Reproducing Alps Keycaps (IC)

treeleaf64

23 Jan 2020, 02:22

Hi, not sure where to post this as I am new to Deskthority (I spend a lot of time on Geekhack).

I am interested in making reasonably thick Alps dyesubs. I don't think Tai-Hao quality should be the standard, nor should people be satisfied with Signature Plastics. My keycaps will look presentable on modern Alps builds, while still being able to look good with vintage boards.

I need to check if any of you are interested in such a product. I am planning to start with two basic sets, black on beige (since most vintage boards are beige instead of white), and white on grey.

I am very new to keycap design, and I will need some help to further my vision. Please send me a PM here or on Geekhack; my username is the same on both platforms (treeleaf64).

Best wishes,
treeleaf64
Last edited by treeleaf64 on 23 Jan 2020, 18:43, edited 1 time in total.

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Man_In_Blue

23 Jan 2020, 02:24

I am happy to work on talking with manus. Signature plastics does still have alps molds.

treeleaf64

23 Jan 2020, 02:26

Thank you for the support! If you have any tips, please let me know. I'm a total noob. :D

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TheInverseKey

23 Jan 2020, 03:02

Just some questions:
What profile would you do?
What stabs are you going to use for all caps?

treeleaf64

23 Jan 2020, 03:34

AT101 Alps profile. For stabs, MX mount/Matias are probably the best option. I will have to do more research on that, and ask around to see if there are any other choices.

Edit: Alps mount looks like the way to go. It will have to be determined by where the keycaps go, and if they are going to be added to modern or vintage boards.

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Elrick

23 Jan 2020, 03:56

treeleaf64 wrote:
23 Jan 2020, 03:34
AT101 Alps profile. For stabs, MX mount/Matias are probably the best option. I will have to do more research on that, and ask around to see if there are any other choices.

Edit: Alps mount looks like the way to go. It will have to be determined by where the keycaps go, and if they are going to be added to modern or vintage boards.
This why the Alps phenomenon had disappeared and now all Keyboard's come with Cherry MX fittings.

Hence most key-cap manufacturer's design this style for most keyboard's currently available. Sad to see that the Alps keyboard has been buried under 10 feet of ignorance and deplorable lust for Cherry MX styles.

Even I have now invested more into the Cherry MX craze rather than with any other keyboard switch design. Mainly due to having open access to far more switch diversity within the MX realm.

treeleaf64

23 Jan 2020, 04:09

It's going to be a pain to make Alps profile. I've got to go with whatever's available. I can't skimp on looks, especially because there are so many different Alps boards. One aesthetic will not fit all keyboards.

I agree with you that Cherry MX dominates the keycap market, but this is due to keyboard manufacturers overwhelmingly preferring it over other switches. It isn't an overnight thing either, it happened over decades.

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Man_In_Blue

23 Jan 2020, 05:02

From my understanding, Alps profile is extremely similar to OEM, just slightly taller. I think the best bet would be DCS, as those molds still exist and are quite common. Tai Hao was a common OEM for keycaps back in the 80s, as Focus, Chicony, and Strongman used them.

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//gainsborough
ALPSの日常

23 Jan 2020, 05:19

DCS is pretty thin, isn't it?

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Guchay

23 Jan 2020, 05:26

//gainsborough wrote:
23 Jan 2020, 05:19
DCS is pretty thin, isn't it?
Yep, even thinner than Tai Hao keycaps. And don't get me started on how terrible the legends are, at least for Alps Throwback. The mod legends were thinner than the alphas, they used serif for the I key but nothing else, and different size/misaligned borders depending on which key it is.

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zrrion

23 Jan 2020, 05:47

pie in the sky would be to get SA or DSS caps in ALPS mount.

anmq91

23 Jan 2020, 15:59

Would be interested in them for sure. There is massive scarcity in the market for a variety of Alps caps. Maybe start an IC on Reddit MK as well?

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pdc

23 Jan 2020, 16:32

For an old-timey-looking spherical high-profile set I quite like the idea of MT3 profile. Matt3o prototypes this via 3D printing and might have some ideas of how this might be adapted to ALPS mount

That said, I don't know to what extent the designs are his to share, and the fact that (Mass)Drop probably won't think they can sell enough to make an ALPS set worth developing might be a blocker.

treeleaf64

23 Jan 2020, 17:49

anmq91, I wanted to start here because there are many Alps users on Deskthority. Right now, I'm just seeing if there is demand for Alps keycaps (apparently, there is).

It depends what profile you guys want. In my opinion, no matter what profile one uses, the keycaps have to be reasonably thick, with good quality legends.

OEM profile sounds good, if there are molds for it.

treeleaf64

23 Jan 2020, 18:49

Hi all,

Unless I'm going to continually produce Alps keycaps, I will have to switch the material to dye sub PBT. This is so that production costs don't outweigh the demand. Instead of the white on gray, I will need to use something like black on light gray. I have changed the description of my initial post to read "dyesub" instead of "doubleshot".

Thank you all for your support.

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abrahamstechnology

23 Jan 2020, 19:56

Why not just get Tai-Hao to produce a vintage grey Alps set? It's a bit overkill to want thick Alps keycaps when we barely have any at all.

treeleaf64

23 Jan 2020, 21:37

I see your point. I want to make quality available to everyone, but most of all, I want to save those nice SGI boards from being harvested for keycaps. :(

mcmaxmcmc

23 Jan 2020, 22:04

abrahamstechnology wrote:
23 Jan 2020, 19:56
Why not just get Tai-Hao to produce a vintage grey Alps set? It's a bit overkill to want thick Alps keycaps when we barely have any at all.
Nobody wants thin keycals. 'nuff said. You won't appeal to the market otherwise.

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Polecat

24 Jan 2020, 03:23

Most important to me (and admittedly I'm not a good consumer...) is which keyboard(s) they'd work on? How about something for Northgates? I've got more than a dozen of those in various shades of yellow.

Personally I'm fine with Tai Hao profile and thickness. Got to be double shots. For color something that won't turn yellow. And cash only when they're in hand; I won't ever do a group buy again. Sorry if that makes me a pain in the ass, but I'm through playing millennial shell games.

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ZedTheMan

24 Jan 2020, 05:59

I'm seconding Polecat here, even with omnikeys nowadays. (I found a few good deals recently, haha)

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E3E

24 Jan 2020, 06:20

Bold to say that thick caps are overkill when the one saying it wants to recreate blue alps with no prior experience or even attempting something less ambitious.

I'd say go for thick caps. If he can shoot for blues, you can do what you want to do.

Thick all the way.

andrewjoy

24 Jan 2020, 11:20

treeleaf64 wrote:
23 Jan 2020, 03:34
AT101 Alps profile. For stabs, MX mount/Matias are probably the best option. I will have to do more research on that, and ask around to see if there are any other choices.

Edit: Alps mount looks like the way to go. It will have to be determined by where the keycaps go, and if they are going to be added to modern or vintage boards.
May be worth adding a "repair kit" as an option so someone can use SGI key caps but have a new bottom row to make it work on a Dell with winkyes !

treeleaf64

24 Jan 2020, 18:04

OK guys, Melissa from SP sent me an email saying they only sublimate on DCS profile, and they only do custom orders at the moment. I sent her an email back asking if it was possible to produce thicker keycaps. I'll let you all know if I get a response.

Since I'm not the best at designing things, if any of you are familiar with keycap design and would like to lend a hand, please let me know.

treeleaf64

24 Jan 2020, 18:09

Polecat wrote:
24 Jan 2020, 03:23
Most important to me (and admittedly I'm not a good consumer...) is which keyboard(s) they'd work on? How about something for Northgates? I've got more than a dozen of those in various shades of yellow.

Personally I'm fine with Tai Hao profile and thickness. Got to be double shots. For color something that won't turn yellow. And cash only when they're in hand; I won't ever do a group buy again. Sorry if that makes me a pain in the ass, but I'm through playing millennial shell games.
Group buys are less expensive than around-the-clock production, plus double shots are way more expensive than dye-subs in small quantities. I don't have the funding for all of that. Plus, I have to figure out how to do an Alps stab mount spacebar since nobody makes them anymore.

treeleaf64

24 Jan 2020, 18:40

Update: SP will need new tooling to produce thicker keycaps. Unfortunately, that will be "somewhere in the neighborhood of $100k". I will need to see if there are other manus willing to produce keycaps.

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abrahamstechnology

25 Jan 2020, 00:52

E3E wrote:
24 Jan 2020, 06:20
Bold to say that thick caps are overkill when the one saying it wants to recreate blue alps with no prior experience or even attempting something less ambitious.

I'd say go for thick caps. If he can shoot for blues, you can do what you want to do.

Thick all the way.
Because moulds are expensive. My project only needs 3-4 moulds while new keycap tooling will need anywhere from 13-100+ different moulds depending on what kind of printing method is being used.

Don't forget that Tai-Hao more than likely has all their old keycap moulds from the Alps glory days.

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Polecat

25 Jan 2020, 03:36

treeleaf64 wrote:
24 Jan 2020, 18:09

Group buys are less expensive than around-the-clock production, plus double shots are way more expensive than dye-subs in small quantities. I don't have the funding for all of that. Plus, I have to figure out how to do an Alps stab mount spacebar since nobody makes them anymore.
Understood on the double shots. Maybe some day...

There is another option on the production/funding, which is that the person (or company) that stands to profit puts up their own money. There's a thought! But, alas, modern (millennial) business practice only allows risking someone else's money. Piss on that, but as I said I'm a poor consumer and my opinion doesn't (and shouldn't) count.

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zrrion

25 Jan 2020, 03:39

collective bargaining is way easier to come by than benevolent rich folks

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Polecat

25 Jan 2020, 03:46

zrrion wrote:
25 Jan 2020, 03:39
collective bargaining is way easier to come by than benevolent rick folks
In the old days if you couldn't swing it yourself you used investors (and cut them in on the profits, of course). Profit with no risk sounds too good to be true, so I guess it has to work. Except when the deal goes bad, that is, and guess who loses then?

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E3E

25 Jan 2020, 04:13

abrahamstechnology wrote:
25 Jan 2020, 00:52
Because moulds are expensive. My project only needs 3-4 moulds while new keycap tooling will need anywhere from 13-100+ different moulds depending on what kind of printing method is being used.

Don't forget that Tai-Hao more than likely has all their old keycap moulds from the Alps glory days.
I did email Tai-Hao before regarding this. They don't have the molds or tooling to their old TH and other cap styles, unfortunately.

Give or take, I can count around 16 molds for dyesubs that'd cover general ISO/ANSI layouts. Yes, for doubleshots, it would be more difficult; PBT dyesubs would require far fewer molds. When it comes to OG keycaps, PBT is often very highly-regarded and in demand more than ABS doubleshots due to the resilience of the material against shine, yellowing, and its dry feel.

As he says, he's planning on making dyesubs, which means it won't be as complicated as it would be with doubleshots.

That said, who knows if either your endeavor or his will get off the ground. Let's hope.

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