be very useful (I change the volume a lot), and a display, that one mainly for aesthetic reasons.
With time, I also found I really enjoyed the whole process of designing the PCB so I'm really curious about how I'll proceed now!

However, these days, many sets do come with some extra keys. And many group buys have both ErgoDox and 40% kits with more keys.
This is true for a lot of sets, I have in mind in particular the KAT sets which are sculpted and still offer the Ergo kits.
However, GMK sets don't offer that because of the cost it would involve and for this reason I still think it is important to offer compatibility with standard keycap sets.

Offline DarkSphere00

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  • Location: Italy
Damn I was literally about to pull the trigger on a Redox, then I saw your post. You bring up a very good point. I figured the >1u outer columns would give a bit better pinky-feel, but it would be a shame missing out on so many keysets.....

Whatever I do, I am very interested in your project! Following; can't wait to see your updates.

If only they were 1u it would probably be better, but 5 1.25 keys per hand is too much to find in a standard keycap set, not to talk about the sculpted ones...

I'm glad you're interested in this project!
At the moment I recently finished the GMK-compatible PCB design, which includes one 128x64 OLED display and one rotary encoder per side, plus the 3 outputs which can be used to solder a addressable RGB strip underneath them.
I already got the PCB samples and they worked perfectly, so now I'll be thinking of the case. After that, I'll be perfecting the PCB design and then I'll be making the other version to be used with the Ergo sets.  Unfortunately, my original project of having a single PCB with the two options turned out to be impossible... I will at least make sure to maintain the single case compatibility.

I'm making progress, but I'm not really going that fast so it will still take a while for me to have a finished product...  I'll give you updates as I keep making progress!

Offline turtlet08

  • Posts: 4
  • Location: Bay Area, California
I shall be following this project as I am interested to see what you come up with. I don't own an ergodox, but I was planning to get that kind of keyboard next.

I was wondering if you would be interested in adding a small screen to a board like the one on the Ergodox Infinity or on the Satisfaction75. Personally I like having a way to tell what layer I am currently on. I can understand not wanting to include it because that would def bring up the price.

Offline DarkSphere00

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  • Location: Italy
I shall be following this project as I am interested to see what you come up with. I don't own an ergodox, but I was planning to get that kind of keyboard next.

I was wondering if you would be interested in adding a small screen to a board like the one on the Ergodox Infinity or on the Satisfaction75. Personally I like having a way to tell what layer I am currently on. I can understand not wanting to include it because that would def bring up the price.

Due to the fact that at the beginning this didn't get any attention I never really posted updates, but yeah I've included one rotary encoder and one 128x64 display per side!

Offline turtlet08

  • Posts: 4
  • Location: Bay Area, California
I shall be following this project as I am interested to see what you come up with. I don't own an ergodox, but I was planning to get that kind of keyboard next.

I was wondering if you would be interested in adding a small screen to a board like the one on the Ergodox Infinity or on the Satisfaction75. Personally I like having a way to tell what layer I am currently on. I can understand not wanting to include it because that would def bring up the price.

Due to the fact that at the beginning this didn't get any attention I never really posted updates, but yeah I've included one rotary encoder and one 128x64 display per side!


Awww well I hope this does get more traction. I think the split keyboard needs more variations and unique designs. I am new to the community, but when I look around for split keyboards, I dont see many good options. A lot of them are like personal DIY things. I shall still watch this post closely. I hope there are some more updates.

Offline loubnalr

  • Posts: 2
I saw nowadays, numerous sets do accompany some additional keys. What's more, many gathering purchases have both ErgoDox and 40% units with more keys.

Kodi nox
« Last Edit: Wed, 24 June 2020, 02:23:09 by loubnalr »

Offline DarkSphere00

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I saw nowadays, numerous sets do accompany some additional keys. What's more, many gathering purchases have both ErgoDox and 40% units with more keys.
It's true, practically all sets with the exception of GMK ones provide Ergo kits: I myself have gotten the KAT Drifter Ergo kit.

However, apart from the fact that missing out on GMK sets would already be enough reason (to me at least) to continue this project, I personally think that the Redox improves on the Ergodox in various ways, and the Redox can't unfortunately be covered by any of those sets.

That's why my objective is maintaining the improvements of the Redox (and improving even further), while not only re-adding compatibility to existing Ergo kits, but even to GMK base kits.

Offline harlekein

  • Posts: 387
I just don't understand this concept.

Why do you want an ergonomic layout? Because it makes sense to your posture and hands.

Why do you want more keycap options? To customize and make your board look good.

Having a assymetrical mess with odd key size for no ergonomic reason at all goes against both of these points.

You are building boards for keycap compatibiltiy instead of supporting keycap kits which support actual ergonomic and nice looking boards. It just makes no sense to me.

There is a market for it apparantly, but imo, this accomplishes neither aesthetics, nor ergonomics.

Offline DarkSphere00

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  • Location: Italy
I just don't understand this concept.

Why do you want an ergonomic layout? Because it makes sense to your posture and hands.

Why do you want more keycap options? To customize and make your board look good.

Having a assymetrical mess with odd key size for no ergonomic reason at all goes against both of these points.

You are building boards for keycap compatibiltiy instead of supporting keycap kits which support actual ergonomic and nice looking boards. It just makes no sense to me.

There is a market for it apparantly, but imo, this accomplishes neither aesthetics, nor ergonomics.
My bad, I probably haven't explained it well enough then.

This keyboard is not asymmetrical: the left half of the picture symbolizes the layout of a standard GMK set, while the right half of the picture symbolizes the layout of a Ergo kit.
I've put both halves in the same picture out of convenience, but obviously each side would have a symmetrical corresponding other side: they're just two different models I put side to side for comparison.

So yeah, I've built two models, one that can hold standard base kits, and one just to support the ergonomic sets, when they're actually made. They're not supposed to be used together.

I hope this is clear now.

Offline parablol

  • Posts: 79
This looks like it will be a nice ergo board to use. Great concept.

Offline Curin Derwin

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Commenting for updates

Offline ChirsF

  • Posts: 4
  • Location: Richmond TX USA


While the Redox addresses almost all of those issues, it has one major flaw:
  • I still have no idea why MattDB wanted 1.25u keys so badly: they're nearly impossible to source in the right amount for sculpted kits, and this makes it incompatible with even the traditional Ergo kits.

You arenít kidding. Finding a 1.25 in anything but a row 3 in just blanks is a nightmare for SA. Much less trying to find a matching set. 

Offline danielo515

  • Posts: 1
Just registered to ask how is this going, so, how is this going? :cool:

Offline madhusingh

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  • Location: India
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Hello,

I still don't know why MattDB so desperately needed a 1.25u key: the correct volume of sculpted kits is virtually difficult to procure and it is inconsistent even with the standard Ergo kits.

Offline ChirsF

  • Posts: 4
  • Location: Richmond TX USA
Hello,

I still don't know why MattDB so desperately needed a 1.25u key: the correct volume of sculpted kits is virtually difficult to procure and it is inconsistent even with the standard Ergo kits.

I think itís meant to just look more balanced with the 1.25. Iím resorting to sourcing 1.25ís and then probably going to vinyl wrapping them to get a complimentary color, but I agree itís just very difficult to get anything decent for it.

Offline DarkSphere00

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  • Location: Italy
Re: Designing an Ergodox/Redox compatible with both GMK keycaps and Ergodox ones
« Reply #19 on: Wed, 02 September 2020, 11:56:20 »
First of all, thanks a lot to everyone of you who expressed interest in my project: this means much to me.
Sorry if I haven't posted any real updates for a while now, but I've been really busy with university and I hadn't found the time to come back to the project.

For now, I've been focusing only on the standard keyset design (the one represented by the left half of my first picture); I'll think about the one for Ergo kits later on.
The PCB is completed now: the design is done (although not final), I've ordered prototypes and I confirmed it works as expected.  Each half contains 35 keys, one (clickable) rotary encoder and a 128x64 OLED display.
Here are the pictures of the PCB (keep in mind I'm an idiot and put the right half on the left side and vice versa...).  I'll definitely have to change the design due to aesthetic purposes, but this let me test I have done everything right.\



At the moment I'm kind of stuck, since I need to find a way to figure out how to design and make the case.  I'm currently thinking of having two acrylic layers, one being the plate, and the other one being the bottom layer, and in between having a 3D printed "outline" where I could mount the tenting legs, but I'll have to think this through.
I'll also have to ask a friend of mine to help me with the design, since I completely lack any artistic capabilities.

I'll keep you updated!

Offline Laughmore

  • Posts: 5
Re: Designing an Ergodox/Redox compatible with both GMK keycaps and Ergodox ones
« Reply #20 on: Mon, 14 September 2020, 11:37:25 »
Days ago, I thought I was moments away from pulling the trigger on a FalbaTech cart of Redox parts. I hate uniform keycap profiles though and want to put a KAT or SA set together first. I can't believe I'm looking at spending so much for novelty molded plastic. Frankly, I find myself looking at my box-store mech and wondering if I can justify $100+ on keycaps to realize a transition to my preferred ergo.

What kind of koolaid did I drink to start considering so much money for keycaps? Maybe blanks are fine, idk it could resell for more with a coherent set and pics get more doots.

About rotary encoders, I think it's great. I'm looking at how I can add one to the redox if I actually buy it. There's no good spot for it topside so I was thinking it would be cool to have it on the back of either unit (recessed and low profile), out of sight but easily accessible. Real-estate is so precious on top and there's a vertical (albeit small) surface behind the unit that is sort of available with some careful drilling and hand wiring.

I see you've already got a spot for your switch... my suggestion is to leave some "lanes" open (I'm not an engineer); some unused keys like F13-F20 so a dolt like me can try to expand it without making sacrifices.

I will probably build the redox before these parts are for sale, but I want this project to be great. Cheers.