Buckling Spring Recreations?

Thorogrimm

19 May 2020, 04:59

It may not be a surprise to some that there are very few buckling spring keyboards out there aside from the widely known and coveted IBM Model Fs and Ms. But I'm curious as to why, seeing as there don't seem to be any versions of that mechanism today. It's a simple design, surely and not too hard to recreate. I'm gonna just say that there are some mass produced key switches that don't seem to come even close to the feel and the heft of the buckling springs.

Shed some light on this topic please, I'd be curious to find out :)

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funkmon

19 May 2020, 05:40

Weird that you say that because for the first time in decades, this year we have new buckling spring products. And not just one. THREE.

Unicomp is doing a New Model M and a new SSK and Ellipse is shipping new Model Fs.

That of course is in addition to Unicomp's normal offerings. I don't know why they aren't more widespread. I would have assumed that only Unicomp had the rights to it, but if Ellipse is making them then who the hell knows. Expense?
Last edited by funkmon on 20 May 2020, 00:46, edited 1 time in total.

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zrrion

19 May 2020, 06:16

The patent expired on the original design so anyone can make them, no rights required.

That said, the reason you don't see it in modern switches is because the design is taller than you have room for in a cherry compatible switch. New designs have to be as low risk, and the easiest way for them to be low risk is for them to be compatible with the existing MX ecosystem. As I understand it buckling springs are a fine tuned operation and have height requirements that would make them too tall for the existing MX "standard." Deviation from the MX standard involves more upfront tooling cost and a higher barrier to adoption of the switch, which ends up being more risk than manufacturers care to take.

The only folks making non-MX stuff right now are either folks who already had the tooling, were able to crowdfund the startup needed to make the tooling, or are logitech with their romer g switches and I suspect logitech went with romer g because they are cheaper and logitech is a big enough name that they could force romer g to be a thing with market presence through their own existing market presence.
Neither the in production ALPS clones nor Unicomp have a lot of market presence should be a testament to how difficult it is to exist outside of the MX market, Logitech is only able to do it because they're a huge name brand and logitech still isn't doing all that well at it tbh. The exception to this is choc switches which fill a niche that MX can't fill and so the lack of ecosystem compatibility is unavoidable, but even then they still aren't in the same league as MX, its just that they aren't competing with MX. A modern BS switch would be competing though and no one really wants the risk associated with direct competition.

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Redmaus
Gotta start somewhere

19 May 2020, 07:54

zrrion wrote:
19 May 2020, 06:16
The patent expired on the original design so anyone can make them, no rights required.
[...]
but even then they still aren't in the same league as MX, its just that they aren't competing with MX. A modern BS switch would be competing though and no one really wants the risk associated with direct competition.
Pretty much this. Also considering the fact that buckling spring is generally only a specific type of switch. A loud and clicky switch with a static actuation force and weighting. Compare that to MX which can come in the form of tactile and linear as well as clicky.

Even though I consider buckling spring to the the best clicky switch of all time(yes, better than beamspring), its not the most modular of switches. It's also harder to diagnose, because the entire plate and backplate is part of the mechanism holding the switch in place meaning you can't swap around individual switches.

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Muirium
µ

19 May 2020, 11:02

Yup. Manufacturing is expensive. No, really expensive. No, even more than that! How about you add a zero to the number you’re thinking of? Ha! Add another three, cheapskate! And remember it takes more than a single shot to get it right. You’re doing the work several times over, through prototyping to the eventual bug fixes with the final process. It. Is. Rough.

(Read Ellipses’s thread to hear it from the frontline. Wasn’t he even talking about writing a book?)

So with all that in mind, manufacturers are conservative to a fault. Fiddling around with MX is so much less risk for them. And that’s what we get. Because MX is safe, not because it’s good.

A promising new switch type could be our very own Xmit’s modular beamspring. As much as that sounds like a wild solo experiment, it is actually a thing in production, and he has a track record with his previous switches and keyboards. Someone got a link? He launched while I was away, I think. But from what I saw, he was doing it right: modular and MX cap compatibility.

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ddrfraser1

19 May 2020, 14:55

I’m also excited to try the silo beam springs

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XMIT
[ XMIT ]

19 May 2020, 19:31

You rang?

The manufacturer of my boards went out of business. So to make a new offering I need to start from scratch. It's a chance to get a lot of things right! But don't hold your breath...

Thorogrimm

19 May 2020, 19:32

zrrion wrote:
19 May 2020, 06:16
The patent expired on the original design so anyone can make them, no rights required.

That said, the reason you don't see it in modern switches is because the design is taller than you have room for in a cherry compatible switch. New designs have to be as low risk, and the easiest way for them to be low risk is for them to be compatible with the existing MX ecosystem. As I understand it buckling springs are a fine tuned operation and have height requirements that would make them too tall for the existing MX "standard." Deviation from the MX standard involves more upfront tooling cost and a higher barrier to adoption of the switch, which ends up being more risk than manufacturers care to take.

The only folks making non-MX stuff right now are either folks who already had the tooling, were able to crowdfund the startup needed to make the tooling, or are logitech with their romer g switches and I suspect logitech went with romer g because they are cheaper and logitech is a big enough name that they could force romer g to be a thing with market presence through their own existing market presence.
Neither the in production ALPS clones nor Unicomp have a lot of market presence should be a testament to how difficult it is to exist outside of the MX market, Logitech is only able to do it because they're a huge name brand and logitech still isn't doing all that well at it tbh. The exception to this is choc switches which fill a niche that MX can't fill and so the lack of ecosystem compatibility is unavoidable, but even then they still aren't in the same league as MX, its just that they aren't competing with MX. A modern BS switch would be competing though and no one really wants the risk associated with direct competition.
It's a shame cherry is the standard, their switches feel awful. To be honest, I reckon some manufacturer could get away with it. Worst case, they'd probably have to shrink down the design of the beams and fine tune the springs. Even then, I still think someone could get away with having them that tall. It's not like a lot of keyboards nowadays are innocent of having chunky designs with deep housings.

I do think the crowdfunding would defintitely be a hurdle to surpass, though. I don't doubt that the keyboard community would have any problem chipping in since I see a lot of people admiring (even worshipping) the old IBMs.

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zrrion

19 May 2020, 22:17

While you could shrink the design I think making the switch shorter requires making the spring stiffer, which would be undesirable. I'm not a spring doctor though so don't quote me on that

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funkmon

20 May 2020, 00:47

XMIT wrote:
19 May 2020, 19:31
You rang?

The manufacturer of my boards went out of business. So to make a new offering I need to start from scratch. It's a chance to get a lot of things right! But don't hold your breath...
Well, let's crowd fund it. I have faith in you!

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XMIT
[ XMIT ]

21 May 2020, 17:48

funkmon wrote:
20 May 2020, 00:47
XMIT wrote:
19 May 2020, 19:31
You rang?

The manufacturer of my boards went out of business. So to make a new offering I need to start from scratch. It's a chance to get a lot of things right! But don't hold your breath...
Well, let's crowd fund it. I have faith in you!
That's very kind. Let me get a design and a working prototype together and we'll see how things go.

The hallways of the DT archives are littered with the bodies of failed and abandoned projects. rsbseb's SBS key caps, lot_lizard's Model F boards, phosphorglow's Colossus and the recent Alps SKCM Blue work by abrahamstechnology are the ones I can rattle off from the top of my head. The successes are fewer and further between: Ellipse's F62/F77, some of the I:C offerings, Chyros's video reviews. It takes time, dedication, consistency, and grit as much as luck and money to get these things going.

But you're right, I should stop making excuses and start making keyboards, it's been long enough.

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ddrfraser1

21 May 2020, 21:56

XMIT wrote:
21 May 2020, 17:48
funkmon wrote:
20 May 2020, 00:47
XMIT wrote:
19 May 2020, 19:31
You rang?

The manufacturer of my boards went out of business. So to make a new offering I need to start from scratch. It's a chance to get a lot of things right! But don't hold your breath...
Well, let's crowd fund it. I have faith in you!
That's very kind. Let me get a design and a working prototype together and we'll see how things go.

The hallways of the DT archives are littered with the bodies of failed and abandoned projects. rsbseb's SBS key caps, lot_lizard's Model F boards, phosphorglow's Colossus and the recent Alps SKCM Blue work by abrahamstechnology are the ones I can rattle off from the top of my head. The successes are fewer and further between: Ellipse's F62/F77, some of the I:C offerings, Chyros's video reviews. It takes time, dedication, consistency, and grit as much as luck and money to get these things going.

But you're right, I should stop making excuses and start making keyboards, it's been long enough.
Noble company. Each success builds on such failures. As master Yoda said, "the greatest teacher, failure is." I think Edison would agree :)

It could be great to start a thread to compile all stalled or failed projects. It could spark new enthusiasm, perhaps other may come out of the wood work to carry the torch.

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