Author Topic: Keycap Flocking Experiment  (Read 68205 times)

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Offline Krogenar

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Keycap Flocking Experiment
« on: Sat, 17 August 2013, 18:14:46 »
Ok, so I had a crazy idea.

As a community we've generated a lot of custom keycaps, but how about a flocked keycap?

Flocking is a process by which small fibers are embedded into an object's surface to give it a soft, felt or suede-like texture. It's used on toys, fishing rods, car interiors, etc. I figured it might be cool to make a keycap with a soft texture. I'm using rayon fibers that are 1mm in length. I have found a company willing to make me .38mm fibers if necessary, if this experiment seems to be worth pursuing. My concern is that the fibers will be too long and make the experience ... well, not enjoyable on a tactile level.

My technique was to paint the keycaps using a paint that was a similar color to my flocking material. I used black flocking. There are two major techniques for flocking. In the first method, you paint the material or surface, and then the fibers are puffed out at the painted object and the fibers adhere. The second method is to negatively charge the fibers, and then ground the object you plan on flocking. The fibers follow the magnetic lines. This is a bit more complicated, but most people seem to think it makes for a thicker 'pile' on the finished object, and more uniform coverage.

I decided to use a blank set of 101 BS caps from Unicomp that I was mistakenly shipped a few months ago. I kept the stems attached to the caps, and used the stems to hold all the keycaps onto a piece of cardboard. I figured I would need to coat all the keycaps quickly, and then flock them as a group in order to get good coverage. I didn't photograph the cardboard assembly before flocking, and I didn't have time to photograph the painting, but here are some photos of the flocked group of keycaps.



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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #1 on: Sat, 17 August 2013, 18:18:09 »
The flocking looks more grey here, but it's actually black.

The next step is to let the whole thing dry, undisturbed for at least 24 hours. According to the flock manufacturer, it may take up to a week for everything to cure fully. But once the 24 hours are up I can start to remove the excess flock (there's a lot of excess flock) and then clean up the bottoms with a blade, if needed. Notice the stepped caps lock at the front. The flock seemed to really wrap around the entire keycap, so I'm feeling pretty good about how it came out.
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #2 on: Sat, 17 August 2013, 18:20:22 »
And here's a close-up -- again, I think a lot of this is excess material, and the final keycaps will (hopefully) just have a thin veneer of fabric. Then there's the issue of how strongly the fibers hold. Will they hold up to regular usage? I did not 'roughen up' or prime the caps at all -- just straight from Unicomp. I probably should have done more experimenting to see which would work better, but I'm hoping to get an entire set (or maybe just modifiers) out of this experiment.

If it works, keycaps could be partially flocked -- maybe just the top surface, or maybe just a section of the top?

Any comments, ideas or suggestions are welcome!
« Last Edit: Sat, 17 August 2013, 18:23:30 by Krogenar »
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline SpAmRaY

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #3 on: Sat, 17 August 2013, 18:30:02 »
I didn't read anything but I want one.

What the flock!

Edit: I read it. This is really cool, I'm interested to see what comes from all this flocking.
« Last Edit: Sat, 17 August 2013, 18:33:40 by SpAmRaY »

Offline Game Theory

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #4 on: Sat, 17 August 2013, 18:43:10 »
Please keep us updated.  Seems like a cool project.
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Offline SpAmRaY

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #5 on: Sat, 17 August 2013, 18:52:18 »
Krog

Have you considered flocking a case?

Offline TheSoulhunter

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #6 on: Sat, 17 August 2013, 18:56:37 »
Interesting idea!

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #7 on: Sat, 17 August 2013, 19:03:41 »
Krog

Have you considered flocking a case?

Absolutely. I'm going to see how these work out, and then I have a slightly cracked model m case to experiment on. Some of the model m cases have intricate channels that may not receive flock very well. But there are modern cases that are smooth and regular enough. Maybe I could attempt to flock just the bottom of the case first and if that works do the whole thing.

Masking areas off could produce some interesting results too.

I flocked a single clear DCS cap from SP Friday afternoon. I'll be at work tomorrow anyway so it should be dry enough for me to remove the excess flock. Also, because it is clear I plan on illuminating it from below to check my coverage.

Maybe Binge could use this process on his new caps? Mohawk.... Sideburns... Stubble... AFRO CAP!
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline SpAmRaY

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #8 on: Sat, 17 August 2013, 19:11:12 »
Krog

Have you considered flocking a case?

Absolutely. I'm going to see how these work out, and then I have a slightly cracked model m case to experiment on. Some of the model m cases have intricate channels that may not receive flock very well. But there are modern cases that are smooth and regular enough. Maybe I could attempt to flock just the bottom of the case first and if that works do the whole thing.

Masking areas off could produce some interesting results too.

I flocked a single clear DCS cap from SP Friday afternoon. I'll be at work tomorrow anyway so it should be dry enough for me to remove the excess flock. Also, because it is clear I plan on illuminating it from below to check my coverage.

Maybe Binge could use this process on his new caps? Mohawk.... Sideburns... Stubble... AFRO CAP!

Pure genius! :D

Offline vun

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #9 on: Sat, 17 August 2013, 19:18:04 »
Is this the same stuff that's used to make grass for tabletop game scenery? Because if so I'd love to have a set of caps(and a case) with this stuff on it, although wouldn't it wear off fast and end up making a mess of both your board and the area surrounding it?

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #10 on: Sat, 17 August 2013, 19:41:49 »
Is this the same stuff that's used to make grass for tabletop game scenery? Because if so I'd love to have a set of caps(and a case) with this stuff on it, although wouldn't it wear off fast and end up making a mess of both your board and the area surrounding it?

Same technique but the flock used in those cases are usually longer. Between 2 and 6 mm. They also mix up the fiber lengths to get a more rough, natural look. My hope is for a microfiber-like finish. It may end up with more of a 'pile' than I expect, but maybe I'll like it? Also, a grass like surface might be cool. Who knows? That's why I'm doing this. But you're absolutely right about durability ... None of this matters if it doesn't adhere well or hold up to constant finger presses.
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline MOZ

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #11 on: Sun, 18 August 2013, 02:25:02 »
Interesting project.

What was your source for the flock?

Offline Michael

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #12 on: Sun, 18 August 2013, 02:47:54 »
Mohawk.... Sideburns... Stubble... AFRO CAP!



Offline vun

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #13 on: Sun, 18 August 2013, 08:00:19 »
Is this the same stuff that's used to make grass for tabletop game scenery? Because if so I'd love to have a set of caps(and a case) with this stuff on it, although wouldn't it wear off fast and end up making a mess of both your board and the area surrounding it?

Same technique but the flock used in those cases are usually longer. Between 2 and 6 mm. They also mix up the fiber lengths to get a more rough, natural look. My hope is for a microfiber-like finish. It may end up with more of a 'pile' than I expect, but maybe I'll like it? Also, a grass like surface might be cool. Who knows? That's why I'm doing this. But you're absolutely right about durability ... None of this matters if it doesn't adhere well or hold up to constant finger presses.

Could still be used on a case, though, but it'd probably be a good idea to leave some areas bare. Although going with the wargames terrain train of thought you could make a rocky surface on the areas that would see heavy skin traffic. Would be a badass looking board, with black flock and black rocky terrain, paint the plate orange and use black caps.

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #14 on: Sun, 18 August 2013, 08:53:28 »
Is this the same stuff that's used to make grass for tabletop game scenery? Because if so I'd love to have a set of caps(and a case) with this stuff on it, although wouldn't it wear off fast and end up making a mess of both your board and the area surrounding it?

Same technique but the flock used in those cases are usually longer. Between 2 and 6 mm. They also mix up the fiber lengths to get a more rough, natural look. My hope is for a microfiber-like finish. It may end up with more of a 'pile' than I expect, but maybe I'll like it? Also, a grass like surface might be cool. Who knows? That's why I'm doing this. But you're absolutely right about durability ... None of this matters if it doesn't adhere well or hold up to constant finger presses.

Could still be used on a case, though, but it'd probably be a good idea to leave some areas bare. Although going with the wargames terrain train of thought you could make a rocky surface on the areas that would see heavy skin traffic. Would be a badass looking board, with black flock and black rocky terrain, paint the plate orange and use black caps.

I picture a completely black flocked keyboard -- keycaps, and case, all in a matte flocked black. The cool thing about this flock is that you can mix different colors of flock similar to paint, to get some new colors -- people do it all the time for flocking duck hunting decoys.

I just got to work and checked out my very first flocked keycap (it's had the most time to cure) and it looked (after flocking) a lot like the full set I have drying at home -- and I honestly expected a lot of that flock to fall away, but it didn't. It's a really fluffy-looking keycap. I ended up missing a single spot on the keycap  :confused: but otherwise the cap appears fully functional! I will post some pics when I get home.
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline RabRhee

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #15 on: Sun, 18 August 2013, 12:56:51 »
I think this is a great idea, hope it works out well. It did remind me of this, the suede/velvet covered Ferrari:

32253-0


I can also envisage a purple set with Zap Brannigan saying 'mmm, velour'
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Offline vun

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #16 on: Sun, 18 August 2013, 14:00:29 »
I think this is a great idea, hope it works out well. It did remind me of this, the suede/velvet covered Ferrari:

(Attachment Link)


I can also envisage a purple set with Zap Brannigan saying 'mmm, velour'

I might be in the minority here, but I would love to have that car. Just saying.

Offline TheSoulhunter

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #17 on: Mon, 19 August 2013, 04:44:29 »
I guess my GF would love a pink fluffy keyset and case :D

Offline CalmB4tehPwn

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #18 on: Mon, 19 August 2013, 05:05:56 »
I think this is a great idea, hope it works out well. It did remind me of this, the suede/velvet covered Ferrari:

(Attachment Link)


I can also envisage a purple set with Zap Brannigan saying 'mmm, velour'

That car is sexy, but can you imagine how much of a pain it would be to clean? It'd get so dirty, so fast!

Also, I really like the idea, but considering how much paints that are specifically intended to defeat our ever persistent fingertips, I'm not confident how well these will hold up under the same circumstances.

Would it be possible to use a dyed epoxy in place of paint, to attempt to overcome the wear issue?

Also, Flocked wrist rests?
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Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #19 on: Mon, 19 August 2013, 07:12:33 »
That car is sexy, but can you imagine how much of a pain it would be to clean? It'd get so dirty, so fast!

I waited 24 hours to try to remove some of the keycaps from my cardboard holder, and I think I rushed it. For one, some of the paint (which is also a glue in this case) passed underneath the keycaps, and so was not fully dry. Also, I painted them quickly -- as in, not as perfectly even as I would have liked, so that also caused some drying issues. I'm going to leave them alone for another 24 hours minimum. The adhesion seems pretty good, however.

The kit I got for this was black suede -- these are rayon fibers, 1mm -- I got it from http://www.flockit.com/ -- it was maybe $40 if I remember correctly. The length of the fibers doesn't seem to be an issue. I think if I had painted and flocked each one individually, or as many as I could do in a span of say 5 minutes, artfully, would have been better. I'm thinking that I could attach the keycaps to sticks, paint them, stick them into some floral foam, flock them, and then let them dry.

The trick is that the flocking gets everywhere. It's so fine that it almost resembles paint itself, sticking to everything. I'm going to build a plastic lined box, and line it with floral foam, so the sticks can be held up and rotated during the flock spraying. The flock is sprayed out using a cardboard tube assembly the "puffs" it out as a cloud. I'm still not sure if I should be priming the keycaps. According to Donjer, the surface that is being flocked should not absorb any of the paint/adhesive -- that it should be 'sealed'. The plastic felt pretty non-porous to me, but maybe if I roughed it up with some sandpaper after priming, it would help.

The few samples I have seem pretty good, and they feel good. My spacebar came out great. There are some caps that lost a bit of flocking on the back side because I put down the adhesive in a half-assed, rushed way. Where the adhesive was a bit too thick, the flocking seems more likely to able to be pulled off. The directions claim that the adhesive will not fully cure for up to a week, so, I'm going to try to be more patient.

I tried taking photos, but I really need my wife's DSLR to take better closeups, so you can see the flock.

Quote
Also, I really like the idea, but considering how much paints that are specifically intended to defeat our ever persistent fingertips, I'm not confident how well these will hold up under the same circumstances.

Yeah, that's going to be something we'll find out. Even after only about 24 hours for the BS caps, and a single DCS cap that had over 48 hours to cure, the flocking seems surprisingly durable. I think the process suffered more from my technique than from a failure of the flocking itself. Bottom line: I think it worked, and I think there's some potential for the process.

Quote
Would it be possible to use a dyed epoxy in place of paint, to attempt to overcome the wear issue?
The flocking 'paint' that I used is made specifically for flocking, so it's got properties that are similar to a glue. My research has shown that people use everything from white Elmer's glue, to Rustoleum (for duck decoy flocking) to more specialized coatings. Again, I won't know how long the flocking will hold up until I give it time to fully cure, and then start banging away on the keycaps.

Maybe what I'll do is make some spacebars and then ship 'em out to people to test, and see how well it works.

I'm very excited about how this could work because there are a lot of possibilities -- mix a small amount of reflective flock into the black flock and you've gone from a matte black to a faintly shimmery black, and as I stated earlier, flocking can be mixed like paint. And it feels like you're touching the inside of a jewelry box. I won't know how it feels on entire board until a few more days, but I think it will be pretty awesome.

Quote
Also, Flocked wrist rests?
Yeah, I think Beast could make good use of this process. Coat the bottom of a wooden wrist rest with the adhesive, and then flock it for a nice, soft finish. Or maybe even on the top side, as a single stripe -- just mask the areas you don't want flocked. The flocking I used didn't seem to be fazed by the contours of the caps at all, so flocking the bottom of a rest should be even easier.
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline CalmB4tehPwn

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #20 on: Mon, 19 August 2013, 07:20:11 »
Maybe what I'll do is make some spacebars and then ship 'em out to people to test, and see how well it works.


"I seek a great warrior" - Luke Skywalker
"Great Warrior, Hmm? War does not make one great." - Master Jedi Yoda

Offline CalmB4tehPwn

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #21 on: Mon, 19 August 2013, 07:25:46 »
Oh, and can I just say how much I appreciate your avatar? He is, to this day, one of my favorite characters from anything. Every word out of his mouth was unadultered brilliant writing.
"I seek a great warrior" - Luke Skywalker
"Great Warrior, Hmm? War does not make one great." - Master Jedi Yoda

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #22 on: Mon, 19 August 2013, 07:48:57 »
Oh, and can I just say how much I appreciate your avatar? He is, to this day, one of my favorite characters from anything. Every word out of his mouth was unadultered brilliant writing.

Coach McGuirk: "Remember, You made someone do something bad with swords."
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline CalmB4tehPwn

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #23 on: Mon, 19 August 2013, 15:13:56 »
Coach McGuirk: This sausage is probably eighteen years old... This sausage could vote. It could go to war and die for its country.
"I seek a great warrior" - Luke Skywalker
"Great Warrior, Hmm? War does not make one great." - Master Jedi Yoda

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #24 on: Tue, 20 August 2013, 19:30:47 »
Ok, here's an update of sorts.

The results were somewhat mixed.

If you look at the earlier photos, the keycaps are basically covered in a layer of flocking. The problem is, if you attempt to just tear the keycaps out, you tear the flocking itself. The flocking won't slip off the keycap easily, but I was left with ragged edges to my keycaps. I think the problem was, well, me.

In my eagerness to flock an entire set of keys, I made a bathmat with some keys underneath it.

So, I used a very sharp hobby knife to cut them loose, but the keys still required some 'trimming' of excess flock. Also, my painting technique absolutely did not help.

Notice in the photo below how uneven my paint job was -- I was rushed because there's maybe a 5 minute window after application of the coating to apply the flock; wait too long and the coating will 'skin over' and the flocking won't adhere very well. An uneven, rushed coating yielded uneven flocking, and a mess.
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #25 on: Tue, 20 August 2013, 19:33:20 »
Here's a shot of the same keycap, from the front, which doesn't look so bad, and has a nice feel to it, if nothing else.

I think for my next attempt I'm going to mask the bottom of the cap, suspend it on a stick, and then coat only as many keycaps as I can reliably and perfectly coat within 5 minutes, and then suspend those sticks and flock them.
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #26 on: Tue, 20 August 2013, 19:34:28 »
Here's a closeup of the spacebar, which of all the keys, came out the best, and (what a coincidence) was the key I spent the most time coating carefully.
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline Tym

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #27 on: Tue, 20 August 2013, 19:39:44 »
The Bath mat analogy made me giggle, very interesting project,  my only flaw is I really dont like the feel of the texture, but good loom to you!
unless they have some unforeseeable downside (like they're actually made of cream cheese cunningly disguised as ABS)


Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #28 on: Tue, 20 August 2013, 19:41:19 »
Here's a shot of some modifiers. This is about 48 hours after flocking. I've only just shaken off any excess flock, and discovered that if I work at the edge of a keycap I can remove the flock with a fair amount of effort. I wouldn't say the flock didn't adhere well, maybe it needed more time, and the uneven coating didn't help. But the flock won't come off on it's own.

The modifiers look alright here -- missed a spot on one modifier, on the corner -- but the left Shift, once depressed, will not come back up again. The flock from one key is interfering with the flock from the Control key. Remove the Caps Lock and Control key, and it works again.

Ok, so unless much finer flock is used, it may not be possible to flock all the keys. So I tried just the function row. The spacebar and Alt keys worked fine, but not the Function row keys. This made me sad. But, being afflicted with a terminal case of optimism, maybe just the tops of the keycaps can be flocked!
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #29 on: Tue, 20 August 2013, 19:43:34 »
The Bath mat analogy made me giggle, very interesting project,  my only flaw is I really dont like the feel of the texture, but good loom to you!

Thanks for the support Tym. I feel like the George Washington Carver of flocking right now.
As you'll recall, he died penniless, trying desperately to play a record with a peanut. Also, glad I could make you giggle, my sense of humor is going to carry me through this project, I just know it! .... or not.
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline esoomenona

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #30 on: Tue, 20 August 2013, 19:47:51 »
How is the durability? Does it scratch off?

Offline rowdy

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #31 on: Tue, 20 August 2013, 20:09:59 »
Does it flatten after some use?  Or stay furry?
"Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But that’s incorrect. It’s in HHKB’s slogan, but when America’s cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces." - Eiiti Wada

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Offline MOZ

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #32 on: Wed, 21 August 2013, 03:50:53 »
Interesting results.

What was the source of the flock?

Also, do you think that overtime, some of the flock fibers would break-off from the keycaps and accumulation of these could be an issue, much like pet hair?

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #33 on: Wed, 21 August 2013, 06:32:59 »
How is the durability? Does it scratch off?

The flock stays on -- if I use a knife and scrape along the felt, you can scrape it off -- but I think that falls within the range of intentional defacement so I'm not worried. At 48 hours after flocking, I removed some of the keys from the 'bath mat' and some still had remnants of wet coating -- the flock in those areas could be ripped up with some effort -- but it wouldn't just fall off on it's own. 72 hours afterwards, a BS keycap that I intentionally tried to deface is somewhat more difficult to deface. Rubbing the felt coating with a fingertip or fingernail is NOT ENOUGH to get the flock off. To do that I have to find the edge of the flocked surface and get a fingernail and work at it for a little while, and then a small section can be removed.

I think the keycap would survive typical use without a problem. Also, the manufacturer claims that the coating requires up to a week to cure completely, and by day three the flocking feels stronger. For that reason, I'm going to leave the bulk of the keycaps in the 'bath mat' matrix until the weekend and see if more time to cure helps. It seems that wherever I put down an uneven layer of the coating, that led to an uncured "wet" area that made it easier to pull off the flocking.

Does it flatten after some use?  Or stay furry?

It doesn't have a 'pile' -- not like a carpet that you could write your name on it with your finger. The fibers aren't nearly long enough. The texture doesn't seem to change. The feeling is like touching the inside of a jewelry box -- soft.

Interesting results. What was the source of the flock? Also, do you think that overtime, some of the flock fibers would break-off from the keycaps and accumulation of these could be an issue, much like pet hair?

My source of flock is this: http://www.flockit.com/index.php/order/rayon-mini-flocker-kit-flock-fibers.html

Geekhack has lots of makers and tinkerers, so please, feel free to try it out yourself. At $24.95, it's not a huge risk -- use some crap bag reject caps as guinea pigs! But please, post the results. Maybe roughing up and/or priming the keycaps will yield even better results. I'm not done experimenting, however, not by a long shot. I just need to slow down, and be more careful.

As for the flock fibers breaking-off -- I honestly don't know. The excess fibers you can see in the photos may be breakage, but more likely they're just excess that was not fully shaken off by me. If I had waited a full week, and then shook off the excess and then vacuumed each keycap, you probably wouldn't see that. There's no way to know for sure how well the flock will hold up. They say that electrostatic flocking results in better coverage and more forcible application of the flock -- which means the fibers stand up straight in the coating, and penetrate further into the coating. Sounds, obscene, right?  :)) Maybe that would yield an even better result. Also, my flock source is willing to make flocking fibers that are .38mm in length -- I used 1mm flock for this experiment, and it still felt like it was fabric dust being used. To go even smaller might even make the stuck key issue go away.

All I really wanted to know was whether a flocked keycap would feel good -- it does -- and whether it had any potential -- I think it does. Here's what electrostatic flocking looks like:

-- in that video, you've got to put the alligator clip or T-pin into the adhesive coating. Doing that to an adhesive-coated keycap could be problematic. Maybe the keycaps themselves are conductive enough? I honestly don't know. I could see putting the clip on the bottom of the keycap stem (cruciform area) but would that be sufficient to electrostatically flock?

-- this guy built a cabinet for his flocking. (facepalm)

Anyway, please share your comments and ideas -- I'm all ears.


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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #34 on: Mon, 26 August 2013, 07:38:24 »
An update on the durability -- after a week of allowing the flocked keys to cure, the coating seems a lot more durable, but not as good as it could be. The blank Unicomp keys that I flocked are not as durable as I would like. They received no prep besides a bath in soapy water. I didn't roughen them up or prime them. The undercoat that holds the flocking can be peeled off with some effort, and I don't like that.

However, the spacebar (which I think may also be a different material) is holding up a lot better.

Also, I painted a single clear DCS keycap from SP (so it has no paint, or anything else) and that one seems to have the most durable surface coating. I can hardly get the flock off even with a lot of trying. I have to get the point that I'm damaging the underlying cap before the coating starts to scrape off. 2-3 days after flocking, however, it was possible to damage that coating. A week later, nope.

So I'm going to buy a complete blank set and experiment with those next.
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline StrikeEagleCC

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #35 on: Tue, 27 August 2013, 04:14:19 »
Krogenar, this looks really interesting--I never would have thought of this. I'm sure that some additional prep will help the paint adhesion, but depending it sounds like you may not need it. I imagine different caps may be coated with something like a mold release agent or something that should be removed.

What did you use for paint? I once used Krylon Fusion to paint a monitor frame, and although it took a VERY long time to cure fully, it adhered incredibly well. After about two weeks, I couldn't damage the paint without damaging the plastic underneath.
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Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #36 on: Tue, 27 August 2013, 06:16:55 »
Krogenar, this looks really interesting--I never would have thought of this. I'm sure that some additional prep will help the paint adhesion, but depending it sounds like you may not need it. I imagine different caps may be coated with something like a mold release agent or something that should be removed.

What did you use for paint? I once used Krylon Fusion to paint a monitor frame, and although it took a VERY long time to cure fully, it adhered incredibly well. After about two weeks, I couldn't damage the paint without damaging the plastic underneath.

I used a paint/adhesive included by the flock manufacturer. The adhesive is colored so that it matches the color of the flock. Another tip I learned from them is that after flocking you should shine a light on the surface you are flocking -- any shiny spots means you need to put down more flocking. It's been a busy week for me, but I'll be back to flocking very soon. :)

And yes, you're right -- I needed more prep.
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #37 on: Thu, 05 September 2013, 08:18:01 »
Ok, an update!

I took my remaining three clear DCS keycaps from SP, and preparing them for Round 2!

1. Washed them all in warm soapy water to remove any excess oils.
2. Masked the bottoms of all three so that there would be no excess flock there.
3. Masked second one halfway up -- so that we would be flocking just the top half, like a flocking hat.
4. Masked third keycap on all sides, leaving only the surface open to flocking.
5. To make priming, painting, flocking possible, put them all on bamboo spears.
6. Two primer coatings.
7. Painted with black adhesive/paint coating.
8. Flocked all three -- checked using a flashlight to spot any shiny (that is, unflocked) areas on caps.

Now I'm just leaving them the hell alone for a minimum of a week.

Here's a shot of the three primed keycaps:

34166-0
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #38 on: Wed, 11 September 2013, 08:16:45 »
Ok, a week later, some good results and some bad results.

1. The primed keycaps are more durable for sure. Again, if you really work at it, you can remove the undercoat, but the level of work required doesn't rise to the level you would see in actual use -- it rises to the level of vandalism. So I solved that issue.

2. Coverage is an issue. I'm using a cardboard tube system to sort of 'air propel' the flocking fibers at the coated surfaces, walking around the keycaps as I go to try to get even coverage. As per instructions, I use a lot more flock than I think I'll actually require. The problem is that in nearly every keycap there are some shallow spots where less flock adhered. The side edges of the keycaps are where you can it the worst.

34972-0

This is a day or two after flocking, just checking on it. Coverage looks excellent, but the final coverage after using a vacuum to remove any excess flock, is not as good.
« Last Edit: Wed, 11 September 2013, 08:30:22 by Krogenar »
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #39 on: Wed, 11 September 2013, 08:33:06 »
Ok, here's the half-flocked keycap, sideview:

34976-0

Ok, the primer leaked beyond my masking. But the adhesion is excellent. But look at the side edge -- you can see the edge sort of peeking through the flocking, and that's not good.

My theory is that the flock is being laid down too haphazardly to get really great, even coverage, so I'm going to try to go the electrostatic route.
« Last Edit: Wed, 11 September 2013, 08:36:01 by Krogenar »
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline SpAmRaY

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #40 on: Wed, 11 September 2013, 08:35:31 »
So how long till we can buy some afro caps or garden caps.

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #41 on: Wed, 11 September 2013, 08:39:36 »
So how long till we can buy some afro caps or garden caps.

Ray, thanks for the support! PM me your address and I'll send you out a BS spacebar (fully flocked) and one of my prototypes, if you want. I'm going to try to electrostatically flock my QFR cases within the next two weeks. For one, I need the right tool, and second, the weather has to improve. It's so humid here, I doubt it would work right now.

EDIT: Here's a top view of another keycap:

34984-0

Looks good here, but I don't want to rely on luck to get even coverage.
« Last Edit: Wed, 11 September 2013, 08:43:41 by Krogenar »
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline i3oilermaker

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #42 on: Wed, 11 September 2013, 08:43:42 »
I was kind of just keeping tabs on this thread, but those last pics sold me.

I want some flock up in here!  Really curious what a spacebar would feel like.

Offline pixel5

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #43 on: Wed, 11 September 2013, 08:50:40 »
Must resist urge to make football turf keycaps to go with this:
Poker II

Quickfire Rapid
BUY MY CRAP

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #44 on: Wed, 11 September 2013, 08:51:39 »
I was kind of just keeping tabs on this thread, but those last pics sold me.

I want some flock up in here!  Really curious what a spacebar would feel like.

PM me your address Boiler, and I'll send you some of them. I have a whole keyboard set for BS, but some are good, some not so good. I'll send out what I can, but be gentle, these are prototypes! The spacebar for BS actually came out the best of all, but the adhesion, again, is not going to be the best. If you don't actively try to harm the coating you'll be fine. It's a good indicator, though, of how it feels -- which is great! Maybe at some point we can find a flocking company to flock some stuff en masse.
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #45 on: Wed, 11 September 2013, 08:56:22 »
Must resist urge to make football turf keycaps to go with this:
Show Image


Yeah, I saw this! I think flocking a case will be a lot easier than keycaps. The BS keycaps did not have enough space between them to work properly -- the flocking (thin as it is) interferes with keys to the left and right. That's why I tried to do a half-cap, and a surface cap. The "surface" cap is not bad at all (if you can overlook the poor masking job) but the shallow portion of the keycap surface is not as densely flocked. I'll post some more pics in a bit.
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #46 on: Wed, 11 September 2013, 09:03:24 »
Ok, here's the surface- and full-flock keycaps. There's a lot of flash problems (just a camera phone pic) but you can see the coverage issues. The shallow surface on the surface-flocked keycap is less densely flocked. And yet, on the fully-flocked keycap, the shallow area is fine. But even on the fully-flocked keycap, the edges didn't hold onto the flock as well as the flatter areas of the keycap.

34989-0
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Quote from: Samuel Adams
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Offline AGmurdercore

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #47 on: Wed, 11 September 2013, 10:01:06 »
I REALLY want to feel this caps. Can i get any? :)

Offline Krogenar

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #48 on: Wed, 11 September 2013, 10:15:07 »
I REALLY want to feel this caps. Can i get any? :)

I could send you some, but I'm not as proud of them as I would like to be. I'm going to send out a BS spacebar and a few of the better BS keycaps that I flocked to Ray, and I'm going to send Boiler the fully flocked keycap for now, no charge because I don't think they're as good as they could be just yet. I could send you some BS keycaps, but like I said, they're not great. If you try to rip off the undercoating that holds the flocking, say, with a fingernail, you can.

Here's one of the BS keycaps that I was able to strip of it's flocking:

35000-0

This section of flocking I removed from the keycap with my fingernail. The BS keycaps I have are unprimed, and that was a mistake. But they do feel pretty good. Also, check out the bottom edge of the same keycap, from a different angle:

35002-1

Ragged edge looks crappy. Had these keycaps been primed, the edges would have been better. I was so excited, you see, to flock that I went nuts, and didn't prepare properly. If all this is acceptable to you, then yeah, I can send you some. But you've been warned.

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Offline Binge

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Re: Keycap Flocking Experiment
« Reply #49 on: Wed, 11 September 2013, 12:55:18 »
flock my stache  :thumb:
60% keyboards, 100% of the time.

"What the hell Jimmy?!  It was ruined before you even put it up there with your decrepit fingers."