Author Topic: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)  (Read 9509 times)

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Offline Constantine

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Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« on: Fri, 11 April 2014, 21:24:52 »
A while ago I read this blog post (http://technomancy.us/173) and this (http://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=54759.0) thread... and decided to make myself a keyboard.

Now that I'm done (well, I still need to replace one chattering switch) I thought I should share my experience here.

I live in Alaska, so shipping takes up a very big part of the cost and I cannot afford to go through several iterations designing and making the case. Because of this (and after reading about slight column spacing issues technomancy had) I decided to design a case of my own.

(Sounds like I needed an excuse, doesn't it?)

Mostly I just had to make the case perfectly symmetric, but I also used 8 screw holes instead of 7 and split spacers info 4 parts (see the pictures) to be able to fit everything in the 24x12 inch template available on Ponoko. The case uses 3 3.2 mm spacers, which turned out to be just about enough room for all the wires.

60740-0 60742-1

I started with the Cherry MX switch hole polygon from the laser-cut ErgoDox case design I found someplace (this is the only part I had to get exactly right). Then I designed the right half of the case in DraftSight using the SVG file from https://github.com/technomancy/atreus#case as a reference. After that all I needed was copy and mirror, export to DXF, import DXF in Inkscape, save as SVG, and upload.

I chose the 3.2 mm birch plywood because it's cheap, but I'm glad I did --- it turned out very nice. To "finish" the case, I used a #180 sanding sponge and generous amounts of butcher block oil.

I could not find any M3 screws at Lowe's here in town and I was desperate, so I bought 10 #6-32 screws, which are a bit thicker. So, it turns out that they thread very well through the 3mm holes in plywood (3mm plus about 0.2 mm due to the cut width, that is). As a result of this mistake I have a case with a flat bottom, held together with screws and no nuts. We'll see if this works in the long run; I can always take a screw out, add a drop of wood glue, and put it back in.

I read in Jesse Vincent's (of keyboard.io) slides (http://www.slideshare.net/obrajesse/2013-osdcmadeakeyboard) that he recommends using magnet wire. I got a roll of the 22-gauge enamel-coated kind at Radio Shack. This worked very well: it is thick enough to make stripping insulation without damaging the wire itself easy enough, it holds its shape and is not too stiff.

60744-2

The hard-wiring how-to (http://wiki.geekhack.org/index.php?title=Hard-Wiring_How-To) was very helpful. Oh, and using thin (0.6 mm) solder made wiring a lot easier than it could have been.

To protect myself from wiring mistakes I decided to use male-to-female jumper wires http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A6SOGC4/ref=oh_details_o01_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 so that I can easily fix errors in the row-and-column-to-pin mapping. (This will make it easier to replace the faulty switch, too.)

60748-3 60746-4

And here's the finished product (without the USB cord, though):

60750-5 60752-660754-7

I'm still playing with the keyboard layout (and will have to play with my Emacs bindings), but I'm pretty happy with it, especially considering that this was my first soldering project.

In the end I'd like to say thank you to technomancy (Phil Hagelberg), @obra (@keyboardio, Jesse Vincent) and the greater community. This was really fun.

(The case design files will be available on GitHub once I find the time to clean things up a bit.)

Offline technomancy

  • Posts: 134
Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #1 on: Sun, 13 April 2014, 16:06:03 »
This looks superb; nice work. A big unknown for me when documenting the Atreus construction process was how feasible it would be without people with easy access to a laser cutter, so I'm glad that Ponoko worked out so well for you. Do you mind sharing how much it cost? Does Ponoko charge by area rather than by the amount of time the laser spends cutting? If so that could be a big influence on how you structure the layers; I was more concerned about total cutting time.

Am I right in reading that you ended up with three spacers, leading to a total of 9mm spacing? That's interesting. I was just barely able to make it fit in 6mm, but someonen else built an Atreus with a 5mm spacer, and I was surprised to see he made it work: http://blog.tarn-vedra.de/2014/04/reproducing-keyboard-science_1707.html

It's interesting to see the changes you made to the case. Apart from the changes to the spacers and the screw holes, it looks like the other main difference is the way you made the top layer follow the outline of the keys more closely with a stairstep pattern instead of straight lines that follow it more loosely. I really like how that turned out. I would be open to using your design as the canonical Atreus case if you're up for it, especially given that one of the goals is to make it accessible to people in your situation who may not have local access to a laser cutter. (I would at least like to make the option of dropping one layer of spacers to bring it back to 6mm, but we can discuss details later.)

I'm thinking of building another board in wood; do you think you could provide links to the finishing techninques you used? I haven't done much with wood before.

If you can think of any other changes to the assembly instructions I posted that would be helpful to future builders, please feel free to send a pull request my way.

Offline Constantine

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Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #2 on: Mon, 14 April 2014, 23:25:11 »
Oh boy. This reply got really long. Sorry about that.

This looks superb; nice work.

Thanks! (And thanks for open-sourcing the design!)

Do you mind sharing how much it cost?

I'm not sure if you meant the case or the whole build, so here is the list of all the parts I used (some prices are approximate).


   | Description        | count | Materials | Labor | Shipping |  Total | Source               |
   |--------------------+-------+-----------+-------+----------+--------+----------------------|
   | Case               |     1 |      9.50 | 19.07 |    25.74 |  54.31 | Ponoko               |
   | #6-32 or M3 screws |     8 |      1.25 |       |          |   1.25 | Lowe's               |
   |--------------------+-------+-----------+-------+----------+--------+----------------------|
   | Cherry MX Browns   |    50 |        29 |       |     4.82 |  33.82 | Mechanical Keyboards |
   | Keycaps (set)      |     1 |        25 |       |        4 |     29 | Signature Plastics   |
   | Teensy 2.0         |     1 |     15.95 |       |     4.07 |  20.02 | Adafruit             |
   | Jumper wires       |    40 |      2.75 |       |     1.99 |   4.74 | Amazon               |
   | 1N4148 diodes      |    50 |      2.69 |       |          |   2.69 | eBay                 |
   | Mini USB cable     |     1 |       0.0 |       |          |     0. | desk drawer          |
   |--------------------+-------+-----------+-------+----------+--------+----------------------|
   | Cherry MX Reds     |     5 |        10 |       |          |     10 | Mechanical Keyboards |
   | Rubber o-rings     |   125 |      8.99 |       |          |   8.99 | eBay                 |
   |--------------------+-------+-----------+-------+----------+--------+----------------------|
   | Total              |       |    105.13 | 19.07 |    40.62 | 164.82 |                      |
   #+TBLFM: $6=vsum($3..$5)::@12$3=vsum(@2$3..@11$3)::@12$4=vsum(@2$4..@11$4)::@12$5=vsum(@2$5..@11$5)


I got what was called the "ErgoDox Base set" at Signature Plastics (44 1x keys and 12 1.5x keys), thinking that this way I can get 2 1.5x keys plus the extra keys I get are a bit more useful compared to getting the base set for a regular keyboard.

After removing extras the cost minus shipping could still be around $100.

 In addition to this I had to get some tools:

   | Description    | Materials | Shipping | Total |
   |----------------+-----------+----------+-------|
   | Solder         |      2.93 |     2.75 |  5.68 |
   | Magnet wire    |      8.99 |          |  8.99 |
   | Helping hands  |        16 |          |    16 |
   | Soldering iron |        20 |          |    20 |
   | Hot glue gun   |      9.81 |          |  9.81 |
   |----------------+-----------+----------+-------|
   | Total          |     57.73 |     2.75 | 60.48 |
   #+TBLFM: $4=$2+$3::@7$2=vsum(@2$2..@6$2)::@7$3=vsum(@2$3..@6$3)


Does Ponoko charge by area rather than by the amount of time the laser spends cutting?

Well, it's both, in a way. Any design has to fit into one of the templates; they have three (or four) sizes called P1 (181mm x 181mm), P2 (384mm x 384mm), P3 (790mm x 384mm). Some materials allow using the 24x12 template (596mm x 291mm). If a design does not fit in a template, you have to buy another full "sheet" of one of these sizes.

In addition to this you pay for the laser cutting time and shipping. The cutting time is computed automatically using the design you upload and the selected material (this makes it easy to optimize the SVG file -- just upload a new version and Ponoko immediately tells you the price).

They ship the whole sheet your design is cut from, held together with backing paper -- scraps and everything. The shipping cost depends on the weight (pounds per sq. foot) of the chosen material, the templates size, and -- of course -- the distance.

So now you see why I wanted to be able to fit everything into one thin, cheap, and light sheet of plywood.

If so that could be a big influence on how you structure the layers; I was more concerned about total cutting time.

Yes, cetrainly. I could probably bring the price down a bit by combining cuts but decided that it was not worth my time.

Am I right in reading that you ended up with three spacers, leading to a total of 9mm spacing?

Yes. The main limiting factor was the mini USB cable I used: it has a 8mm thick connector.

That's interesting. I was just barely able to make it fit in 6mm, but someonen else built an Atreus with a 5mm spacer, and I was surprised to see he made it work: http://blog.tarn-vedra.de/2014/04/reproducing-keyboard-science_1707.html

I might try to shave some plastic off of the USB connector with a utility knife and take out a spacer. I'll let you know how it goes; if it does work, this will be the thinnest Atreus build of the three! (Now it's 2mm thicker than the one by Moritz Ulrich (3 + 5 + 5 + 3 = 16mm), and 1.5mm thicker than yours (3 + 4.5 + 6 + 3 = 16.5mm), I believe.)

It's interesting to see the changes you made to the case. Apart from the changes to the spacers and the screw holes, it looks like the other main difference is the way you made the top layer follow the outline of the keys more closely with a stairstep pattern instead of straight lines that follow it more loosely. I really like how that turned out. I would be open to using your design as the canonical Atreus case if you're up for it, especially given that one of the goals is to make it accessible to people in your situation who may not have local access to a laser cutter. (I would at least like to make the option of dropping one layer of spacers to bring it back to 6mm, but we can discuss details later.)

Yes, those are the main differences. I'm happy to contribute all the case design files if you're interested. I can easily create a version with "regular" (not quartered) spacers, by the way.

Note that my case is a little bigger, though (257mm x 116mm).

Regarding the stairstep pattern: I also think that it turned out nice, but I would probably make the cutout smaller: now cuts the in the top plate are 1mm away from holes in the switch plate, but I think we can go down to 0.5mm.

I'm thinking of building another board in wood; do you think you could provide links to the finishing techninques you used? I haven't done much with wood before.

Heh. I'm definitely not an expert. I wanted a food-safe finish (I'll be touching this thing a lot, right?) and used what I had at hand. If I were to do it again, I would probably use paraffin wax or a mixture of mineral oil and beeswax (see links below).

Here's what I would do.

Make sure that I kept the funny-shaped scrap piece cut out from the top plate.

Assemble the case without the switches, probably sandwiching a sheet of thick paper between the switch plate and the top plate (you don't want to finish the switch plate or gluing to it might get a bit hard, but you do want to sand its edges). Then put the piece cut out from the top plate into the spot where it came from and start sanding with circular motions. I would start with a #180 grit sandpaper and see if it gets the case smooth enough for you. If not, switch to #320 or similar after a while, which should be sufficient.

Then apply the finish as described, say, here: https://www.finewoodworking.com/how-to/article/food-safe-finishes.aspx or here http://www.leevalley.com/us/shopping/TechInfo.aspx?type=a&p=59381 It's very hard to mess up.

If you can think of any other changes to the assembly instructions I posted that would be helpful to future builders, please feel free to send a pull request my way.

Will do! (You have a couple of pull requests waiting right now, by the way.)

Offline technomancy

  • Posts: 134
Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #3 on: Tue, 15 April 2014, 14:14:42 »
I got what was called the "ErgoDox Base set" at Signature Plastics (44 1x keys and 12 1.5x keys), thinking that this way I can get 2 1.5x keys plus the extra keys I get are a bit more useful compared to getting the base set for a regular keyboard.

Oh, that sounds perfect. Are you talking about the set that's listed here?

http://keyshop.pimpmykeyboard.com/product/dsa-pbt-blank-sets

The product description there says there are only 38 standard 1x keys and two deep-dish 1x ones. It doesn't mention any 1.5x keys in the Ergodox Base set. However, I noticed that the product description for the Standard Base set was also inaccurate; when I ordered it, it claimed to only contain one deep-dish, though it shipped with two. So maybe they've got some issues with their catalog right now or something? But 44 1x keys with some 1.5xes sounds perfect.

Am I right in reading that you ended up with three spacers, leading to a total of 9mm spacing?

Yes. The main limiting factor was the mini USB cable I used: it has a 8mm thick connector.

Yeah; I had to sand down my USB cable a few mm too. I'll add a note to the readme explaining that this is a limiting factor and recommending as thin a cable as possible.

Yes, those are the main differences. I'm happy to contribute all the case design files if you're interested. I can easily create a version with "regular" (not quartered) spacers, by the way.

Note that my case is a little bigger, though (257mm x 116mm).

Cool; thanks. Let's shoot for having two case files; one specifically for Ponoko that has one full spacer and one quartered, and one for people who don't need to fit it all on the same thickness--for my second board I'll probably just cut one full spacer in 6mm since there's no penalty for using multiple wood types. But if you just shoot me the one you used that would work fine. Growing the size a few extra mm in each direction doesn't really bother me.

Thanks for the pointers about finishing wood; should come in handy.

Offline creambun

  • Posts: 1
Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #4 on: Thu, 17 April 2014, 22:18:12 »
Wow.  Thanks to both of you for posting these boards and designs.  I had looked at making this on Ponoko, but the cost was a bit high for the acrylic case version.  I am definitely going to put a wood version of this together.

One thing I wanted to try was a set of palm switches, like the keyboardio.  It would make the board a little bigger, but it seems like it would be easier to use the palm keys for layer switching.  Did you guys try this out at all?  I was thinking of adding a pair to my Ergodox, but I would rather modify this case layout and get a new keyboard out of it, rather than possibly messing up my work keyboard.

Offline technomancy

  • Posts: 134
Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #5 on: Thu, 17 April 2014, 22:58:08 »
One thing I wanted to try was a set of palm switches, like the keyboardio.  It would make the board a little bigger, but it seems like it would be easier to use the palm keys for layer switching.

Interesting idea, but you'd have to increase the size quite a bit to hit anything with your palms; I'd estimate it'd need at least a 50% increase in size in the Y dimension, but maybe more like a 70% if you don't have small hands. That would bump you up to the P2 size category on Ponoko.

Offline Constantine

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Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #6 on: Thu, 17 April 2014, 23:45:01 »
I got what was called the "ErgoDox Base set" at Signature Plastics (44 1x keys and 12 1.5x keys), thinking that this way I can get 2 1.5x keys plus the extra keys I get are a bit more useful compared to getting the base set for a regular keyboard.

Oh, that sounds perfect. Are you talking about the set that's listed here?

http://keyshop.pimpmykeyboard.com/product/dsa-pbt-blank-sets

The product description there says there are only 38 standard 1x keys and two deep-dish 1x ones. It doesn't mention any 1.5x keys in the Ergodox Base set. However, I noticed that the product description for the Standard Base set was also inaccurate; when I ordered it, it claimed to only contain one deep-dish, though it shipped with two. So maybe they've got some issues with their catalog right now or something? But 44 1x keys with some 1.5xes sounds perfect.

I am talking about an ErgoDox base set that was listed on that page. The Signature Plastics catalog seems to be in flux: the "ErgoDox base set" used to contain 42 1x keys, two 1x deep-dish keys and 12 1.5x keys and cost $25. Now it's 38 1x keys and two 1x deep-dish keys and costs $18...

Yeah; I had to sand down my USB cable a few mm too. I'll add a note to the readme explaining that this is a limiting factor and recommending as thin a cable as possible.

The other day I took out a spacer and tried to close the case without the USB cable at all. It almost worked. My theory is that in my build the wires that hook the key matrix to the Teensy are way longer than necessary and take more space than they need to (the jumper wire connectors you can see in the picture with the Teensy don't help either). On top of that I used a 3mm switch plate so switches stick out farther through it:

61365-0 (numbers on the right are layer thicknesses, in mm)

In this picture you can see that I would have very little space for the wires if I took out a spacerů unless I decided to route jumper wires under the matrix.

But I'm happy with my ~18mm thick case, so I decided to keep it as is.

Let's shoot for having two case files; one specifically for Ponoko that has one full spacer and one quartered, and one for people who don't need to fit it all on the same thickness.

Sounds good. I'll fork https://github.com/technomancy/atreus and will send you a pull request (probably sometime this coming weekend).

On a different topic: I made several major changes to the layout to make it work for me (in my layout some keys have different meanings depending on whether they are held down or tapped) and wrote an Org mode file that serves as a "layout editor", i.e. it contains a piece of elisp that generates some C code using information from an Org mode table. It is (and probably always will be) a kludge, but I thought I'd mention it -- if somebody thinks it might be useful I will put it on GitHub also.


Offline bearcat

  • Posts: 99
  • Location: Seattle, WA
Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #7 on: Fri, 18 April 2014, 12:29:42 »
Depending on where you source your acrylic, the sheets can vary by as much as +/- 15%.  Bring your calipers!

Offline boxfulofsanity

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Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #8 on: Thu, 15 May 2014, 16:34:40 »
@Constantine -- Love the OpenSCAD files on GitHub! Thanks for those. How would I add a second thumb key on each half using OpenSCAD?

Offline Constantine

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Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #9 on: Thu, 15 May 2014, 16:45:28 »
@Constantine -- Love the OpenSCAD files on GitHub! Thanks for those. How would I add a second thumb key on each half using OpenSCAD?

Glad to hear that somebody found them useful! :)

I'll create a version with 2 thumb keys per hand and commit it to my Atreus fork on GitHub  (https://github.com/ckhroulev/atreus) sometime tonight. (This should take no more than 5 minutes.)

Got to go back to work now, though!

Offline Constantine

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Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #10 on: Fri, 16 May 2014, 00:32:20 »
@Constantine -- Love the OpenSCAD files on GitHub! Thanks for those. How would I add a second thumb key on each half using OpenSCAD?

Please see https://github.com/technomancy/atreus/pull/7 or https://github.com/ckhroulev/atreus/tree/two-thumb-keys.

64892-0

This is one way to add a second thumb key; the diff https://github.com/ckhroulev/atreus/commit/98fbbb7a91b8fed368453b5ef18afa61c48ff58d should give you an idea of how to adjust its location (in case you want to tweak the design).

Offline boxfulofsanity

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  • Location: Ohio
Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #11 on: Fri, 16 May 2014, 07:01:09 »
Awesome!!! Thank you so much for the quick reply! Having the diff is super useful, I was scratching my head on that one :)

Offline boxfulofsanity

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  • Location: Ohio
Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #12 on: Fri, 16 May 2014, 12:30:34 »
@Constantine, any advice on how to convert the DXF file to SVG? I've been unable to do it on a Mac

Offline Constantine

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Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #13 on: Fri, 16 May 2014, 13:15:23 »
@Constantine, any advice on how to convert the DXF file to SVG? I've been unable to do it on a Mac

I used the File->Import menu in Inkscape. I could not make the latest Mac OS X build available on inkscape.org (version 0.48.2) work, though, so I had to install Inkscape 0.48.4 using MacPorts.

Offline technomancy

  • Posts: 134
Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #14 on: Sun, 21 December 2014, 15:42:10 »
I'm working on making some revisions to the case design from OpenSCAD. When I compile atreus_case.scad, the resulting file is different from the one in the .dxf files you contributed. I have gone back to older revisions, but I consistently get the same shape output. Is it possible you generated the .dxf files with a newer revision of the .scad files that didn't make it into the pull request?

In the image I've attached, the top shape is the one generated by the .scad files in the repo, and the bottom shape is the one from the .dxf file. They are fairly similar, but you can see the positioning of the inner screws and the angle of the bottom sloped edge is different.

84599-0

Any ideas?

Offline Constantine

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Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #15 on: Sun, 21 December 2014, 16:33:56 »
When I compile atreus_case.scad, the resulting file is different from the one in the .dxf files you contributed.
<...>
Any ideas?

The .dxf case design that I contributed was created "by hand" (as opposed to programmatically: I used DraftSight) and is not related to the OpenSCAD version.

The OpenSCAD version came later; see  https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=54759.msg1304117#msg1304117.

Offline technomancy

  • Posts: 134
Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #16 on: Sun, 21 December 2014, 18:36:30 »
The .dxf case design that I contributed was created "by hand" (as opposed to programmatically: I used DraftSight) and is not related to the OpenSCAD version.

Oh right; totally forgot about that. Thanks.

I will see if I can tweak the OpenSCAD implementation to match the original as I prefer its screw spacing.

Offline neverused

  • Posts: 571
Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #17 on: Sun, 21 December 2014, 19:31:58 »
Do you mind if I ask how well the switches fit in the 3.2 mm birch? My understanding is that the vertical spacing for MX Cherry switches is ~1.5 mm.

 Awesome job btw.

Offline technomancy

  • Posts: 134
Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #18 on: Sun, 21 December 2014, 21:13:11 »
Do you mind if I ask how well the switches fit in the 3.2 mm birch? My understanding is that the vertical spacing for MX Cherry switches is ~1.5 mm.

They fit fine, but you can't rely on the plate-mount to hold them in. The PCB holds them in on the new models I'm building, but if you are hand-wiring you need to use hot glue.

Offline obra

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Re: Almost an Atreus (which is a column-staggered 40%)
« Reply #19 on: Tue, 23 December 2014, 23:55:26 »
Nicely done.