Poll

What colors should be an option for this buy?

Black
135 (19.6%)
Grey
47 (6.8%)
Purple
62 (9%)
Green
8 (1.2%)
Dark Grey
123 (17.9%)
Blue
19 (2.8%)
Blue Grey
86 (12.5%)
Silver
86 (12.5%)
Olive
16 (2.3%)
White
71 (10.3%)
Red
35 (5.1%)

Total Members Voted: 401

Author Topic: [IC] CNC Anodized Aluminum case for CM Novatouch, Rapid-i, and Masterkeys TKL!  (Read 129129 times)

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Offline norbauer

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Hi everybody! After a few successful runs of my Galaxy Class keycap set (thanks, as always, to moz for getting the ball rolling on that), I've been thinking for a long time about a fun new project to do. I'm a huge Topre fan, but I also love my custom MX keycaps, so it was a pretty natural step for me to want to do something for the Novatouch. My current daily driver is a heavily hacked hybrid 45g/30g-weight Realforce in a custom Korean CNC aluminum case from a run that KBDMOD did. I love that case, and it's the only thing keeping me from switching over to Novatouch full time. So, it's probably no big surprise what I've been working on. Here is my latest custom CNC-milled, black anodized Novatouch case prototype.



I've admittedly gone a little crazy (in a fun way) with this project. Firstly, I had to teach myself machining and metal finishing (I machined the first prototype myself on a manual Bridgeport mill), and then 3D CAD, and then how to work with prototyping shops, and then how to work with manufacturers to organize production runs. To my slight embarrassment and horror (now that I am writing this and look back on it), I've now gone through thousands of dollars making four iterative one-off prototypes and about a year of work, but I'm really very happy with the design at which I've arrived. The better (later) prototypes have been purchased by GeekHack members through the Classifieds, and I have been so encouraged by their very positive feedback on receiving the cases and have heard from so many people who are also interested that I have decided to try to maybe organize a larger group buy.

I thought I would document the design process here, explain the decisions I made and why, and then I wanted to solicit feedback from the community and see what kind of interest there might be.

Massdrop are very interested in organizing an initial buy, so at this point I think I'm likely to offer these through MassDrop, but I'm open to feedback on that as well.

Design

I have designed a well to hold the plate, with alignment pins to help when screwing the top and bottom together with socket-cap screws.


An additional feature added in subsequent versions (not shown above) are flange-head screws that cinch the plate against the bottom half of the case, allowing firm and precise tweaking of where the plate sits in the case and then a positive lock between the parts. This is especially in case there are significant tolerance variations between keyboards now or in future from CoolerMaster, causing the plates to be slightly different sizes. You can see the hole and recess for the flange screws in this photo of a later prototype.



Exterior corners have a nice chamfer to break the hard edge.

(It may look like the top and bottom don't precisely align here, but that's just because I took this photo without the case fully assembled.)

The USB bracket screws into tapped holes and on the outside of the case sits flush with the face of a recess that has been made to the precise connector specs given in the USB standard.




Two feet options are provided. Firstly, my preferred (and the more generally recognized to be ergonomic) totally flat, using very low-profile bumpons to keep the overall case profile as slim as possible.



Secondly, if I do a larger run of these, I'll include the option for riser feet, which will allow raising the case to the same angle as a Novatouch with its flip-up feet deployed (11 degrees).



I originally included a logo (what used to be my GeekHack avatar), but I have removed that for the production run.

Feedback please :)

Would you buy something like this? Any requests for improvements?

I know many folks might like different colors, but anodizing is crazy expensive, and every additional color doubles the anodizing cost for the group buy. I figured black was the safest bet.

Made in the USA

I am leaning towards production in the USA, because I believe it'll ensure a shorter lead time and (possibly) higher quality compared to sourcing in China, even if being more expensive. I have nothing against working with China vendors—all of my prototypes were made in Shenzhen—I just think it makes less sense for very small production runs compared to thousands of parts. It also means lower risk for everyone involved, much less complicated logistics and shipping costs, etc. I'm also a stickler for quality and want to make a high-end "luxury" sort of keyboard mod product if I do this, and I believe that working with a local vendor will help me with quality control.

My goal would to have these ready to ship within two months of money being received from buyers in any group buy. Assuming I go with a US shop, I think that is a realistic timeline. If we go with a vendor in Asia, we have to worry about sea freight, customs clearance, and all that, which always introduces greater risk for delays.

Cost and time

Because I'm sure someone will ask, I don't yet know the final price. But custom, short-run CNC machining and finishing aren't cheap, so let's pessimistically assume $250 if only a few people join the buy, but I think even with USA manufacture that we can probably do better than that (or much better if the numbers are strong). Of course, it's all depending on what options I end up going with and what numbers we're able to generate—hence this IC thread!

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, my fellow Topre nerds! :)
« Last Edit: Fri, 07 October 2016, 01:25:16 by norbauer »

Offline Bromono

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #1 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 13:04:40 »
Would defiantly be down for one! Those legs though look really long. Is that a standard profile height of a typical tkl?

Online exitfire401

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #2 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 13:10:30 »
If it can happen for under $300, I'll be in 100%. I've been waiting for a reason to get a novatouch, and this would be it.
Boards: Kingsaver Complicated Blue Alps |Sprit 60% Transparent MX Clears in Gateron housings with 62g gold Sprit springs lubed and RGB color shifting LEDs | Ducky Shine Zone MX Black with Blue LEDs | Realforce 10AE Variable Silenced

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Offline agbockus

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[IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #3 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 13:12:05 »
This looks beautiful. I've been thinking about getting a Novatouch and this might make me pull the trigger!

Great job!

Offline nickheller

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #4 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 13:12:07 »
Very interested in this.
Gotcha. Those sacks look mouth watering.

Offline norbauer

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #5 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 13:12:52 »
Would defiantly be down for one!

Awesome! :)

Those legs though look really long. Is that a standard profile height of a typical tkl?

It looks high to me in the rendering as well--and it's more than possible that I made some kind of error in modeling it--but when I deploy the flip-up feet on the Novatouch IRL I measure the angle of the face against the table as 11 degrees. This measurement on my design is 11 degrees as well.



I haven't yet physically prototyped the feet yet, but in a few weeks I should be able to examine a case in person with the feet attached and will be able to catch any errors in my assumptions then.
« Last Edit: Mon, 07 March 2016, 13:15:40 by norbauer »

Offline norbauer

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #6 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 13:14:10 »
If it can happen for under $300, I'll be in 100%.

Awesome. Assuming even a relatively very small number of people sign up, I'm confident can do much better than $300 while still keeping manufacture in the USA.

Offline sethbc

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #7 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 13:33:36 »
i'm in for 2x

Offline Bromono

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #8 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 13:35:44 »
Well none the less I would for sure pick one up.

Offline keshley

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #9 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 13:36:07 »
Looks like you added 4 bolts and two guides over the previous prototype, very nice! Looking very good here :D
  
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Offline LechnerDE

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #10 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 13:38:04 »
I was part of your very first galaxy class GB and I was very impressed with your sense for details and perfection.

This really shows in your current design. I love how clean it is!

 ~250$ plus shipping is also very reasonable.

The only thing that sucks for me is Massdrop. As a European this means another ~50$ for custom fees because there will be an official invoice :(




Offline Zorberema

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #11 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 13:41:03 »
I like this a lot! Just as exitfire said, this would be and excelent reason to finally get a novatouch, haha! Will this case fit on the rapid-i as well? I know their cases are 100% similar on the outside, not so sure about the inside though.

Offline LechnerDE

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #12 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 13:46:11 »
I like this a lot! Just as exitfire said, this would be and excelent reason to finally get a novatouch, haha! Will this case fit on the rapid-i as well? I know their cases are 100% similar on the outside, not so sure about the inside though.

Yes, they should be compatible.

See this thread for example:

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=73393.0


Offline norbauer

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #13 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 13:47:27 »
I was part of your very first galaxy class GB and I was very impressed with your sense for details and perfection.

This really shows in your current design. I love how clean it is!

 ~250$ plus shipping is also very reasonable.

The only thing that sucks for me is Massdrop. As a European this means another ~50$ for custom fees because there will be an official invoice :(

Thanks, LechnerDE. I really appreciated all your encouragement on Galaxy Class!

Part of the reason I would go with MassDrop is actually international shipping, believe it or not. When a member approached me about buying one of my prior prototypes who was in Europe, all the tracked shipping options I could find were like $80 or more. MassDrop has relationships with international couriers who can do better, I believe. I know it would mean perhaps some VAT for EU buyers, but the shipping savings over what I could do personally would probably be significant. Also, if it's anything more than like 20 orders, it would take me forever to ship personally. MassDrop could facilitate shipping everything all at once.

Offline norbauer

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #14 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 13:49:26 »
I like this a lot! Just as exitfire said, this would be and excelent reason to finally get a novatouch, haha! Will this case fit on the rapid-i as well? I know their cases are 100% similar on the outside, not so sure about the inside though.

Hmm. I'm actually not familiar with the rapid-i. Is there anywhere where I can see a photo of the plate? That would help me be able to answer.

Offline Vittra

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #15 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 13:51:17 »
I recall the olive green prototype you sold and recall being quite impressed. The refinements here look like an excellent evolution of the design. I don't personally have any intent to own a Novatouch, but had I, this would certainly be something I would get.
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Offline whmeltonjr

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #16 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 13:56:02 »
I would maybe consider buying a Novatouch for one of these. Looks nice. What does it do for the feel?

You should do a Realforce case though.  :thumb:

Offline Lepidus

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #17 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 14:01:12 »
I like this a lot! Just as exitfire said, this would be and excelent reason to finally get a novatouch, haha! Will this case fit on the rapid-i as well? I know their cases are 100% similar on the outside, not so sure about the inside though.

Hmm. I'm actually not familiar with the rapid-i. Is there anywhere where I can see a photo of the plate? That would help me be able to answer.

Here some pics.

Offline axtran

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #18 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 14:01:28 »
I love the case. It makes the Novatouch into the Endgame Topre board for sure.
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Offline LechnerDE

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #19 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 14:04:43 »
I was part of your very first galaxy class GB and I was very impressed with your sense for details and perfection.

This really shows in your current design. I love how clean it is!

 ~250$ plus shipping is also very reasonable.

The only thing that sucks for me is Massdrop. As a European this means another ~50$ for custom fees because there will be an official invoice :(

Thanks, LechnerDE. I really appreciated all your encouragement on Galaxy Class!

Part of the reason I would go with MassDrop is actually international shipping, believe it or not. When a member approached me about buying one of my prior prototypes who was in Europe, all the tracked shipping options I could find were like $80 or more. MassDrop has relationships with international couriers who can do better, I believe. I know it would mean perhaps some VAT for EU buyers, but the shipping savings over what I could do personally would probably be significant. Also, if it's anything more than like 20 orders, it would take me forever to ship personally. MassDrop could facilitate shipping everything all at once.

Yeah, it probably evens out. I never really thought about it this way. I hope I have enough spare money once this drop hits!

Also,

it would be great if you did a Phantom case next  :D

Offline Butter

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #20 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 14:11:55 »
~$250 and Massdrop. You can count me in!

Offline K

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #21 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 14:15:05 »
Never had a custom case, do they change the sound of the kb at all? Also when would this start running as a poor student i'd need to start planning for this in my spendings  :(

Offline r5d

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #22 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 14:43:10 »
What are the chances of other TKL pcb/plates fitting in there, like WASD or KUL? I don't own a Novatouch, but I do own a WASD v2. I can take photos and measurements if you need.

I guess I need a Novatouch now.
I like keyboards

Offline bbrotha

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #23 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 14:45:12 »
interested, it will look great with some Danger Zone keycaps on it.
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Offline norbauer

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #24 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 15:10:39 »
Never had a custom case, do they change the sound of the kb at all? Also when would this start running as a poor student i'd need to start planning for this in my spendings  :(

I feel that it does change the sound a bit, but for me it's mostly about visual aesthetics.

Here is a video of me typing on an early prototype of this case:

Offline techmattr

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #25 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 15:14:43 »
I'm not 100% being black is the only option. I'd probably still buy though.

Offline ramnes

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #26 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 15:24:27 »
Glad to see this GB.  :)

Black anodizing is what I would choose, but since people want more choices, maybe you could make three options for colors?
- Black anodizing
- Powder coating for any other color
- Bare metal

Speaking of bare metal, do you have a picture of the keyboard before anodizing?
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Offline TheVengeance

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #27 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 16:16:25 »
Glad to see this after tempting me with it.

Put me down for one.

Online exitfire401

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #28 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 16:44:55 »
I also would like to suggest colors other than black. I need a purple board in my life.
Boards: Kingsaver Complicated Blue Alps |Sprit 60% Transparent MX Clears in Gateron housings with 62g gold Sprit springs lubed and RGB color shifting LEDs | Ducky Shine Zone MX Black with Blue LEDs | Realforce 10AE Variable Silenced

B/S/T thread: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=55351.0

Past projects: KBT Race 2 L.E.
Past Boards: Ducky Shine 2 | KBT Pure | LZ Aluminum Skin| HHKB | Realforce 23u |

Offline manofinterests

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #29 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 16:47:31 »
I'd definitely consider joining! I need an ALU TKL keyboard in my life one way or another  :D

Offline WNovizar

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #30 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 16:57:14 »
In for one! Would like to have titanium grey instead of black, to match my dolch set
I like mechanical keyboards

Offline ChemicalHalo

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #31 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 17:15:00 »
This definitely interests me. I look forward to more details.

Offline s3vv4

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #32 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 17:19:48 »
Would a regular old QFR also fit this?

Offline TheOneOutlander

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #33 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 17:24:33 »
Absolutely in for around $250 or less!

EDIT: Didn't notice your mention of MassDrop.  Looking forward to updates!
« Last Edit: Mon, 07 March 2016, 17:30:00 by TheOneOutlander »

Offline norbauer

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #34 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 17:30:39 »
I'm very encouraged to hear all these positive remarks. Please keep your thoughts coming, everybody, and feel free to vote for an second/alternate color (though I can't promise we'll be able to afford one). My own personal preference would be white.

For those asking about using this case with other keyboards than the Novatouch, I have to say that I'm skeptical. The Novatouch has a very particular USB bracket and a weird plate with bent "struts." I had to do a lot of experimentation to figure out a design that would support it, and I doubt that other boards would fit. If anybody wants to provide me with photos and/or specs, however, I'm happy to confirm. The only exception I can tell would be the Rapid-i because it's actually made by CoolerMaster and appears to use an identical USB bracket and plate. However, not having one in my physical possession, I can't say with absolute certainty.

UPDATE: I just ordered a rapid-i and will report on whether it fits!
« Last Edit: Mon, 07 March 2016, 17:37:02 by norbauer »

Online exitfire401

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #35 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 17:34:50 »
I'm very encouraged to hear all these positive remarks. Please keep your thoughts coming, everybody, and feel free to vote for an second/alternate color (though I can't promise we'll be able to afford one).

For those asking about using this case with other keyboards than the Novatouch, I have to say that I'm skeptical. The Novatouch has a very particular USB bracket and a weird plate with bent "struts." I had to do a lot of experimentation to figure out a design that would support it, and I doubt that other boards would fit. If anybody wants to provide me with photos and/or specs, however, I'm happy to confirm. The only exception I can tell would be the Rapid-i because it's actually made by CoolerMaster and appears to use an identical USB bracket and plate. However, not having one in my physical possession, I can't say with absolute certainty.

UPDATE: I just ordered a rapid-i and will report on whether it fits!

Would you like a poll for the color option added to the thread? Would only take me a minute or two.
Boards: Kingsaver Complicated Blue Alps |Sprit 60% Transparent MX Clears in Gateron housings with 62g gold Sprit springs lubed and RGB color shifting LEDs | Ducky Shine Zone MX Black with Blue LEDs | Realforce 10AE Variable Silenced

B/S/T thread: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=55351.0

Past projects: KBT Race 2 L.E.
Past Boards: Ducky Shine 2 | KBT Pure | LZ Aluminum Skin| HHKB | Realforce 23u |

Offline norbauer

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #36 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 17:37:36 »
Would you like a poll for the color option added to the thread? Would only take me a minute or two.

That would be awesome! Thanks, exitfire401. :)

Offline csmertx

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #37 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 17:56:22 »
Never had a custom case, do they change the sound of the kb at all? Also when would this start running as a poor student i'd need to start planning for this in my spendings  :(

I feel that it does change the sound a bit, but for me it's mostly about visual aesthetics.

Here is a video of me typing on an early prototype of this case:
Am I imagining things? Do the modifiers really sound like buckling spring keyboard switches?

I can't say that I'm in, no Nova Touch to speak of at the moment but this project is very promising  :thumb:
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Offline Heliosphere

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #38 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 18:11:31 »
I'd be down for one. I would also prefer something besides black - a titanium/gunmetal grey would be great.

Offline romevi

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #39 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 18:17:31 »
Man, if 45g Topre wasn't so light for me I'd be all over this.

Offline norbauer

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #40 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 18:31:15 »
Man, if 45g Topre wasn't so light for me I'd be all over this.

You can always buy a heavier Realforce and swap out the domes! :) I've done it before (though for lighter in my case) and it's pretty easy.

Offline romevi

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #41 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 18:33:26 »
Man, if 45g Topre wasn't so light for me I'd be all over this.

You can always buy a heavier Realforce and swap out the domes! :) I've done it before (though for lighter in my case) and it's pretty easy.

And just like that, I'm on board.

Totally forgot about that. Have a Realforce 55g, but I can see myself getting a Novatouch for this case and swapping out the domes.

Offline toidbb

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #42 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 18:36:22 »
Interested :)

Offline sircheddar

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #43 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 19:27:09 »
sent you a pm! wondering about winkeyless options? just  w/ metal blockers for the winkeys. i'd pay extra.
" I hope that when the world comes to an end, I can breathe a sigh of relief, because there will be so much to look forward to. "

Offline swimmingbird

  • * Elevated Elder
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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #44 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 19:45:29 »
Interested but it would be great if the angle with feet was a bit lower - maybe 9 degrees?

Offline raymogi

  • Posts: 1415
Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #45 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 19:46:51 »
Yes please.
Please feed my addiction.

Online exitfire401

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Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #46 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 19:49:19 »
Alright, Poll is up.

If you have suggestions for other colors, quote this comment and I will add them tomorrow. I just put the ones I thought would be the most popular up for now. You get 2 choices which leaves enough room for a clear winner and a backup color in the case that something wins that wouldn't normally be feasible.
Boards: Kingsaver Complicated Blue Alps |Sprit 60% Transparent MX Clears in Gateron housings with 62g gold Sprit springs lubed and RGB color shifting LEDs | Ducky Shine Zone MX Black with Blue LEDs | Realforce 10AE Variable Silenced

B/S/T thread: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=55351.0

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Offline man

  • Posts: 3
Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #47 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 21:18:15 »
Count me in, brah.  :thumb: :cool:

Also, +1 to Massdrop.  Much more likely to drop several hundred dollars there.

Offline Parod

  • Posts: 9
  • Location: Bay Area
Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #48 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 21:21:41 »
There's gotta be a purple case to match the dankness of the sliders

Offline SteampunkCatfish

  • Posts: 1
Re: [IC] Novatouch CNC Anodized Aluminum case!
« Reply #49 on: Mon, 07 March 2016, 22:47:32 »
Yes please!