Author Topic: The Slanck. What could go wrong using the plate as a wire?  (Read 14062 times)

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Offline cribbit

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The Slanck. What could go wrong using the plate as a wire?
« on: Thu, 13 October 2016, 03:15:59 »
See end of topic for current progress & stupidity!

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This is an idea that I've been kicking around for almost two years now. With a 4 row, 13 col footprint it falls into the 45% category. I call it a staggered Planck since it holds the same aversion to keys larger than 1u, besides a 2u spacebar. However, the additional column vs the 12 of a Planck/40% allows for a much fuller layout.

The goal of this layout is for a highly portable board that maintains a typing experience as close as possible to a normal keyboard.

Click 'More' to see pictures!

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Shown so far is the prototype I built (before it got stolen RIP tiny keyboard) that allowed me to test how viable the layout was. With the layout confirmed viable, I've moved on to designing the PCB and a metal case for the next iteration.

The 2u spacebar in the layout picture is actually 2 stems, the idea being that it can be moved as needed. Prototypes will have 2x 1u keys for now. Though I personally type with my right thumb for spacebar, not everyone does. Also, gaming requires the spacebar to be south-east of the wasd (or esdf) cluster. A 1u spacebar is proving much more manageable than I originally though!

More details are given on various subjects in the posts below. I hope to offer as much detail as possible to help others with their own custom builds.
« Last Edit: Thu, 31 August 2017, 19:58:29 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck
« Reply #1 on: Thu, 13 October 2016, 03:37:46 »
Reasoning & previous iteration of layout:

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I initially made this layout on the observation that a 12.25 col layout allows for the 2nd row to have another column vs a standard 40% layout, plus of course hatred for fullsize spacebars.

However, it makes a lot of the keys on the right into 1.25u keys, which looks a little weird to me.

From here, the realization is that adding another .75u adds a column to the 1st, 3rd and 4th rows. It also makes the cool looking symmetry of the final layout.

The idea of this layout is that it's a lot easier to put the enter key on the modifier row than to change the punctuation cluster (especially for a programmer). This is also a little friendlier to alternative letter layouts like Dvorak and Colemak.

A large part of this layout is due to me not seeing the point of having small layouts that use large modifier keys. I would rather sacrifice modifier area than functionality (from higher number of available keys) since smaller modifiers are fine with good typing accuracy. As with the Planck, modifier keys really don't need to be as big as they are and shrinking them down opens up a lot more room. This is key when your lack of keys means things like the number and function row have to be accessed thru key combinations.

I keep the keys at the edges of the 2nd and 3rd row as 1u keys since it makes keycap sets much easier, creates a unique look and gives some extra space for the top/bottom case design I hope to make (detailed later). Also, I hate stabilizers.

The question a lot of people ask (understandably) if they don't know about the crazy world of custom keyboards is what else exists that's like this. There are two main existing forty percent boards; the JD40 family and the Planck.

The JD40 is the godfather of mainline forty percent keyboards. Various individual custom builds had existed before but the JD40 was the first to see a proper groupbuy and thus proper 'widespread' (for however widespread a few hundred units is) use. Since then several other forty percent builds have come up, notably the minivan which slightly improved the layout and vastly improved the build quality to include a milled aluminum case, rather than a sandwich case. After the original build many realized that you could accomplish more in the space if you split the spacebar but none ever obliterated it to 1u keys entirely. While many users are able to acclimate to the standard forty percent layout to type quickly, my stance is that more switches is better than fewer switches and wanted to get to entirely 1u keys. These two projects also marked a big landmark in showing normal users, not companies, being able to take a design from idea to fruition to group buy and get sales.

The Planck is an ortholinear keyboard, which means that it's a grid of switches in aligned columns. As a staggered typer my whole life I didn't think I wanted to switch. While it looks nice, I believe that staggered is more ergonomic. Of course, this is a matter of opinion; most planck users will swear by their boards, and certainly have the typing speeds to back it up.

Across both, cases are a weird thing. Part of this build is also trying to get the board as a whole to be as small as possible, which means as little bezel from the case as possible. Many kit builds use sandwich plates, which add a good bit of size around the board.
« Last Edit: Mon, 24 October 2016, 16:59:47 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck
« Reply #2 on: Thu, 13 October 2016, 04:05:43 »
So far I've designed the layout, researched a ton into programming the firmware/teensy, handwiring vs pcb, handling rgb leds, designing a case and ordered a plate.

I have a steel plate, 120 gateron black switches, 100 rgb leds and several neopixel strips in the mail right now, which will hopefully arrive soon.

The next step is to hand wire some switches on a wood plate so that I can get a teensy up and running with the layout. This will let me work on the basic programming aspects while I start to research PCBs (especially PCBs with the chip attached, rather than using a teensy), RGB LED controlling and designing the CAD for the case so I can order it.

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I really like this idea of using wood lasercut plates for prototyping. It's super cheap and makes it easy to recover switches when done since you can break the plate rather than actually fiddling with the switches.

I have 120 gateron blacks in the mail right now. However, I also had an old das with a couple of columns broken. I took the case off to see if I could fix the issue, but I couldn't find anything wrong on the PCB. Instead, I'm going to desolder the switches and use 50 of those nice 104 cherry mx browns to prototype.
« Last Edit: Sat, 22 October 2016, 21:19:50 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck
« Reply #3 on: Thu, 13 October 2016, 05:01:46 »
Financials:

I have $1000 set aside specifically to complete this project. I'm hoping to get this done with $500 for the case and $500 for everything else.

Spent so far:

1. Steel plate from lasergist: $37.36
2. 120 gateron blacks, SMD compatible from Glorious PC: $39.98
3. Neopixel strips, 5mm width 1m 30 led, 1m 60 led from Adafruit: $50.49
4. Knockoff neopixel strip, 5mm 2m 120 led from ebay: $17.80 (for comparison to neopixels)
5. 3x teensy from PJRC: $51.11
6. 100x cherry-compatible RGB LEDs from Aliexpress: $30.58
7. 650 1N4148 diodes from ebay: $7.50
8. DSA Blank PBT, black, from PMK: $38.60
9. Glass for backplate, from college crafts workshop store: $6.50
10. 3D printing credit, $40

Total: $277.15

Big shout out to Glorious PC, they accidentally sent me 2 packs of switches and they were chill with letting me keep the 2nd.

I also previously paid $25 (huge overpay but whatever) for the broken das ultimate with mx browns, which I'm salvaging the switches from for prototyping work. Luckily the switches can be resold once I get the gaterons in but it's a lot of work to desolder them. In the end the value of this comes mostly from seeing a pcb/plate interaction, especially for determining whether neopixels behind an acrylic plate are viable (as will be mentioned in a later post).

I got wood plate prototypes from visiting my old high school and borrowing their laser cutter, which was nice.

Planing to buy:

Acrylic plate ($50 budget for material to lasercut)
Milled aluminum case ($500 budget for several prototypes)
PCB ($150 budget for several prototypes)
« Last Edit: Wed, 30 November 2016, 13:43:34 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline xondat

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck
« Reply #4 on: Thu, 13 October 2016, 05:15:00 »
How come you chose to make the modifiers smaller and not use that space? Surely it would make sense to use the biggest size you can if the space is not being used at all.

On a side note, I really like the detailed post and planning you have going here.

How are you going to handle the milled case and also the PCB? Do you have experience in either field?

Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck
« Reply #5 on: Thu, 13 October 2016, 05:18:17 »
The case of this board is something that I'm hoping to design and sell for 60% boards, as well as get working for this board.

The idea is to create an interlocking top and bottom half of the case to allow for much higher portability. Stick the top on, slide it in a sleeve and you can drop it into a bag without having to worry about damaging the switches.

This presents two big challenges.

First, milled aluminum is incredibly difficult to have fold out feet. You can attach feet, but then you add to the size and make a weird profile for the case which hurts the portability which is the goal in the first place. So, the case needs some way to create tilt, without adding size. I'm considering doing something fancy so that the top half can be used as a stand for the bottom half to create tilt.

Second, interlocking is much easier said than done. Coming up with a good design for the pieces to fit together without adding too much size to the edges of the board is key. As well, unless the sleeve is very snug there needs to be some way to actually hold the halves together. Magnets? NCase style dot-locks?

Finally, not a design challenge necessarily but a design aspect - I hope to put some sort of notch for the USB port so that the case even covers that, when closed.

These are design challenges I will be tackling later. For now, I am aiming to create a normal case before moving on to this more complex case. I ordered a barebones poker 2 specifically to try to design something for a 60% - this case design will likely end up with its own thread once I get a CAD file and some better ideas how to solve these two challenges.


How come you chose to make the modifiers smaller and not use that space? Surely it would make sense to use the biggest size you can if the space is not being used at all.

On a side note, I really like the detailed post and planning you have going here.

How are you going to handle the milled case and also the PCB? Do you have experience in either field?

I will edit that in, I chose to do that since it allows for a much easier time finding keycap sets if everything is 1u. Also, I like the unique look of it. Also, I hate stabilizers. Also, I think I'm going to use that area for the interlocking case as described above, though I'm hoping for a more generic design that can also be scaled for a 60%.

I have zero experience in milling or pcb making. I will be trying to CAD them myself with help from professors at my college, and then outsourcing the actual production. Though my college does not have much beyond basic 3D printing, non-metal laser cutting and non-metal CNC there appears to be a good amount of decently cheap options for purchasing these services online. I will be detailing my research into these so far in posts to come.
« Last Edit: Thu, 13 October 2016, 05:27:12 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck
« Reply #6 on: Sun, 16 October 2016, 19:41:25 »
Backlighting is closely tied to what I choose to do with the PCB and is only possible if I manage to go the PCB route rather than hand wiring. I'm going to be trying to get a good CAD design and then a prototype ordered for that within a week, but could easily hit snags. Still not entirely sure how easy it will be to get diodes, chip and potentially SMD RGB LEDs attached.

There are two options I'm looking at right now for backlighting - in switch or addressable Surface Mount Diode (SMD). The current plan is RGB or bust, prototypes for the layout will not have any backlighting. Luckily, gaterons have a very nice "SMD" style with a huge slot that is nearly the entire width of the switch and the entire area above the stem. This allows for the significantly larger RGB LEDs to fit or for an SMD LED to shine through.

First, standard in-switch LEDs. I have 100 of them ordered. The issue with these is that they require an inordinate number of pins to control. You need rows * 3 + cols pins to control an LED in each switch (* see note). This often requires a larger chip or multiple chips to manage, as you're already needing rows + cols pins for the switches. This is a lot of wiring to do by hand and all the wiring takes up a lot of space, essentially requiring a PCB to do effectively.

* On the subject of how RGB LEDs work, to the best of my limited understanding: An RGB LED is actually a red, a green and a blue LED in one housing, which means creating colors is actually done by very quickly turning each of the three on one at a time at the required power level to create the color desired. This is done so rapidly that our eye just sees a solid color being output. This is where the four pins come from. One pin for each color and one pin (shared by all three) for power input/output called common anode or common cathode respectively. Due to complicated electrical engineering reasons you're much more likely to see common anode than common cathode but the principle and usage is essentially the same. Since the D in LED stands for Diode, which means electricity can only go in one direction, you can power each of the three colors by controlling just its pin and the power pin and only that color will light during that tiny fraction of a second. Rotate through all three colors being controlled and you can make the full rainbow.

Pic of pins required, the crossing makes it hard to tell but wires only connect if one ends at the point where they meet. If they cross they do not interact. (this is easier to understand if you already understand the diode matrix principle behind n-key/ghosting control for switches)

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Second, addressable SMD LEDs. I have several strips of these ordered and am looking at options for direct attachment to a PCB. The strips I've ordered are commonly referred to as 'neopixels', with a technical name of WS2812. The key distinction here is that they are addressable - the only reason I mention that they're SMD LEDs is that they are too big to be used in-switch. Addressable LEDs have a small controller chip and often a capacitor in them which makes them bulky at a 5mm diameter (the LED port on a SMD-style gateron switch is 3mm x 9mm). This chip allows them to be daisychained, where the power/ground/data input of one LED is also output to the next LED in line. This means you just need 3 pins to control as many LEDs as you can power. SMD RGB LEDs can also be normal 4 pin, matrix required LEDs, which is an option but at that point I would try for in-switch if possible. The interesting possibility with these if all else fails is to use an acrylic plate with the LED strips put between the PCB and the plate, creating backlighting through the plate. While this would be difficult to space at the same width as the keys it would at least be some RGB backlighting.

« Last Edit: Sat, 22 October 2016, 21:19:37 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck
« Reply #7 on: Sun, 16 October 2016, 19:49:28 »
Switches came in today, decided to stick them on my prototype plate. Hand wiring will commence once I get the diodes in. I'm thinking I might do the hand wiring on the steel plate and order another steel plate for the later (hopefully PCB) iteration. Would be a shame to waste the time of handwiring on a wood plate that isn't even the right thickness, but at least this is nice for seeing layout.

End design will use blank, uniform row keycaps. This has my old random korean/english printed caps because it's all I have on hand.

I also opened up a switch because why not. They seem nice to type on though, so luckily no need to get different springs.
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The LED rectangle is 10mm x 3mm. The SMD notch is 4mm. Everything else matches a cherry switch.







« Last Edit: Sat, 22 October 2016, 21:19:18 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline dantan

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck
« Reply #8 on: Mon, 17 October 2016, 05:54:28 »
This is lovely. Have you ever thought of doing a split layout thing? Making two minikeyboards for left and right side?

Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck
« Reply #9 on: Mon, 17 October 2016, 11:52:59 »
This is lovely. Have you ever thought of doing a split layout thing? Making two minikeyboards for left and right side?

Thanks!

Once this project is complete I'll move on to another layout. Building on a different layout shouldn't be much of an issue, besides figuring out the split.
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline dantan

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck
« Reply #10 on: Mon, 17 October 2016, 15:39:48 »
I aim quite interested in a split layout so if you are getting a plate or pcb done I'll join any buy you propose.

Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck
« Reply #11 on: Wed, 19 October 2016, 18:30:21 »
Diodes, plate, neopixels, knockoff neopixels all came in today.

Lasergist has some of the most annoying packaging I can imagine, but it makes sense coming all the way from Greece. Literally giant staples holding two pieces of cardboard together around the plate. Which looks cool, until you realize having a solid line of copper staples is really hard to remove. Awesome stamps are a nice touch as well.

When someone sends you hundreds of diodes nicely folded, it's usually a good idea to not unfold them until you need those diodes. Wish I could tell that to myself fifteen minutes ago. Oh well.

Zero visible difference in knockoff and real neopixel, Real 5mm width neopixel strips have 3mm pixels, which actually fit into the 4mm SMD notch on the gaterons. Knockoffs have 5mm pixels but an adhesive bottom. As for other differences, we'll see how they hold up when powered.

Hand wired prototype incoming!
« Last Edit: Wed, 19 October 2016, 20:10:52 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck
« Reply #12 on: Wed, 19 October 2016, 20:43:48 »
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Hopefully will get the wiring done tomorrow. Then a quick bit of firmware, a makeshift case and the first prototype will be done!
« Last Edit: Sat, 22 October 2016, 21:18:46 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck
« Reply #13 on: Fri, 21 October 2016, 01:21:45 »
Spent eight hours today soldering.

First up, desoldered the das.

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Since the Gaterons already came in I have little need for these browns. Plate has a surprisingly loose hold on the switches - the PCB was what was really holding them in place.
« Last Edit: Sat, 22 October 2016, 21:18:15 by cribbit »
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Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck
« Reply #14 on: Fri, 21 October 2016, 01:35:45 »
Next, the real fun; hand wiring the prototype! Following the best guide.

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Before





First row done. Trickier than I thought. The guide shows a photo of the diodes being group-bent on the red side of the diode. I tried it for this first row and forgot to also bend the black side. Managed to still bend them after soldering to the switch, but it was a pain.



All diodes on! I did the 2nd row with an 's' bend on the diodes since I was doing the bends using the edge of the table; once one side is bent it's hard to bend the other at the same angle. Ended up working pretty well, since it puts the 'dirty' end of the wiring on the inset edge. For the 3rd and 4th row I learned from the first two and bent the black side of the diode together, and hand bent the red side. The red side only needs to be bent to provide more surface area for soldering, while the black side is what actually needs to be symmetrical for a clean looking row.

Time to do the columns! Oh wait...





(that's just heat shrink, to avoid shorts)



As I went to wire the columns I realized that unless I redid the edges I would have to either create fourteen columns or zig-zag my column wiring. Instead, I re-did two of the corners so that they joined rows above. This allows for me to have really pretty (and easier to do) column wiring on the 11 middle columns, with triangles in the corners for the last two columns.



After

Unfortunately the lab closed before I could finish the corners. I was going to wait to wire the teensy tomorrow anyways.

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Along the way, I accidentally used a piece of wire slightly too long and decided the best solution was to get janky rather than redo it.

The tricky part still to come tomorrow - actually attaching it to the teensy! And making some ramshackle case to hold it.

Up next: CAD for a PCB and case.
« Last Edit: Sat, 22 October 2016, 21:21:25 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (nearing prototype!)
« Reply #15 on: Fri, 21 October 2016, 15:39:01 »
Finished wiring the columns!

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Now to wire the teensy on...


I hot glued a little pad on to give the teensy somewhere to sit without having shorting issues.

Now for the other hard part; actually wiring the rows/cols to pins on the teensy. Though this is just a prototype, I'd like to put it in a decent layered case so I don't want horrendously ugly wiring or something that takes a ton of space. I was thinking of soldering long strands of wire to the teensy, then mounting it and routing/shortening the wires to connect to the rows/cols. However, in the interest of size I made my board with as little edge as possible, which was stupid since it leaves very little space to route wires.

The lab I'm working in has a little heap of items discarded by others as scap, plus some 'electronic waste' which is left here for students to sort through before being tossed out. I noticed one item had a little bit of ribbon cable and realized it might be just what I need. It could make cable management much easier, especially since each strand in the ribbon is much thinner than any wire I had available to use. Sadly, while the ribbon had a full 20 pins (I only need 17) it was much too short to use. If I had to I could use it for the close pins and then wire the rest normally, but if I could find a longer ribbon this idea could still work. A very common part on older computers is an IDE cable, the predecessor to SATA. I asked the tools attendant if he knew where I might find some scrap IDE cable, and he delivered.

Oh boy did he deliver.

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He brought out an old sensor kit of some sort that had what looked like IDE cables connecting its boards. However, on one end was this magical connector. Unlike the standard male IDE connector this had its pins well exposed and spaced apart. Perfectly spaced apart for a teensy to sit on.

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Looking to get even better, I took off its pin riser and cut out some plastic from its head and managed to get it to look like this.

This will be so so so much easier to solder than individual wires, can be routed much more easily than individual wires and makes mounting the teensy a whole lot easier. Still not an easy process, but I'm excited to start on it.
« Last Edit: Sat, 22 October 2016, 21:21:46 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline pomk

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (nearing prototype!)
« Reply #16 on: Fri, 21 October 2016, 16:30:14 »
Just make sure you have access to the reset button  ;)

Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (nearing prototype!)
« Reply #17 on: Fri, 21 October 2016, 20:50:16 »
Just make sure you have access to the reset button  ;)

Indeed! On the blue one pictured I can reach it with pliers once the teensy is mounted. Also, found a different cable that had a slightly different head design that's thinner but solid which will put the reset button facing outwards anyways.
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Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (nearing prototype!)
« Reply #18 on: Fri, 21 October 2016, 20:51:52 »
Also, totally unrelated to the project but a cool find from the scrap heap:

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Weighs quite a bit. No idea what I'll use it for, but it looks cool.
« Last Edit: Sat, 22 October 2016, 21:09:48 by cribbit »
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Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (nearing prototype!)
« Reply #19 on: Sat, 22 October 2016, 21:07:58 »
Getting into some exciting stuff for making my own plates.

My college only has wood/paper/plastic laser cutting capabilities, but it does have a CNC plasma cutter. It can cut metal real well, but not with high definition. It has a 3-4mm kerf, which means if you cut a line in a board it would put 1.5-2mm extra removal on either side. This is tricky when the switches need 14mm squares, and definitely removes the option for notches.

Sadly, the software for the machine wasn't working the two days when I went in to use it. For now, just some pictures of the machine and the samples of what it can do.

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This thing can cut some reeaaaallly thick metal.



Luckily, the rough edges are more manageable on thinner metal. You can really see how big the kerf is on this.







One ugly baby though.

Hopefully will test its viability this week.
« Last Edit: Sat, 22 October 2016, 21:25:19 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (nearing prototype!)
« Reply #20 on: Sat, 22 October 2016, 21:08:49 »
Guess what keyboard I'm writing this on?

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With a pocket knife wedged under the right side for stability and a wood test plate under the whole thing to avoid screwing up the wiring (and to avoid hitting the teensy reset button) it's a joy to type on. I've had to make a few adjustments to the layout to make it more intuitive to use but the layer hiding of numbers is working even better than I anticipated. I'm finding that a 1u spacebar is actually super manageable, which is awesome because getting more 2u 2 stem caps would've been annoying. Plus, the handful I did have were a weird profile since they were pulled from a point of sale machine.

The big benefit I'm already seeing from this board is the ability to put keys like enter wherever I feel like. I've got it to the left of my spacebar and the left of my arrow cluster which makes hitting it without moving my hands a whole lot easier.

The one annoyance right now is that the blank PBT caps I got were for a full 104 key keyboard, which means that I had to use a couple of function row higher profile keys for certain switches. Not a big deal for typing, just looks odd. However, it did come with three rather than two 'home row' keys, which have the little bump so you know where f and j are. This third one is working great as a spacebar.

The one downside of this weekend is that since soldering took way longer than I anticipated (approx 20 hours) I didn't get much chance to further get into CAD work as I put off course work during the week to solder while the labs were open. However, I did take the time to go see the laser cutting resources at my school, which had them properly import my plate as a Rhino file, which is a big step towards getting the CAD of the case, and stumbled across more interesting resources for doing the PCB CAD.

I have a little stretch goal in mind now to see if I can make a website that will convert keyboard layouts into PCBs, similar to how http://builder.swillkb.com/ makes plate and http://kb.sized.io/ makes teensy firmware.

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Buzz saws are magical! Since this board only needs 17 pins I was hoping to be able to split the cables I got into two usable halves. The same shop which has the plasma cutter also has an incredible assortment of wood, metal and plastic working tools. I knew a hacksaw would likely mangle the edge, which might leave neither half usable if I screwed up. The band saw gave a perfect edge (thanks to the tech who operated it for me) and only destroyed one pair of pins. This gave me one eighteen pin for this and one twenty pin half for a future board. A little bit of hot glue on the edge to protect it and it was good to go.



One thing I hadn't done while soldering the switches was actually check if stuff was working properly. Enter the multimeter, a hand wired keyboard builder's best friend. With a cable pulled from scrap and then viciously cut in half I decided it would be pertinent to test each wire before I put in the work to solder it to the board. I also checked every row and column on the board. Basically - if you expect current through a wire, test that it's actually connected and connected to where you want.
















With a bit of effort I managed to finish wiring everything. The wires from the ribbon were really thin, so I hot glued their connections so that they wouldn't tear right off. I also put some hot glue where the wire pressed against the diode wires, just in case they might otherwise eventually cut through and cause a short. I'm pretty sure it's not usually good practice to use hot glue as an insulator but whatever. Giant gob of hot glue mounted the head of the ribbon to the board, and bending the pins plus some solder mounted the teensy to the head. The connections to the pins were not strong enough without the solder.

The one thing I noticed way too late was that I had accidentally put the teensy facing the wrong side of the board. Luckily, this is a symmetrical layout and I will never put backlighting in this keyboard so I was able to just flip it. Definitely a mistake to avoid in the final build. This is why we prototype!

After typing a good bit on this and moving some stuff around in the layout I'm really enjoying the board. I definitely need to get a case for it ready. I'll figure out some sort of sandwich case this week. I definitely want to do a clear plastic so I can show off the wiring.

My first custom keyboard! Now for getting serious on the nice, final design.
« Last Edit: Mon, 24 October 2016, 00:49:17 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #21 on: Mon, 24 October 2016, 20:28:37 »
Been typing on it even more, the layout adjustment is even easier than I anticipated.

I bought a sheet of glass to make a backplate out of, since this prototype will become largely for display once I finish my final version. I screwed up cutting the glass down to the right size, so sadly I won't have that done until tomorrow. I'll probably hot glue the board to the glass and then come up with some way to do feet.
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #22 on: Wed, 26 October 2016, 02:23:34 »
Got the glass cut today! Came out really well. Still need to actually attach it as a proper backplate. Got too caught up in plasma cutting new plates, getting help with Rhino to design the case and getting up to speed on 3D printing keycaps.

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Slightly screwed up the angle on a corner but oh well.



Should look about like this once mounted. Had to stick the wood plate under it to prop the board to a flat enough angle so the glass wouldn't slide off.



Grinder gave the bottom edge a nice smoothed out corner, and rounded the corners of the plate.



I've been carrying this board all over the place by wrapping it in packing foam and sticking it in this box. Finally took the time to glue foam in, so I can just drop the keyboard in and be good to go. Box is from a graphics card.

On to the fun part of today - plasma cutting!






Very fun to watch this thing run.








The test plate came out better than I expected! For those not familiar with plasma cutting, it's typically a process meant for much larger scale cutting. The many tight internal corners of a keyboard plate are very tricky. Right out the gate, I had to use a square hole design rather than notched hole. While the CNC machine can move the plasma head with very high accuracy, the head itself can vary. It has a 3mm kerf, or cutting diameter. A laser cutter typically has a .15mm kerf. As you can see, the process also leaves a lot of 'slag' on the bottom, melted metal that stuck around rather than falling off.

What you probably also immediately notice is that the holes are a lot smaller than they should be. It turns out that the plasma cutter planning tool sets lines with a 'male' cutting path. This means that it does its cuts from the inset of the fall away part of the material, at a distance to eliminate the kerf.

I redid the cutting with zero kerf, came out decent but still a touch too small to allow for the switches to fit in. Due to various glitches in the plasma cutter software all my cutting beyond the plate pictured only got a few holes in, so no pictures of it yet. I'm hoping to use a negative kerf setting from swillkb to get a perfectly sized hole. It'll still require a bit of filing on every hole to get it just right, but it's definitely looking more viable than I originally thought.
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Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #23 on: Fri, 28 October 2016, 03:05:27 »
Finally mounted the glass plate today! Glue should be fully set by morning.

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Used a couple of buzz saws to cut very small pegs off a piece of wood. Glued one side to the metal first, let that set for a few hours. I was thinking of trying to get some tilt in the glass but I realized the amount of work to get that just right would be very high, with a high chance of screwing up. I could've put the pegs on symmetrically but with the wiring being asymmetric I like these placements.



Quite possibly the jankiest way to clamp the glue to help it set but it works. Been four hours now and it hasn't moved. Probably going to need some acetone to clean the extra glue off the glass but we'll see how it looks dried. I just hope I aligned it remotely well. The glass itself isn't perfectly rectangular anyways.




And even more exciting - after getting super frustrated with none of six different kerfs working, I finally got the plasma cutter to give me the perfect sized holes! Well, mostly. Turns out the metal I was testing on earlier was 1.6mm, not 1.5. I had just put it next to my 1.5mm plate and it seemed close enough. This meant the clips on the switch never actually got around the metal. I found some proper 1.5mm thick metal, did a couple of kerf and found that right around, probably just under -.2mm on swillkb would get nearly perfect holes. That shinyness on the metal is from using a giant spinning steel bristle brush that goes a few hundred RPM to clear away the slag and burn marks from the holes. However, this process is sadly never going to be good enough for building any mass produced plate since the tolerances are just slightly off, you can't get every hole to properly hold a switch. Still miles better than I was told to expect going in.

There are rumors of a metal laser cutter that the mechanical, aerospace and industrial engineers get access too that I'm chasing down. I'm also sending messages to a few local laser cutting shops to see how expensive they are. Hopefully can get plates cheaper than lasergist, and get them in aluminum.

I also got some good news for the case today, a metal-capable CNC mill at my college that I didn't know about exists. Though it'll still cost a good bit, it'll give me much better turnaround and hopefully be a little cheaper than an online service.

« Last Edit: Fri, 28 October 2016, 13:47:13 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline sinusoid

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #24 on: Fri, 28 October 2016, 08:02:54 »
Thanks for necroing that Apple M0110 thread, that's some sweet ribbon wiring - and so is yours!

re: printed keycaps -  What technology you'll be using to get these made? What material/shape?

Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #25 on: Fri, 28 October 2016, 13:51:18 »
Thanks for necroing that Apple M0110 thread, that's some sweet ribbon wiring - and so is yours!

re: printed keycaps -  What technology you'll be using to get these made? What material/shape?

Thanks!

I knew I was forgetting something in my post, my first couple of 3D printed keys finished yesterday! My college has a ton of 3D printing resources in various machines and materials, trying a few out. I'll have a post up about those soon, I meant to include that last night but my second batch is about to come out of the printer so I'll wait for that then post the results.
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Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #26 on: Fri, 28 October 2016, 16:11:06 »
Started raining again so RIP going in to pick up the 2nd batch of 3D printed caps.

First batch came out decent.

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Looks good from the top, just needs some smoothing.

However...



The printer doesn't handle thin walls well. It made the stem a little too thick, so it doesn't fit on a switch. Trying a different printing technique for the 2nd batch, and will try other printers if that doesn't work.


I also finished getting the glass plate mounted. Came out quite nicely.

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And somewhat unrelated to this project (except for smoothing the 3D caps) I tried to sandblast the legends off some of my FC600m caps. It went...

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Yeah. Turns out industrial sand blasters designed for metal aren't the right sort of tool for this. Did you know sand with enough kinetic energy can induce heat? RIP dreams of blank FC600m. (also rip dreams of non-burnt FC660m caps)
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Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #27 on: Sun, 30 October 2016, 05:03:04 »
I'll be picking up the 2nd batch of 3D printed caps tomorrow, hopefully the tweaks I made helped them come out better. Been reading up on how to smooth parts and I'm hopeful that it'll work out. I have access to several versions of ABS and PLA printers to try if this fails.

Still undecided as to how to add feet to the glass plate handwired build. I'm thinking of some sort of leg that connects to the metal plate, but I'm not sure how viable or sturdy that will be. I might cut another couple of wood pegs and see if I can accurately angle them to put as feet. While the final build is aiming for the highest portability possible this one will be much less so, more of a display item than a travel board. Getting the tilt height just right will be a pain though, with how few rows there are. I may also hold off on this until the final version is done, as the feet will make it difficult to carry with me to show people as an example of what I'm trying to build as I go around pleading for access to the various tools around campus. I'm currently getting tilt by sticking a wrench handle under the back.

Though it's a huge pain to use I've gotten accustomed enough with Kicad's schematic editor to throw some stuff together. Doing the footprints and layout routing next, should be interesting. Everything is logical but painstaking. I also still need to actually figure out what chips I need to control the LEDs. Working towards better understanding of all the firmware software options available. I'm getting a little close to the wire for finishing this design in time to get a PCB ordered, soldered and tested while having room to order another if I made a mistake, as I have a deadline of mid december to finish this project for school credit. Also, the RGB LEDs themselves have yet to come in, which is worrying. I can always just go for SMD but I really wanted to get in-switch LEDs.

The other remaining piece of the puzzle, the case, is starting to come together as well. Turns out an easy way to find smart people is to talk to people hanging out in the fabrication labs. When I first posted about the idea I said that the interlocking mechanism would be one of the two major design obstacles. The key ingredient that I forgot is that magnets don't have to be individual and big to be powerful, you can get good results by having many small ones. The refined design is to take a block of aluminum just a few mm bigger than the plate and just deep enough to hold the switches, hollow it out to drop the switches in, and cut the top edge to have a lip on both sides. The inner lip supports the plate while the outer lip has dozens of tiny holes drilled to glue tiny magnets in. The top half of the case is the inverse of the bottom (with only one lip, as it only has to interlock with the bottom). This should give a good seal to the case while only increasing the dimensions by a few mm. One of the key goals of this board is to remain as small as possible, which isn't possible with a standard sandwich case that adds a ton on each side. Still need to figure out the feet issue though.

I'm also thinking of trying to accommodate one of those magsafe usb ports but we'll see how that goes. Many of them only support power, not data, and most of them have scary reviews of failure. This would require going for a micro rather than mini USB port as the magsafe cables are designed for phones and allowing room on the case for the magsafe adapter tip (and being able to remove it). I should be able to put the USB port high enough that this would be a half oval notch in the case rather than a drilled hole, which helps for easier removal while keeping a pretty case. If successful it would be a nice feature for a portability-focused keyboard.
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #28 on: Sun, 30 October 2016, 21:36:14 »
One of my solder joints broke. Luckily, it was the delete key, which is easy to reach and I can go without until I get in to solder it tomorrow.

I'm thinking of doing another hand wired build (layout TBD, depends who the board will be for) so I can video it as a guide, showing what I learned from the first one. Things like proper wire stripping, wrapping the diode wires, pushing the didoes flat, planning the wires better, general soldering technique, etc.

Two midterms this week on Wednesday, so progress will be slowed until then. Will probably spend another ten hours in Kicad on Thursday. At this point the PCB has to be my top priority, especially since on-campus resources should give me quick turnaround time on the case while the PCB needs at least a week to order out. If I can solder a first PCB version before thanksgiving I can make revisions and order another across the holiday break.
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #29 on: Tue, 01 November 2016, 15:04:57 »
2nd batch of keycaps came out the same as the first :( I'll talk to some people more experienced in 3D printing on how to get the stems to come out better. Will likely need to edit the CAD file.

While talking to some people about the project and the issue of feet that I'm facing with the case, I was informed that good keyboard ergonomics is to actually have the keyboard flat or even tilted away from you. It's all about the angle of the wrists and elbows. I took the tilt out from under the prototype and it's actually really easy to get used to. I've never had issues that I tied directly to my keyboard tilt, but I have had various wrist pains that I thought were from sports.

What I'm thinking now for the case is to not have any feet, and use the sleeve as feet. So for travel you put the tupperware halves of the case together, stick it in the sleeve and go. When you set it up, take it out, put the top half of the case somewhere and the sleeve underneath the keyboard.

The last piece of the case puzzle before doing prototypes is how to do the reset button so I can actually program the thing. That may also just be a software fix, but we'll see.
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #30 on: Sun, 13 November 2016, 20:24:45 »
A lot of Kicad frustrations this past week but at the same time a good bit of success with normal CAD for the case. I've got some work going on the firmware side that I'm excited for, but I won't have a real update on that until after Thanksgiving as most of my software time will be while I'm on "vacation".

I decided to go the full Planck route and get DSA caps for the prototype, and glued some feet on it. At this point, the prototype handwired build is done.

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Though I'm getting comfortable enough with Rhino to get the final 'tupperware' case design finished this week I'm thinking of doing another prototype build using a Planck style case where the plate rests on top of the case. However, as you'll see in a screenshot below the Plank's PCB has a decent bit more padding than it needs. By shrinking the PCB to barely cover what it needs to, I can keep the board as small as possible. The Planck has about 4mm space outside the switch holes. A 0mm padding plate from swilbuilder puts 2mm outside. It's a small difference, but it's something I want to focus on.

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The only thing this design is missing are screw standoffs so that the plate can screw to the case. That'll be something that I determine with the CNC tech when I get this cut, which will hopefully be before Thanksgiving.

This case design requires a micro USB port instead of the standard mini, and it has to be mounted on the topside of the PCB instead of the bottom. Since either USB port is taller than the 1.5mm clearance required below the PCB, mounting it on top of the PCB shaves some height off the board. Switches have a 3.5mm gap between plate and PCB, while a mini USB port is 4mm tall, requiring micro USB.

Also, this will be compatible with most styles of magnetic micro USB cables. Though the reviews were scary, I ordered a few from different sellers and was surprised with how well they worked. One of the three came in defective, so that's a bummer, but the two that work are pretty good. Unfortunately the cables being shipped are different than the pictures that the sellers have up, and all seem to be from the same OEM. While the pictured cables are thinner heads that don't engulf the magnetic head the cables being shipped are much wider heads that wrap around the magnetic tip. This style means that in order for the magnetic tip to be left in and flush with the case there needs to be a slight gap around the hole for the USB port. From what I can tell the failures of these cables come from damage to the magnetic cable head as the springs in the pins fail or get stuck, or in the magnetic tip as users bend them while removing them from devices. Thus, if I design a case right I can safely leave the magnetic tip in permanently as any failures down the line would be in the cable which can be replaced.

At this point with Kicad I'm hoping to get a non-RGB PCB designed and ordered before or early in Thanksgiving break, and get the RGB PCB designed over thanksgiving. Luckily, my current plan for the case design will use the same PCB whether it's just a bottom or a tupperware case.

I've been typing exclusively on this board including a large amount of coding and it's just getting better and better. Signature Plastics screwed up my order originally and didn't send the homing keys. They finally came in a couple of days ago and are definitely required for typing on this board. Unlike normal boards, I decided to put the homing keys on the thumb spots. Placing my thumbs lets me place my index fingers, so it's just as easy to get centered for normal typing, and having the thumbs findable with feeling makes it much easier to find the modifier keys. I'm getting close to not needing any thinking for numbers and most symbols.
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #31 on: Tue, 15 November 2016, 19:59:19 »
I went and folded some metal boxes today to see how viable they'll be as a case. It was luckily pretty easy, the hard part will definitely be getting welds to look clean. Even going quick and dirty with a metal shear and an unbacked finger brake (big machine for bending metal by hand - a back gives you better control of the length of material on each side of the bend) I was able to get a decent box on my first try, and a better one on my second when I actually bothered to measure my cuts.

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Even with very thin sheet the box is quite sturdy. For one offs I should be able to be accurate enough using a bandsaw by hand to cut the corners, and a backed finger brake to fold the sides. It's unclear how well it will scale if I want to make many, but a laser cutter doing the corners (doing many small sheets from a big sheet) and then having the finger brake already set up shouldn't be too bad.

With my CAD file ready, I'm hoping to get a good idea of the viability and pricing of milling a case tomorrow. If it's cheap enough, there's no reason to go for the folded box design.

At this point, I'm ending experiments with 3D printing caps as I focus on more core elements of the build.
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline menuhin

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #32 on: Tue, 15 November 2016, 20:28:07 »
This is an idea that I've been kicking around for almost two years now. With a 4 row, 13 col footprint it falls into the 45% category. I call it a staggered Planck since it holds the same aversion to keys larger than 1u, besides a 2u spacebar. However, the additional column vs the 12 of a Planck/40% allows for a much fuller layout.
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The goal of this layout is for a highly portable board that maintains a typing experience as close as possible to a normal keyboard.

Click 'More' to see pictures!

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The 2u spacebar in the layout picture is actually 2 stems, the idea being that it can be moved as needed. Prototypes will have 2x 1u keys for now. Though I personally type with my right thumb for spacebar, not everyone does. Also, gaming requires the spacebar to be south-east of the wasd (or esdf) cluster. A 1u spacebar is proving much more manageable than I originally though!

More details are given on various subjects in the posts below. I hope to offer as much detail as possible to help others with their own custom builds.

I'm very excited about the project!

The Planck has quite a large following among the keyboard hobbyists, by designing with full compatibility with the existing Planck, everyone who has a Planck housing can just buy your PCB and try your design. With a 13 columns design, you need to market the whole design from the very beginning, competing with every other 40% but not allying with any of them.
You have your design concern, and 13 columns give quite some more leeway for layout; my opinion is more related to strategic concern to push its popularity.

How come you chose to make the modifiers smaller and not use that space? Surely it would make sense to use the biggest size you can if the space is not being used at all.

On a side note, I really like the detailed post and planning you have going here.

How are you going to handle the milled case and also the PCB? Do you have experience in either field?

I think the same way, there can be two 1.25u keys and one 1.75 key and these do not need stabilizers, but optional 1.25u and 1.75u caps of course.
Wishlist: 1) hotswap boards for MX and for Alps; 2) Alps64; 3) Universal Teensy convertor; 3) Quack & Split Planck; 4) Solid cases like TX
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Wishful-list: 1) HASU BT battery lasts a year; 2) ABS Shine-proof/PBT DoubleShot spherical; 3) We order from keyboard-layout-editor.com; 4) Endgame
IBM M13 black
IBM SpaceSaver II
IBM KPD8923 Trackpoint
Choc mini Gateron black
PLUM 84 'Topre-clone' 55g Korean dome
HHKB Pro 2 stock
[typing slowly at ~80WPM, in love with Emacs, and growing in Lisp]

Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #33 on: Wed, 16 November 2016, 20:36:04 »
Thanks for the feedback!

Better compatibility with existing 40% cases is something I'll definitely focus on once I complete this and get to a point where I'm properly considering larger production. For now, this is mostly about learning the process. Once I know the process it will be very easy to change the PCB etc to whatever specs are necessary. On the flipside, if completed I will likely offer this 'tupperware' case design in 12col version to be Planck compatible, since I can imagine the design will be popular with existing 40% users.

A quick off the cuff idea, I could design the PCB in such a way that it would be easy cut a column off allowing it to fit a standard 12 column case.

For the cap sizes, the PCB could have holes for either all 1u or centered 1.25/1.75u keys, both for 12col and 13col. Plates seem to be much easier to get 'bulk' prices so offering the option of any of the four plates shouldn't be hard.

Personally, I like the look of all 1u and haven't had any issues typing on it. I also think that the reduced compatibility issues in acquiring
custom keysets is a big plus when it's all 1u keys. Of course, I do understand that many people will want their boards to be fully covered by caps
« Last Edit: Wed, 16 November 2016, 20:38:21 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #34 on: Wed, 16 November 2016, 21:52:19 »
Another idea I'm considering adding to the case is clip holes so that a plastic outer layer can be clipped onto the case, for further ruggedness and high portability. Very stretch goal of an idea though.
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #35 on: Thu, 17 November 2016, 12:41:23 »
Late last night my car's window was smashed and my laptop bag, with my laptop and this keyboard, stolen.

Though the prototype keyboard isn't crucial for the next stage of development, it was a useful reference for showing people what I'm trying to build.

Development through this crucial next week will sadly be hindered as I have to make do with an ancient, atrocious laptop for now.
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline a-c

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #36 on: Thu, 17 November 2016, 12:54:47 »
That sucks. Makes me think of programming a phone home feature into the firmware. Have it launch the host web browser and then go to a url that can be tracked by ip. Probably won't get your board back but you will know someone is trying to use it and their general location. Probably scare the crap out of them too. Maybe just open the NSA web page.

Offline ndlu2

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #37 on: Thu, 17 November 2016, 13:54:49 »
Since your layout seems to have the same dimensions as the MiniVan, why don't you make a compatible plate and use the milled case for the MiniVan instead? That way, everyone else can make a Slanck by handwiring and getting a custom cut plate.

Offline menuhin

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #38 on: Fri, 18 November 2016, 14:49:46 »
Sorry to hear. I didn't think crime rate is that high in that part of the UK.

Hope this won't hinder you too much to make progress in this project.
Wishlist: 1) hotswap boards for MX and for Alps; 2) Alps64; 3) Universal Teensy convertor; 3) Quack & Split Planck; 4) Solid cases like TX
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Wishful-list: 1) HASU BT battery lasts a year; 2) ABS Shine-proof/PBT DoubleShot spherical; 3) We order from keyboard-layout-editor.com; 4) Endgame
IBM M13 black
IBM SpaceSaver II
IBM KPD8923 Trackpoint
Choc mini Gateron black
PLUM 84 'Topre-clone' 55g Korean dome
HHKB Pro 2 stock
[typing slowly at ~80WPM, in love with Emacs, and growing in Lisp]

Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #39 on: Sat, 19 November 2016, 03:11:04 »
Sorry to hear. I didn't think crime rate is that high in that part of the UK.

Hope this won't hinder you too much to make progress in this project.

Downtown San Francisco, not UK. Very high rate of car break ins, I took a lot of precautions but still got unlucky.

We'll see how things go. I'm comparing it to losing photos of when your children were young - the kid is still going to grow up just fine, but those pictures meant a lot and it sucks to lose them.
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #40 on: Wed, 23 November 2016, 05:52:59 »
And to top it off, I got sick and have been sleeping sixteen hours a day and miserable for the other eight.

Due to the very thin nature of the case I'm considering switching it up so that the plate and walls of the case are CNC'd from a block and then the bottom of the case is screwed on. This solves the issue of attaching the plate to the case. It also helps with the issues of how to properly do the lip for fitting the top case. It does screw with the idea of making plates compatible with other 40-45% boards, but the PCB would remain unchanged so for anyone wanting to just try the layout they can still order a one off plate for ~$37 from lasergist. It also means that I will need a totally different design for creating generic 40/45/60% cases but I can worry about that once I have the case working at all. I'm working on the CAD for this but it's slow going due to current issues.

I'll still be learning how to weld and seeing if the folded cases are passable. I realized that if I do it right I might be able to weld the inside of the corner and grind/sand the outside to make a very clean looking box. Been watching some tutorials but no way to know until I go into the shop and actually get taught to weld. Though CNC'd aluminum should be low enough cost for my one off and even for a production run I think if this technique can work out it will be valuable to keyboard builders looking to make ultra low cost metal cases.

Though existing resources are passable, I'm thinking of making a hand wiring tutorial by remaking the board that was stolen. This will allow me to document all the tricks I learned making the first board and gives a bit more definite output from this project.
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #41 on: Wed, 23 November 2016, 16:53:48 »
Finished the CAD for the new case idea.

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Getting much more comfortable making these basic things in CAD which is proving useful. Still need to do the CAD for the top part of the case but that should be easy. I may need to tweak the dimensions of the top edge a little bit depending how the caps go. However, there shouldn't be any issues. Simple logic; most plates are 5-5.05mm gap between 1u stems,and thus typically have 2.5mm edges. Since keycaps can't overlap, no keycaps should extend beyond this 2.5mm and a top case that drops into the edge pictured in the CAD above should work great.

The other thing that this case design solves is where to put the reset button for programming the board. With a normal case there would need to be a hole for it, with this the removable bottom hides the button.

Figuring out how best to stick the USB port through the case will be something to solve once I have a prototype of the case CNC'd and a PCB in hand. I can always cut holes out of the case, but I can't fill them back in.
« Last Edit: Wed, 23 November 2016, 17:17:33 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #42 on: Fri, 25 November 2016, 00:28:11 »
The other interesting thing that this design allows is that the bottom plate can be almost any material. This gives two big benefits. First, the ultra portable goal of this board means designing it to run into the many dangers of the inside of a backpack - loose keys, pens, prongs of a laptop charger etc. Different materials being available for this large surface area lets the user choose the level of protection rather than only having aluminum available, and they can swap out the plate if something drastic happens that does cause damage. Second, the case becomes much more customizeable.

For a keyboard that sits on a desk and is only moved in a box the material of the case is largely cosmetic. However, aluminum dents and punctures much more easily than steel and making it thicker removes its weight benefits (and doesn't necessarily solve denting issues, and thickness is its own downside). Titanium's main drawback is its cost, but this would be a small enough amount to be a very small cost difference. Carbon fiber can give an incredibly light and thin plate. I'm probably vastly overthinking/overengineering this aspect but it's an interesting thought and certainly still valid from a cosmetic/weight/thickness standpoint. Could even do things like an acrylic plate for underglow.

Coming up with a good method to make the walls of the case (and thus also the top case) will allow for the process to be cheaper, have generic plate compatibility and be useful to other builders who might currently make a sandwich case. Until then, I'll be CNC'ing it out.
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #43 on: Wed, 30 November 2016, 13:32:10 »
Went in and got help looking at the laser cutter today. The process to turn the plate file into a set of machine instructions is much more in depth for this machine than the CNC plasma cutter. I have to take the routing software used for the CNC mill, get its routing code, change all the bit heights to the right distance and add lines to turn the laser and its associated oxygen stream on/off with proper pauses at each cut. Unfortunately I still need information about feed rates (how fast the laser should move) before I can try cutting anything.

I also found out that there's a metal 3d printer available, though the material required to run it is quite expensive. It may prove useful for sealing the edges of a bent metal box. We'll see how that goes. Very little information was available to me yesterday.

I'm considering trying to make a die and punch for the sheet metal box case idea, but I may not have time. Depends on how easily CNC milling cases works, since if that's easily completed I can try other techniques but if it's tricky then I need to spend time on the CNC instead. I need at least one of these case designs to come to fruition and CNC seems like the most likely to, albeit while also being the most expensive. Die and punch means taking a block that's the size of the inside of the box, cutting out a hollow the size of the outside of the box from another block, putting sheet metal (with corners redacted) over the hollow side of the die and punching the sheet metal into the desired box. Combined with the laser cutter doing the corner redactions that would be a fast, accurate method of making box cases.

There's also an electronically measured backed finger brake available apparently, which is good for making the prototype boxes to practice welding techniques. Considering the strength of the boxes I've prototyped so far welding may not even be needed, just sanding the edges. In either case I have a welding lesson set up for "soon." No way to know how things will work til I try them.

After all these delays I'm finally actually going to meet with someone to learn about the viability of CNC this evening.

I've heard rumors of metal punching being a viable option for creating the plate but still need to track down a professor who has knowledge in the subject. I have their office, trying to get there at the same time they're there. One of the also has an impressively cut thick piece of metal as his nameplate which looks like he made it himself, so I'm curious to ask how he did that.

Talking to a couple of people about bursting through kicad issues. We'll see how that goes.
« Last Edit: Wed, 30 November 2016, 16:44:46 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #44 on: Wed, 30 November 2016, 16:40:31 »
Now seems like a good time to also go over layout ideas that I'm considering.

All of the following layouts have legends just as an example of what's a likely layout. Remember that keys like numbers, functions and others can all easily be added in layers, these legends are rather minimal. Remember also that these are fully reprogrammable - I use right thumb space left pinky shift, but someone who prefers differently can swap keys around without issue.

I'm a big fan of all 1u keys, but obviously if providing these layouts for someone else to use they may want a 'filled' layout that uses larger keys to fill in gaps. I'm doing research into how effective it can be to have a plate with a wide hole for the switch, vs having to make different plates for filled vs 1u layouts.

First up, the default slanck layout.

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And filled:



This is what my prototype was and what I'm currently targeting for my designs. Though my designs are targeting this right now it's very easy to tweak what I've learned to work with the other layouts below. The hard part is the learning, not the production.

For the unfortunately brief time I've gotten to use it before it got stolen, the layout was great. Numbers and other things through a layer
are really easy when that layer is accessible with a thumb press without moving your hands.

Though I really like the functionality of having 13 columns available, some people really love their 12 column cases. I call this the 'slanck 12'

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And filled:


This drops the functionality but allows you to fit in existing cases.

On the other hand, some people hate having to constantly use layers to access lesser used keys and want something bigger. I refer to this as the 'slanck extended'.

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Benefits obvious. This is just a slanck with a few more columns and a row tossed on top for numbers.

This doesn't have a filled style because it would take 3x 1.5u and 4x 1.25u keys, more than most keycap sets. At 15.5 columns it's easier to just shave half a column and make it fit a 60% case, which also reduces the number of large keys required to fill it. I call this the 'slanck 60'.

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And filled:


This fits a standard 60% case while giving the slanck feel.

Bonus: A potential for a fancier looking slanck, what I call the 'slanck curved'. With this layout you could round the left and right edges of the case, which might look kinda cool. Definitely something I want to try if I get the CNC milling working.

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Extended:


Unfortunately all my attempts to do this with the slanck extended come out looking a little awkward. It's difficult to do when the staggered columns are diagonal.

This wraps up my current layout ideas surrounding the slanck. If the current tasks for the build fall into place building prototypes of these will be relatively easy.
« Last Edit: Wed, 30 November 2016, 17:30:59 by cribbit »
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #45 on: Wed, 30 November 2016, 20:04:18 »
Turns out the costs of doing a one off for CNC milling are prohibitive. It's viable if I try for 25+ of them but it's not viable to get that many made right now. There are also timeframe issues due to the techs who run it having their own course work and the milling being much more complex than simply hitting play on a CAD file.

However, the good news is that the waterjet which I thought wouldn't be available until next year is available now. It's had issues with breaking down but since no projects are scheduled on it I should be able to easily get time on it.

The waterjet is interesting because it can cut through almost any thickness of metal, but must make each cut all the way through. This means that I can either be cutting plates and using bent metal cases, or cutting all the way through a thick piece and then milling out the hollow, or cutting out a plate with edge padding and then bending down the edges to make a case. So many things to test and so little time.
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #46 on: Fri, 02 December 2016, 13:31:31 »
Waterjet is SUPER INSANE

I cut a bunch of stuff.

Plates for a slanck and a slanck extended!

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With a quick run on a deburring wheel they come out really smooth, even smoother than off a laser cutter.

I also tried to cut some plates with edge padding + redacted corners to bend the sides down as a case.

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Didn't quite work as I wanted. Apparently if you don't have a solid sheet of metal, the bends go at the weakest point. Who could've imagined!

But then...

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Turns out that the plate still works great despite the bend issue.

If I have enough time I may experiment with bending the plate first and waterjetting it after, but it doesn't seem to be worth the time. With the waterjet allowing for much more accurate corner redacting for creating bottom cases it's not needed to go this bent unibody route.

And as the final bit of fun, a 1cm thick steel plate!



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That's a long run time!


It's quite heavy and feels amazing to hold. Going to try manually milling it out. The idea is to mill the inside down to a 1.5mm plate, leaving the walls to act as a case.
I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.


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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #47 on: Fri, 02 December 2016, 16:33:01 »
Holy crap that 1cm steel plate is legendary.  So a one-off CNC is prohibitive in expense, but something like that isn't?  Interesting.  I'm curious to see what something like that ends up being ;)

Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #48 on: Mon, 12 December 2016, 15:53:12 »
Holy crap that 1cm steel plate is legendary.  So a one-off CNC is prohibitive in expense, but something like that isn't?  Interesting.  I'm curious to see what something like that ends up being ;)

The trick is that I'm pre paying for that when I pay tuition to my school.

Will try to write a big update post soon. I hand wired another board, this time in the extended layout. I took video of the whole thing but due to its enormous size (over 100gb) I need to put another ssd in my computer before I can edit it. Writing up a handwiring guide as well, I utilized a few good tricks that I discovered in my first handwiring that I am excited to document. I've been trying out various things on the waterjet but need to get a good source of steel before I can really do much, since there's not much in the way of scrap that I'm allowed to use at this scale. Unfortunately finals are this week, and after this I lose access to student resources.

After talking it over with even more people I'm leaning towards using acrylic walls for the case. This is significantly cheaper, still looks good, holds up to wear / is more easily replaceable, and is much easier to produce. The all metal design has proven to be too much of a pipe dream.
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Offline cribbit

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Re: The Slanck: A custom staggered Planck (first prototype done!)
« Reply #49 on: Sun, 12 February 2017, 12:44:43 »
Graduated school and started work, so between holidays, moving and starting the job I haven't had any time to edit down the video.

Finished product pictures of the 60% layout! The soldering came out much, much cleaner than my first board. I started using a style of making loops in the wire to solder rather than using the diodes as rows like the Brownfox soldering guide. I find that this takes better advantage of the natural surface tension properties of solder, giving stronger, cleaner and easier to make joints.

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And a bonus, I met this little cutie on my way to the lab to solder!

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I typed this post on my Slanck. I also developed a stronger, cleaner, easier handwiring method.