Stabilizers vs Switches

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16 Jun 2020, 19:52

Are stabalizers originally a way to save money on additional switches? Seems like it would have better to simply place a neutered switch or two for the stability.

For cherry mx I'd imagine you just cut the contact legs from the bottom of the additional switches.

The reason we likely can't do that today is that 2u and other key caps aren't made to accommodate that concept? I guess a keycap stem mod could work.


16 Jun 2020, 20:10

No, that's just not how stabs work. They are made to be at the same height on both sides all the time, in other words when you press the keycap on the far left the far right is getting depressed at the same time and rate. This is not the case when you just use additional switches, they can depress independently from another. Therefore they are not a good substitute for stabs.


16 Jun 2020, 21:33

Dummy switches are never as stable as stabiliser bars, no, and when a key is not level, it has binding.
There are many keyboards that have some keys "stabilised" that way that are often widely disliked for their key feel. Apple M0118's and M0116's Return keys and Fujitsu Peerless are some examples.
Also, most "Big-Ass Enter" keys have a stabiliser bar only along one axis and a dummy switch instead of a real stabiliser bar on the opposite axis — which is one reason why people dislike those keys.

Early Model M use stabiliser bars but that was changed to dummy shafts in later keyboards, apparently to save costs. For some reason that was good enough that people don't seem to hate it ...

There are many programmable Point-Of-Sale keyboards with switches in a grid, where a 2u keycap spans two switches. Not only are those wobblier, but there being two springs make such a key harder to press.
Signature Plastics does sell 2u POS keycaps for Cherry MX, in case you'd want to try it out.

BTW, if I were to design a new switch family and key mount, then I would do a hybrid of the two approaches: Use a dummy switch but have the switches designed so that you could attach a stabiliser bar between any two switches. Apparently, Ericsson switches did this.
The benefits are allowing the same parts to support multiple layouts (split key or not split), and without having to allocate additional space for multiple mounts.

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17 Jun 2020, 06:02

The Beamspring often had a dummy switch for the space bar, one real one and one empty at either end. Yet, still had the stabilizer bar. The dummy was a switch that just didn't have some of the internals.

The Model f xt has almost no stabilizers, it gets around this by having very strange stepped keys. Which invite you to not press anywhere except the raised part.

Some switches are much better than others at handling off center presses. Like beamspring and model f.

My only experience with dummy switches is the beamspring, which still has a stabilizer bar. Without the stabilizer, when you press one side, it doesn't pull the other side down. So for long keys you basically need that stabilizer bar.

For not as wide keys, they are better at off center presses, because the press is closer to center. I think it's just easier to stock a few pieces of wire and some standard co-star plastic inserts, versus having a standard switch that is missing some components.

The amount of slack, and flex in a switch like cherry will almost immediately result in a bit of weird twisting/bind if you had something like the right shift key as a switch and a dummy switch. One side goes down, but the other one... you basically are using the keycap itself to stabilize them. Now your stabilizer force is using the cap, the stem etc to make it level.

With a co-star stab or similar, you use the metal plate to flatten it, now you are not using the keycap and stem. This increases contact and friction.

So what I mean is that, a switch and dummy switch stabilizer system still has a stabilizer. It's just the cap. The cap unlike the costar or cherry stab isn't lubed, or able to freely translate movement. It's static nature becomes a weakness.

Most switches are designed to be pressed down. When you design them to resist off axis flex, you suddenly need to introduce collars, or guides etc. For something like an alps press, the further you are from the center down press, the more the uneven rubbing and friction will increase. You could change your switch design to have heavy control and resist the extra friction etc.

Or you can use a piece of wire external. After all, only a few switches would need the extra stability. With the wire using basic standard stabilizer pieces you can use all of the same switch with no differences. No mix ups between real or dummy. Just standard stab inserts, the only difference is the bending on some wire.

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17 Jun 2020, 06:31


Basically what I mean is that some switches have a more favourable inherent design for the stabilizer system you mention. Switches like model f and beamspring have long centered shafts with minimal friction with loads of slack/play.

A switch with tighter tolerances or less wobble will usually result in more rubbing and binding. The model m uses the keycap itself to stabilize but key elements of the switch are already broken up. You can buy the spring flipper and keycap separate etc. It's harder to purchase or manufacture alps switches broken up into pieces.

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