Author Topic: cases with cnc milling  (Read 579 times)

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Online enzel87

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cases with cnc milling
« on: Sun, 14 February 2021, 15:33:34 »
Hello everyone. I am looking for companies in my area that do cnc milling. I would be interested in making my own keyboard cases and I have a question. I think companies will ask me for some kind of 3D scheme for their manufacture and I was wondering if there would be a free library online where I can find various formats and sizes of keyboard cases. Thank you all.

Offline kajahtaa

  • Posts: 105
Re: cases with cnc milling
« Reply #1 on: Sun, 14 February 2021, 17:21:58 »
Do you have a few thousand dollars to spare?

Yeah open source keyboards have been posted on GeekHack.

There's some cool cheap stuff here but maybe no normie crap.

https://github.com/BenRoe/awesome-mechanical-keyboard/blob/master/docs/README.md

Offline Leslieann

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Re: cases with cnc milling
« Reply #2 on: Sun, 14 February 2021, 22:47:37 »
Look into KLE (Keyboard Layout Editor), Swill's Plate builder (I think it's down but there is an alternative), and a few other tools out there to help generate plate case files. Those can be brought into cad to design your case and are the most reliable trustworthy way. There is also plenty of patterns on github and such. Same for the pcb, there's tools out there to help assist, you just gotta search.

BEWARE... Just because someone posted it does not mean it's actually usable. These are (usually) not production quality designs, many may not have even been tested at all. Many free designs are by people with little to no actual experience and because of the costs associated very few are perfected before being uploaded.

Rough estimates...
Case - $500-$900 (each) depending on finish, size and specifics and not counting mistakes. If you do production it can drop by 20-40% but singles are always full price, someone familiar with it all can also trim costs with minor changes but generally for a first timer this is not unreasonable.
PCB - $200-$500 it's actually only $30-$90 each but usually you need to order a minimum of 5 or more. Depends on size, assembly, and what parts you use.

Then you need stabs, switches, caps, breakout board (if needed), cables, lube...
And of course don't forget firmware, you need this even if you skip the pcb and try your hand at hand wiring.


Keep in mind this is with zero mistakes (good luck with that!), a mistake on the PCB or case means starting over, so when Kajahtaa said a few thousand dollars, they're not wrong. Also don't expect to use it any time soon, it will likely take you at least 6 months (count on a year or more) to have a functional board.
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Offline kajahtaa

  • Posts: 105
Re: cases with cnc milling
« Reply #3 on: Mon, 15 February 2021, 00:50:13 »
Took me forever to find this.
Near the bottom of the page you'll find some files.
https://keyboardcollective.eu/designs/651-keyboard/

As someone that's made mistakes on simple plate files all I can say is have fun

And yes learn to love KLE and plate generators. https://kbplate.ai03.com/


Online enzel87

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  • Posts: 7
Re: cases with cnc milling
« Reply #4 on: Mon, 15 February 2021, 04:15:58 »
Thank you for your answers.  Maybe I didn't explain myself well.  I'm really looking for companies that can make me just the keyboard case.  I would buy the pcbs on the internet already configured, because I am sure that designing a pcb for a keyboard from the beginning must be very expensive.  I found in alibaba companies in china that make cases for keyboards, pcb, plate etc.  I'm not looking for something very exclusive, if not something very simple and generic.  I also found 3d plans of housings of people who made keyboards with 3d printers.  it would be necessary to see if those plans have some error, of course.

Offline Leslieann

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Re: cases with cnc milling
« Reply #5 on: Mon, 15 February 2021, 05:39:21 »
And how exactly do you expect to find out if those plans have errors?
You can look at a cad drawing all day and not realize a hole is missing (been there) or that a hole is off by 1/4in (also been there) or designed themselves into a corner.

Designing a pcb isn't that difficult or expensive (especially non RBG ones), it's pretty simple wiring really, try hand wiring you figure it out quite fast. Transferring that to a pcb just means figuring out the software (same as CAD) and a hour or two of researching traces. There are not a ton of PCBs out there to just buy, most are designed for a specific case. This is one instance where if you want more than few it's almost always cheaper to design your own.

Any sort of milling operation is going to be expensive. They don't want to fire up the machine for anything less than a few hundred dollars due to setup fees and other costs involved, not to mention disrupting other jobs that pay more.

Deigning a case to fit a PCB is also backwards, sure you want to fit a pcb into the case, but that's relatively easy. The reason it's backwards is because pcb revisions are cheaper than case revisions and many measurements are known constants, such as witch positioning so really all you need to do is leave a bit of room around the perimeter and room for the controll and it's basically locked in how your PCB will fit. The other reason is time. You can get a pcb made in China and shipped in a matter of a couple days, it can be MONTHS before you get time on a CNC and again, this is per revision.

3d print designs are likely to be FAR, FAR more flawed than a design built for milling. Sure revisions are cheap, but most people working with 3d printers have pretty much ZERO engineering skills, I cringe at many of the 3d printer designs because of such poor design ideas being implemented or using whatever is on hand, which may not be on hand for you, you get things like "sorry for using 4 different screws to attach ___, it's what I had". There is also the fact that something designed for 3D printing may not even be possible on a milling machine or vice versa. You can design for both or even fudge a little but it's a different design philosophy (as well as tolerances) for each.


Having said all that you should also know CAD is actually the easiest part of designing a keyboard or pretty much anything really, it's cheap/free, you can learn at your own pace and you can do it yourself. I'm not saying people who do cad are underpaid or even that it's easy, I'm saying the grand scheme of getting something into your hands it barely qualifies as step 1 of 100.  It doesn't matter how simple you think it is, complex isn't really that much more than cheap once it rolls out of CAD, lack of experience is what costs money.

It sounds like you have no design or manufacturing experience, if that's the case I urge you NOT to go down this path. You will end up with a horrible keyboard that you spent $500 on, or you will have a nice keyboard worth the price of a decent used car, that's not an exaggeration. If you are truly determined though, buy a 3d printer, hand wire a custom board you design, THEN consider the next step. Believe it or not it will actually save a lot of time and money.
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| Magicforce 68
More
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| YMDK75 Jail Housed Gateron Blues
More
J-spacers, YMDK Thick PBT, O-rings, SIP sockets
| KBT Race S L.E.
More
Ergo Clears, custom WASD caps
| Das Pro
More
Costar model with browns
| GH60
More
Cherry Blacks, custom 3d printed case
| Logitech Illumininated | IBM Model M (x2)

Offline Leopard223

  • Posts: 42
Re: cases with cnc milling
« Reply #6 on: Mon, 15 February 2021, 13:48:36 »
Iíll add to lesliesnnís comment that a 3D printed attempt will be a good start, you donít necessarily have to buy a 3D printer. 
If 3D print local shops exist in your area or in any reach, you can learn to model CAD and pay a shop to 3D print a model you made.
Prices may vary though, Iíve seen someone on reddit mention he printed a 60% case for $15 so if you can get that range it will be much cheaper to make a mistake plus youíll end up with a plastic case which is better anyway (by my opinion at least).

Offline Darthbaggins

  • Posts: 334
  • Location: Acworth, GA
  • PC Cannibal
Re: cases with cnc milling
« Reply #7 on: Mon, 15 February 2021, 14:44:50 »
Also as I've noticed when looking into CAD make ups for PC case modding, the owner of the designs will sometimes put a flaw in their on purpose - so be cautious of where you source your designs and know what to look for.  (I know LeslieAnn went over alot of this)
Only people I know who have mills are either in another country from me (who would do it for price of materials and shipping) or are at least close enough to where I can get it done but lets just say it would cost me less to mill a head for my Jeep than get them to mill a board case lol (that's mainly due to their workflow in the automotive industry - and I refuse to disrupt that flow because I want a pretty case for my board). 
Just start looking around your area and ask people if they know of any machine shops or if they know of someone who will mill the material you're wanting.  Since we don't know what is local to you.

Online enzel87

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  • Posts: 7
Re: cases with cnc milling
« Reply #8 on: Mon, 15 February 2021, 16:19:30 »
First of all I want to thank you for your participation in the thread, either by commenting or adding links where i can find information or download software. What I'm trying to do is reproduce a basic layout of a keyboard case and add some changes to it probably at my discretion. I don't want to commit any kind of plagiarism or anything like that, just use an existing design and add something or remove something else. I see on pages like aliexpress that the designs of the cases are practically identical to each other except for some changes. In fact I could learn to use CAD, I doubt that it is difficult to make a model of 0, but relying on an existing model can serve as a basis to learn the steps to follow and find what I really want to achieve. My main idea is to generate some kind of business from this, since in my country there is no store or something similar where someone can buy the components of a keyboard to customize their own. Most of the stores that I find on the internet are from the United States and the costs of transport and customs make the price very expensive and make the resale of this type of material almost impossible. I recently made my first custom keyboard and I have to admit that it was a bit frustrating to find all the components to make it. I had to pay quite high extra costs to carry out a really simple project, but I paid about 400Ä for a keyboard that doesn't even have an aluminum casing, but I had to start with a generic hot swap keyboard and modify it to my liking to get a result close to what you were looking for. I insist that I do not intend to plagiarize any type of design and would be willing to pay a designer specialized in 3d to get a reliable 3d model and in which to start manufacturing a few units to see if in my country this type of business has potential buyers

Offline twohands

  • Posts: 13
Re: cases with cnc milling
« Reply #9 on: Mon, 15 February 2021, 18:47:02 »
TBH I think everyone understands what you're trying to do. You just have to read what they wrote - I'm also not aware any usable open designs for those generic boards. Even if you sent me a set of files, I wouldn't be able to tell you if they're usable without doing a manual review and/or building the prototype.

To add a bit more color - CAD files can you get "a case". But if you want it to fit your PCBs and keys, you need to also either understand both PCB tolerances, key switch tolerances (MX has free datasheets), and your machine shop tolerances - in the form of engineering drawings; or otherwise communicate critical dimensions to your machinist. Another problem is, even if your case fits, it may have features that make hitting your spec unnecessarily expensive. This is why others have recommended you to reach out to your local shops - they can tell you what they need to effectively mill you your case.

If I were in your shoes, I'd start with that file Kajahtaa linked, study it, and use it as a basis to communicate with your local machinist. Make sure both of you know how the assembly is supposed to be put together. Then start thinking about surface finishes.

Online enzel87

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  • Posts: 7
Re: cases with cnc milling
« Reply #10 on: Tue, 16 February 2021, 07:05:48 »
I think the best thing would be to do exactly what you say, a pre-model to see that all the pieces fit correctly before ordering their production.  I am going to study all aspects related to the project and assess the total cost.  It is possible that for the final cost it is not worth it and it is better to find all the components outside my country in a wholesale market.  Thank you very much for your attention and for your suggestions