Designing a custom Topre board

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hbar

21 Jul 2016, 08:02

Another capacitor of 0402 size? :)

Seriously, what have you done to your Novatouch? I destroyed one myself by removing all the Topre key goodness from it, but the electronics is still in good shape, including C15.

RichardinFinland

22 Jul 2016, 15:31

There's lots of different values in the 0402 size :(

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b4d_tR1p

22 Jul 2016, 16:33

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damko

03 Aug 2016, 10:44

Lately I'm too busy to follow up with everything but I really would like to know if there is any update for this cool project.

chiefroastbeef

09 Aug 2016, 12:01

I also made an account just to say how amazing that looks. It looks like an industrial design master piece, a keyboard that would be on the desk of Tony Starck.

If it ever becomes reality, I'd love to down/build one.
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RichardinFinland

11 Aug 2016, 02:14

Soldering directly over where the C15 part used to be didn't work :*(

attheicearcade

18 Aug 2016, 09:55

RichardinFinland wrote: Soldering directly over where the C15 part used to be didn't work :*(
You don't happen to have an ANSI type novatouch (one without the L shaped enter key)? I'm on the lookout for one. If anyone else lurking is looking to get rid of theirs I will happily take it off your hands 8-)

Updates:
The design has been changed slightly for easier assembly and I'm working with a manufacturer to get the price of the "plate" down. Going with some sort of matte black powder coat finish. I don't have much to share really at the moment, except for renders

Image

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hbar

18 Aug 2016, 10:05

Why ANSI? Unless you need the PCB, ISO gives you more springs, domes, and 1u barrels. Or is it the stabilizers you're after? (Or the crappy keycaps?) I have a butchered ISO Novatouch, so if I finally get my electronics to work, I can send you some of the parts I don't need (all except springs, domes, or 1u barrels). But not yet...

How's your electronics coming? Life forced me to stop working on that front for a while, hope to resume soon.

attheicearcade

18 Aug 2016, 11:20

ANSI gives 4x 2u stabilised switches, ISO variant only has 3x. I'm using them for the thumb keys (or at least, that is the current plan). Maybe I don't need them. Actually, it might be better without them since it wouldn't require a new novatouch for every keyboard (if I were to eventually sell the parts for these). I haven't really put too much thought into it... perhaps should have done before I sold my ISO one.

Electronics is paused until I get hold of the metal parts, I need to finish the controller PCB layout though. Have some components on order but that's largely pointless until the PCB is done. I got to the stage on the breadboard where the sensing method seemed robust enough, and it should be simple to move to the full layout. Firmware needs work, but that is for after the controller PCB is done. I imagine I will have a few headaches with it, I've never done this before, I want to go with teensy 3.2 MCU and bootloader on my own PCB which should make it simple. I think it's necessary that people can modify and reflash the firmware easily (especially with me writing it) and teensyduino allows this.

attheicearcade

27 Aug 2016, 14:45

Decided to just go with a full teensy on each side. It's expensive, but it makes the controller easy for DIY assembly because you don't need to use tiny components.

Left hand side controller board:
Image

Right hand is similar. Have ordered a set of prototypes, should be here in a few weeks.

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hbar

27 Aug 2016, 15:23

Gosh, that looks good. I'm sure, though, that those capacitive pads aren't the real keys: do you use them as a reference or something?

Some advice concerning the Teensies: I strongly recommend that you releave stress on the USB connector from the cable. After the USB receptacle broke off on my keyboard for the first time, I got some of those short (10cm or so) USB extension cables you can grab for a couple of quid. The male end plugs into the controller, the female end is tied to the chassis/frame/whatever to keep it still. I've used this technique on a few PS/2-USB conversions and it works like a charm.

If you don't do this, at least be sure to place the Teensy in a socket (rather than soldering directly to the board) because you WILL break the USB connector, it's just a matter of time.

attheicearcade

27 Aug 2016, 15:36

The pads are the thumb cluster keys. It is a 4-layer PCB so they are shielded by the ground layer from digital traces. No reference, I haven't found it necessary so far.

Yes I was planning on getting a short USB cable for that reason, and the teensy will be sitting in a pair of smd sockets: http://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/pcb-sockets/7655430/.

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cookie

31 Aug 2016, 09:01

I am just wondering what OPs profession is, the results, renderings and quite everything else looks well thought out and done excellent. While I am filling gaps with putty in my HHKB Pro1 and preparing for a new paint job this guy is coming up with this. I feel like a caveman compared to this :D

I seriously hope this is going to work out! In case it does, we Topre snobs will finally have something like the ErgoDox!

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d3coy

01 Sep 2016, 05:38

Agreed; this is a fantastic project. I love your design sensibilities, OP. Also, as a Kinesis user, I really appreciate the true ergo approach you're taking here with the key wells.

milson1

01 Sep 2016, 15:05

This is an amazing project and the true Holy grail of the keyboard path.

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pattulus

01 Sep 2016, 15:15

I would sell my firstborn if I can get my hands on the finished product. All hail the ErgoAdvantox.

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cookie

01 Sep 2016, 17:07

pattulus wrote: I would sell my firstborn if I can get my hands on the finished product. All hail the ErgoAdvantox.
What I find sad ist that a firstborn is probably easier to make than this keyboard!

milson1

01 Sep 2016, 19:10

Could you modifiy the cutouts for the switches to fit Cherry mx Switches? and make the files available on github?
I really like how every column can be adjusted thats a great idea.

ischeinfeld

01 Sep 2016, 23:59

I'd be interested in purchasing the "case"/kit, if that's still something you're considering. It's awesome!

Edit: Either Topre or MX.

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Thumper
knock knock

02 Sep 2016, 08:11

If you make this a GB, my wallet will cry.

hoggy

02 Sep 2016, 20:27

Same here, but I'd still buy it.

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Thumper
knock knock

02 Sep 2016, 22:27

hoggy wrote:Same here, but I'd still buy it.
I never said I won't buy it ;)

attheicearcade

05 Sep 2016, 19:44

Thanks for all the support :)

With some of the changes to the design I realised that the switch housings can be rotated 90 deg, meaning that a Novatouch is not necessary - any Topre keyboard with discreet housings and enough keys will do. Advantage of using a Realforce would be potential of 55g domes and good keycaps. Probably would still need some MX sliders for the thumb keys, wait for Topre's move. Clones might be viable too if the housings are the same dimension, has anyone taken one of these apart?

cookie wrote: I am just wondering what OPs profession is, the results, renderings and quite everything else looks well thought out and done excellent. While I am filling gaps with putty in my HHKB Pro1 and preparing for a new paint job this guy is coming up with this. I feel like a caveman compared to this :D
Just completed a BSc in physics, but I used to work for a subcon mill/turn machine shop.
milson1 wrote: Could you modifiy the cutouts for the switches to fit Cherry mx Switches? and make the files available on github?
Cherry MX switches fit and clip into the holes, but they can wiggle slightly - long side of hole is 14.6 mm, short side is 13.9 mm - which in the redesign would mean the switches have 0.6 mm of wiggle room. I don't think they'd move under typing though.
The model files or drawings for the metal parts will not be released as open source unless: 1. I deem it cost prohibitive for me to make and sell or 2. After a number of batches I decide to stop making it.
With the high cost of producing one off parts there isn't really any point of having the files. If my electronics all work okay I want that to be fully open source, and produce some sort of guide on designing a Topre compatible PCB. There are some others who have been working on this though - I know at least hbar and hasu.

attheicearcade

10 Sep 2016, 10:07

Managed to solder the boards this morning, found I had made an error in the SMD socket pads for the teensy, see if you can spot the problem:

Image
Please forgive the messy soldering, it's my first time doing SMD
Image

Shifting the socket one pin over fixes it, and fortunately the pin that is now left hanging is just the LED pin from the teensy.
Later I will find out if there are any more subtle issues 8-)

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matt3o
-[°_°]-

10 Sep 2016, 10:48

attheicearcade wrote: Managed to solder the boards this morning, found I had made an error in the SMD socket pads for the teensy, see if you can spot the problem:
whops! don't worry it happens to me all the F times! :D

pomk

10 Sep 2016, 11:17

attheicearcade wrote: Later I will find out if there are any more subtle issues 8-)
There seems to be a solder bridge on some of the ICs pins in the bottom left picture.

attheicearcade

11 Sep 2016, 19:40

matt3o wrote: whops! don't worry it happens to me all the F times! :D
That's good to know :lol:
pomk wrote: There seems to be a solder bridge on some of the ICs pins in the bottom left picture.
That's an exposed pad where I accidentally scraped off the mask! Fortunately those pins are all tied to ground.

Some debugging later and I have two fully functional (as far as I can currently tell) boards. A couple of cold solder joints, but surprisingly it has gone quite well, except for one issue.
Image
Apologies for terrible photo
I put one of the resistors (R2) on the wrong net of the amplifier circuit! Must have happened while mindlessly transcribing from Eagle to KiCad. Can't believe I didn't spot it during PCB layout though, a 270 ohm resistor going straight to ground from the analog read line. Conveniently it can be stuck between two of the op amp legs.

Tom P.

22 Sep 2016, 03:45

Like some others, I registered just to say you're doing excellent work.

The electronics research you and others have done is sound, and I'm happy to see so much real research and development in the community!

Your case design is excellent. It's one of the best examples of industrial design I've ever seen, and its adjustability solves the problems of existing ergonomic keyboards: the Law of Averages. Even if you create something perfect for the average hand, you find that everyone has some degree of trouble with it because no hand is truly average (see https://www.thestar.com/news/insight/20 ... rages.html for great examples).

You've even taken it upon yourself to write firmware that takes advantage of the capacitive switches.

Even your renders are beautiful.

You aren't compromising anywhere.

And you've done this so quickly! You know how to get things done.

I will build or buy one of your keyboards, and I've been bouncing up and down since I discovered your project, but I have a question in light of the recent news:

How will the discontinuation of the NovaTouch TKL affect the project? The NovaTouch provided good (if not great) Topre switches for a high (but not sky-high) price, with the bonus of MX compatibility (a must for me and others with beloved MX keycap collections). Will the Topre clones like Plum's be good enough, or will you more heavily consider making the changes to support MX-like switches? Should those of us on-board snatch up the remaining barebones NovaTouch TKLs, or have your plans changed?

Also, in general, how can we support you?

attheicearcade

22 Sep 2016, 10:49

Thanks for the kind comments, but please don't get too excited, I haven't even built the prototype yet! There could be big problems still to overcome. There is certainly a lot of work to do.
Tom P. wrote: How will the discontinuation of the NovaTouch TKL affect the project? The NovaTouch provided good (if not great) Topre switches for a high (but not sky-high) price, with the bonus of MX compatibility (a must for me and others with beloved MX keycap collections). Will the Topre clones like Plum's be good enough, or will you more heavily consider making the changes to support MX-like switches? Should those of us on-board snatch up the remaining barebones NovaTouch TKLs, or have your plans changed?
I modified the design very slightly in light of this news, which should allow the use of any discreet housing topre keyboard to be used. If a realforce is used, most of the keycaps can also be used (on finger sections) but you'd need a few MX sliders and caps for the thumb keys - we will have to wait and see what pops up in this area. I know the RGB realforce has MX sliders so that might be a good route, but this keyboard won't support LEDs (I can't stand them). Clones should be okay because I think the housings are 14 x 14 mm. (topre are slightly rectangular at 14 x 14.6 mm). With cherry type switches, they will fit but might wiggle slightly from side to side, but it remains to be seen. Don't go buying a Novatouch for this just yet, I'm sure there will be enough second hand ones to go around.
Also, in general, how can we support you?
Keep your fingers crossed :lol:

Tom P.

22 Sep 2016, 18:28

Thanks for the info! You (might) have just prevented a NovaTouch Barebones panic buy; now I'll have to test out simple mods to get different sets of MX keycaps into "real" Topre switches' sliders with good stability.
[...]please don't get too excited[...]
I, for one, will not be stopped from hanging on your every word while you're making real progress on something this cool.

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