My New PCB’s will be here today! DHL shipping is expensive, but great when you need stuff quickly!
What this means – I should have general stock next week.
Timeline – I’ll get a test board built up this week. if that works, I’ll email out everyone who expressed an interest.
I’ll get everything kitted up through the week (time permitting) so I can get some posted this weekend.
The rest of the weekend will be spent kitting up everything I have so I can start selling again.
Sorry for the delay guys (and gals). Been a perfect storm of wrong components sent, big customs delays, non-functional PCB’s. I thought the ‘march’ timeline was generous and had plenty of padding in for worst case.
For general availability, i’ll be reviewing the price. Most things have gone up by over 20% in general (Brexit, Yaay), some have come down, and i’ve made some optimisations. These projects aren’t a get rich quick scheme for me, they’re just a way for me to get funds together to buy more tools and things to make more projects! It’s pretty much a cost neutral hobby 😛
One final update – Keycaps. I’ve started manufacturing and at the time of typing, I have sent out a few test items to kit owners. I’ll await some feedback before I can hit ‘go’ and make more.
Those are just some of the prints i’ve had to do to get to where I am now. This isn’t representative of the typical resin printing workflow. its generally a bit easier than this, BUT, I had to start from scratch, learning how to do everything, including stuff that hasn’t been done by others. AND I needed the base level print to be ‘perfect’ to avoid the need to paint them. There’s over 80 hours of actual printing time in this picture, on top of that, there’s the cleanup time, CAD time, setup time….these are the ‘successful’ failures, there’s almost as much again that i’ve binned due to total failures, where keycaps were unusuable for anything, not even experiments (as these ones have been used for). fortunatley most of those failures were caught early to avoid too much wasted resin….but when I get only 1 chance in the evenings on some days to quickly iterate, get the printer going, 1 failure can set me back a few days.
Anyways, now i’ve finalised everything……..
I’ve used an entire bottle of resin over the last couple of weeks making test manufacturing prints back to back to tune the process, changing nothing, just print, print, print… By that, I mean, it’s…
Remove Print, clean up
top up resin
Cure cleaned up print
repeat until bottle is empty
I’m now at about 70% success rate for good saleable keycaps. the other 20% have minor blotches or surface uniformity issues, so i’ll sell those discounted for those that are interested. I’m still getting about 1 in 1o that can’t be used in any way.
Good enough, and i’m sure i’ll get better as time goes on. Each print takes 6.5 hours – slow, but reliable and a 25uM layer height so about as good as it gets on resin printing for surface finish.
Each print also takes another 30 minutes or so to ‘turn around’ –
Remove from bed
set printer up again to print the next item
clean print (1 minute soak in IPA, then 5 minutes in ultrasonic bath then another couple of minutes under a warm running tap)
Dry Print – This is critical to good finishes. Some are taking up to 3 days, overnight in cardboard boxes near the radiator. I need to do a few checks in that time to ‘dab off’ excess moisture that leeches out of the print. Any moisture left on the tops of the keycaps alters the surface finish.
Cure print – this takes time also. I’ve found using UV lights (wash and cure station) warps the keys more often than not. Once the caps are dry, I leave them a couple of days in the conservatory. After that, i’ll blast them for a few minutes under UV light to finish the curing
Then it’s pack them up ready for posting!
And, Pack some up, ready for posting I have! I’ve done a mix of ‘on the supports’ and ‘loose in bags’ to see how these things go. I’ve posted a couple to myself via friends overseas to see if they survive!. once I know what i’m doing is working, I’ll make them available for sale!
8 sets of keycaps ready to go, waiting feedback from testers before I can ship!
Arduino’s are still stuck in Limbo. I received 50 incorrect ones a long while back, ordered another 50 and they’ve been stuck somewhere in the UK for a couple of weeks now. I did order 10 locally at about 2x the price I normally pay to work through some of the waiting list, but that exhaused my supply of PCB’s
So, I ordered back at the beginning of February some more PCB’s
They arrived yesterday, and, I quickly soldered one up to test, so I can start ‘kitting up’ the keyboard kits.
I may have discovered an issue with the way that i’m Using EASYEDA, which has recently shown up in an EASYEDA update….it could be a bug, or a behaviour change, but, it’s B0rked my PCB!
This will set back the kit availability a couple of weeks whilst I address it and get new boards made. I know what the issue is, I can re-create it and have a work around to order more PCB’s so it’s no major worry
Here’s the C64 Keybaord matrix that i’m using. I’ve always used number prefixes for the number keys. i.e. if it’s A, I’ve used the PREFIX A, 1, Prefix 1, etc , etc.
Something changed in EASYEDA a couple of months ago which now means that Prefixes with a single digit number now all seem to tie their nets together.
Here’s the resulting PCB – Note, the nets for the centre pins are all the same!
I didn’t spot this in the one that I just had made! and despite the thoroughly heroic efforts of the JLCPCB staff to fix a couple of cockups i’d made , I have to now trash this batch .
Ah well, off to learn a little more about EASYEDA, quite an expensive mistake though, but this shows why, when you make changes, testing is important.
You can imagine how amused I was when I discovered that EVERY key worked on my board, except the number keys, which only typed 0 or 9 !
In other news – I purchased one of these
An Ultrasonic Cleaner – Dual Frequency 28KHz and 40KHz. I’ll do another post about it later.
All i can say now is WOW – No need for the wash and cure station now! – this thing superbly and consistently cleans the prints, giving a good surface finish. Prior to this, it was impossible to get a good finish on every key, every time. Now, i’m 4 prints in , and 3 are perfect, 1 is crap due to over-cleaning! I’m dialled in and ready for production
Happy chappy this morning. They finished printing last night, my draining widget worked a treat – I’ll put a quick GIF up soon.
But, forgot about them until a mad panic at close to 1AM remembering I’d left them on the printer. With these, you can’t as the resin in the concave surfaces will part set in the morning and cause an uneven surface.
So, quickly washed them in IPA, regretted it immediately as it was dirty. Did another wash in IPA to clean the resin and straight to the hot water tap and larger bowl with a brush to clean off the bits. I’ll strain out the bowl later.
Final tweak needed now is the amount of grip to the switches themselves, shrinkage is variable at the moment, can’t go too small or keycaps may break when putting on, can’t go too big or they’ll be too wobbly and fall off.
May need to go middle ground and require a tiny blob of something sticky in each keycap, I’ll know soon enough!
The final hurdle for ‘good enough’ for me now is the space bar.
Every key prints lovely, except the largest one……Take a look
I’ve gotten all the ‘hard stuff’ over and done with first, or so I thought. Life’s taught me to generally avoid going for the low hanging fruit first, save the easy stuff for later when you need a boost.
Well, no matter what i’ve done (so far) in 12 iterations, have I been able to get a good looking space bar.
Now this has become my sole focus and roadblock for a successful print
Turns out that this is a combination of quite a few variables, I’ll list a few and probably follow up another time with clicky links and research
Exposure times are wrong –
They could be , I’ve really just gone and shoved stuff in to print and hoped for the best with standard settings. I Have now tweaked up the settings a little bit to 2.2s per layer due to mixing pigment in, and have had no real failures. I’ve also increased the first layers exposure times to 30s, still seeing minor issues there
FEP tension is wrong
Not really, This is a brand new printer, i’ve had zero catastrophic failures and have been overly cautious monitoring (and catching) early delamination from the print bed issues – Three times now
Possibly. I’ve 3 types (all anycubic) and seeing the same on all 3
Possibly, lots of people have been reporting issues in cold climates, I use the printer in the conservatory and it’s sub 10 degrees C in there regularly
Low temperatures cause increased viscosity and warpage issues with fine features from the FEP pulling them through the thicker resin
Too low exposure times on fine edges cause resin to cure, but not as hard as it should. So, when the layer sets on the bed, when it’s pulled off the FEP, it warps as it’s soft. This, I believe is causing the sagging issues i’m seeing on that space bar – it’s printed upside down, so the supports hold the points up, and between the walls sag, like an electric line held between two pylons
Probaly waaay too many supports, but this way, each ‘sag’ will be between supports that are just 1mm apart.
I’ve also nearly doubled the wall thickness to about 1.8mm – from 1mm
Hopefully now, this is the last step, Colour’s good, CAD is good, Supports are good.
I’ve ordered 2 Litres of clear resin ready to go and have a colour that’s not exact, but close and, importantly , very easy to re-create
Resin8 Earthy Brown, 3 ‘blobs’ of the end of a lollypop stick to 100ml of resin. and Black, 1 blob.
– The Rich brown used previously was too red. I’ll experiment a little with more black when running off the final tests
Has some successes with varying mixes of pigments! Wifey demanded I do a bronze one.
Fine adjustments needed only now and it’ll be a wrap.
….problem is, fine adjustments’ll probably take another 80% of the total :-p
Now, gotta figure out how to get Arduinos quickly as 50 wrong ones just turned up and due to Chinese New Year my expedited (expensive) DHL delivery won’t leave for a couple of weeks, D’oh! Best laid plans….
Well, final furlong for the 3D printing part anyway! Next step, investigating colouring in
Couple of successful prints! Rev 6 – just binging in stuff and hoping it works.
Rev 7 – more scientific and better CAD – all letters are now 0.2mm wider and deeper. This tiny tweak shows spectacularly well just how big a difference small changes can make.
Still some more CAD to do but soo close to final now!
And, finally, the print itself. I’ve learned that supports are critical here. Lots of them!
There’s actually as much material here in the supports as there is in the keycaps, but if you scrimp a little and try to reduce the amount, check out the top left of the picture below. I lost the return key and a few smaller keys were taken with it.
This was a calculated ‘risk’ by leaving this section to just have the standard auto generated supports, every other area had super dense supports.
There will be a middle ground, which I’m working on as I’d like to offer these cheaply…less resin used = cheaper to make!
Also, note the rest of the supports. THey are SO EASY to remove. When I offer these keycaps for sale, again to reduce cost, I’ll probably leave them as you see here. Makes for more robust packing and if you decide to paint them, you already have them held down on a convenient stand!
Most people would say this was caused by an over excited person, whom, upon waking early and discovering the complete print decided to not follow the correct drying / washing procedures in order to get it finished quickly!
I, err, disagree…
Either way, I now have a firm grasp of changes needed to the CAD model and also the supports needed in the slicer.
Those changes are fairly substantial, so I expect it’ll be a little while for my next update, happy to document them also if anyone’s interested.
After quite some nervous trepidation, I finally shoved some resin into the printer and achieved my first ever resin print.
And, amazingly, some stuff worked! Significantly more than I’d expected to work actually.
I’ve been quite ‘scared’ of actually starting a print, I‘ve read too much about toxicity and fumes, which aren’t things you want with two young kids.
Well, I spent a couple of hours doing some final reading, and setting up on the dining room table. Levelled the bed, levelled it again. Shoved in the resin and…a Spectacular success for me!
I know the print failed mainly due to poor supports, some text is also too fine. Both were concerns with the cad and the slicer and easily fixed 🙂 there’s probably a dozen other issues I’ve not found yet also (it’s been 30 minutes since I wash and cured them fresh off the printer)
Next step, iterating, optimising . It could be done in a few weeks at print 3, it could be print 10 and take a few months , but now I’m over the first hurdle, onwards and upwards!!
1- The Anycubic Photon Mono board is possibly capable of using a 4K LCD
also, i’ve spotted that Chitu systems sells an ESP8266 module specifically for their boards – it could be that Anycubic plans on selling their own, or just goofed up with the polarity of the header on the board!
And, finally, after all the above, that i’m going to publish anyway, i’ve also spotted
BEFORE this point (or, worst case, at this point) I’d highly recommend you clean the keyboard thoroughly and go, purchase some clearcote / clear lacquer. I haven’t done it yet but will be spraying my next keyboard to get some longevity on the text and paint……...
The mould’s quite bubbly and not really useful for much other than being a support…But, if done with more care – who knows!, Maybe C64Mini Chocolate keyboards?
Next step, Power Tools!
Still not entirely sure if it’s even possible to quickly and repeatedly butcher the C64Mini’s keyboard reliably with good quality.
For doing your own / one off’s, this step, you can take as long as you want. if you plan on doing a few though, taking a day or two individually dremmeling out the keys isn’t my idea of fun.
I do have a CNC – so, worst case I’ll have to learn how to actually use it, then I’d just need to make a protective jig, sit the keyboard on and just CNC the keys out. I’m not really in the mood to spend a few weekends firing that workflow up yet
The Angle grinder wasn’t really a success…..The blade’s too small and the sanding is going to be too uneven. There’s no way this will work .
Ok, first thoughts, it seems to work, abeit slowly and with making my hand a bit sore….
At this point, I figured if I use something soft and large, I could hold the keyboard in place and sand it without hurting my hands so much…..
Puzzled over this one for quite a while till I looked down……..
Found an incredibly inefficient lawn cutting method! – Orbital sanding
Seems to have done the trick!…Pressing down into the grass holds the keyboard in place and also helps resist the vibration of the sander, making it sand more efficiently…………Win Win….Also i’ll patent pend using oribital sanders for domestic grass management.
I moved to another bit of the lawn to avoid totally destroying a good bit of the grass…….I found that sanding till you can see the blacks of its eyes…….the lines between the keys seems to work well. At this step, you’ll want to remove as much material as possible to avoid so much processing / sanding later on
Do resist the urge to twist / remove the keys, try to let them come out almost by themselves
At this point I’d realised that an average household lawn is actually quite abrasive..Have a look at the whiteness of the edges of the keys!
Oops! – ah well, this is why i’m experimenting, so you don’t have to. I’m going to run with the theme though -these keys look a bit battle worn now, no going back so i’ll probably add a similar theme to my C64mini case 🙂 will be good to relive the old days of creating scenery and my Warhammer 40,000 airbrushing . never really did play it, just enjoyed hacking up the plastics……..Anyways…
Keep sanding, get as much material off as you can (it will save a LOT of time later)
Once you’ve got them all separated, make sure to lay them all out in order so you can admire all the keyboardy keycappy goodness that’s resulted from the dismemberment of an innocent miniature recreation of an 80’s 8 bit home computer.
Now, go spending several hours in the garden trying to find the most commonly used letter in the English alphabet!
I’d neglected to factor in the ability of these tiny keycaps to fling themselves a considerable distance in various directions whilst being vibrated several hundred times per second.
Suffice to say, if you’re doing the same thing, try to do it in a location where the floors relatively clean and uncluttered
A colourblind person trying to find a brown keycap in a green lawn that’s not too long, but just long enough to expose the also brown ground beneath……..Yeah, not fun.
After an HOUR of searching though………………..Eeeeeeee….A full keyboard
Next step – post processing. Removing supports.
This step i’d say is the most important. Sand down a bit the bottom and curves of each key. Get rid of all the burrs, bits, etc. you won’t get much of a chance to do this once they’re stuck. Spend a lot of time on this, cleaning each key, just getting it ‘right’
Once your keys are all looking great and sanded, smooth – arrange them again into a the keyboard layout. Then, one by one, transfer them into the mould.
you’ll wanna make sure you get this part right 😛
I did them line by line, starting left to right. I also had taken a picture of the keyboard prior to refer to. Check twice, place once……………
Now i’ve realised that I haven’t actually considered how to stick these things in! – i’ll need to go research glue, D’oh! gotta pause this for another week of research and buying bits
Did an attempt at a jig to make hacking up your own keyboard just a little easier….
it’s fairly easy to hack up the existing keyboard into bits….(get hacky thingy, cutty thingy, hack, cut…maybe smooth off burrs if you’re feeling artsy)
Getting the brand new hacked up bits of plastic that once looked like a keyboard to sit straight on the switches and resemble the previous keyboard resemblance …..not so much.
Turns out that making things ‘straight’ is hard……..so, some ideas
3D design and print new keycaps with locking mechanisms that work with my chosen keyswitches (still onging, it’s been MONTHS of work)
My first other idea…….. create a form to fill with plaster of paris, press the plastic full keyboard into that form, leave to set…
Remove keyboard and admire a perfect negative image of the keyboard.
Two things that could be done with this
Use that plaster of paris as a form to create resin keycaps (without any lettering) – I’m working on that!
second – it can be used as a perfect ‘form’ to sit the newly butchered keycaps in, fill with epoxy glue, sit keyboard PCB on top and let the keycaps become glued on, all nice and straight like!
it’s fairly easy to export the keyboard PCB outline from EasyEDA as a DXF then import to Fusion, extrude and…voila!
But…There’s an ever so tiny mistake in the image above
That’s the printed version…The holes line up great!
Yeah, the keyboard should be face down!, D’oh!
i’ll see if the snips’ll work
The other thing….
Fits like a glove….
Nice and snug – Note the top row of keys is level…..
Some small design work needed but the idea has promise!. I just need to re-jig the hole widths a little to accommodate the angle of the keyboard better!
I’ve purchased another couple of C64 Minis so that I can improve this jig more. I’m not quite certain where the keys will ‘fall’ once they’re seperated from the base of the plastic moulding.
The more I think about it, i’m thinking that there could be a shedload more work in this jig – one ‘saving grace’ though – due to the way injection moulding works – there’s a slight taper on the existing fake switches. And, I suspect that the rear of them has been modded so that they’re almost perpendicular to the base. this will help the whole mould ‘pop off’ the injection machine…
That also helps me with this jig as it really means that, at the base of the keys, all the keys seem to have the same uniform rear rising, almost perpendicular taper and front curving taper. kinda like the below diagram
That could turn the whole change into just re-extruding the jig key holes at the 8 degree angle of the keyboard as above……..
Just over a year ago I purchased my Creality Ender 3 Pro…an absoloute steal at about £140 after discounts and Topcashback special offer at the time.
I was having so much ‘fun’ with my Wanhao Duplicator 9 that I didn’t open the box for nearly 1/2 a year. and I only fired the thing up a few months ago!
I have to say, I’m impressed. The printer deserves its rabid fanbase following. It printed flawlessly out of the box without any setting up.
It’s surprising the difference having a reliable ‘work horse’ printer makes to the hobby. I need a bit – I just go print it. no faffing about with levelling and bed adhesion.
Till it doesn’t…….
Note, if your previously reliable printer seems to under-extrude, even on known great filament – try the extruder arm.
Something seemed ‘off’ when printing standard stuff – almost overnight the printer just seemed to under-extrude, not be reliable and, well, become more like my Wanhao D9 (a bit crap)
Even bizzarely, the printer would print OK over to the left, but under-extrude to the right. Took an hour to diagnose this! When the head was over to the right – it would pull the mechanism slightly which dislodged the arm enough to slip the filament.
Luckily, This extruder tech hasn’t moved in years…….An unassembled, missing parts kit I picked up off facebook a couple of years ago (syntek, sintek or something similar) which itself was a few years old had just the part..(which complete, looks identical to this Aliexpress one …..
It’s taking way too long, but I think I now have the lettering ‘just right’ – at least on the screen.
This was printed a bit too hastily at 0.08mm layer height on an Ender 3 printer. I’d used a brand new roll of untested filament and didn’t bother changing any settings. – it’s dimensionally ‘spot on’..
I’ve purchased a 0.2mm nozzle for my next trial , it’ll take ages but i’m hoping that those fine details on the characters come out a little better.
Why it’s taking so long……..
I’m learning as I go. I’m ‘tracing’ letters i’m finding on the net, creating them as a new sketch along the whole rows. There’s 4 differently angled rows so each needs to be extruded in a different direction to ‘cut’ the key.
This first run matches the C64 keyboard font as close as I can get. I’ll then ‘archive’ this layout for future use and create a second ‘3D print’ version.
This version will forgo the accuracy of the font and make features much wider, more rounded to allow the characters to come out better once 3D printed. The complex ones like ‘run stop’ won’t ever come out great on a standard filament printer, but the letters already come out pretty good…that’s a win for me!
The full keyboard is above – and you can see part of one of the adaptors i’m designing to click them onto the keyswitches. each keycap is hollow. that small grey part will sit inside the keycap
And finally – part of what’s taking so long.
Each key/character is taking on average about 1/2 an hour to an hour to design. Lets say 45 minutes.
65 keys to label
That’s a LOT of minutes…and i’m only getting an hour or two every few nights – a good solid weekend ‘free’ would be great and have this sorted.
On top of that labelling (which is now finished) I have to try to make each letter more legible and easier to 3D print. Generally that means ‘bevels’ everywhere – you can see above that i’ve done ‘Run Stop’ and ‘Shift Lock’ but SHIFT is still to do….it’s not as easy either as ‘copy, paste’ the Shift from Shift lock – that’s a different sized font on a different sketch plane.
Just one example of the issues I’m seeing…The Letter B
The Letter B above has an issue with the geometry – just by the 0.1 – there’s a part internally up towards the arrow that shouldn’t be there – that’ll could play havoc with a slicer when set to really small layer heights
But, the Fillet also creates a zero thickness surface which looks unsightly and will probably cause issues if I don’t correct it now
So, Back to the sketch
As you can see, i’ve kept the characters with few (if any) constraints. this way has been easier to freehand and eyeball as I can drag stuff around till it looks right by ‘locking and unlocking’ lines. most constraints used to create right angles, etc have been removed after to help with the process of making it 3D
Anyways, the ‘issue’ with the fillet seems to be around the place where the two control point splines meet – i’ve highlighted one in blue above.
I re-coincide each spline (have found deleting and un-deleting works, as well as hitting coincident )
That change should hopefully roll back up the timeline to allow me to make the fillet work.
To Create the key lettering I the character by 1mm elsewhere in my workspace, then move it to over the key.
Then extrude the face of the character into the key and ‘cut’ ….
this may seem odd, but it’s a really quick and easy way of consistently creating cutouts on a row of keys and making quick changes later.
That didn’t work, so, jump into surface mode – delete the entire inner arc of the B. Re-create the arc as a ‘patch’. Stitch together the lower part of the B. Then stich the whole keycap, then re-apply fillet and…..Voila…..3/4 an hour later, one filleted B…And a learned workflow if the same thing happens on another key!
Note, as-is, the keyboard fonts are a bit innacurate. I’ve sized everything based upon the smallest characters that need to fit – i.e. run stop, etc. The individual letters could be bigger – but any bigger and they’d look too big compared to those……….
DFM – Design for manufacture.
Just because you design a 3x2mm hole, doesn’t mean it’ll print at 3×2. Generally Filament printers do outer perimeters a little larger, inner perimeters a little smaller. The first few tests i’ve done now prove this. so, After a few months of ‘out of the box working’ on my Ender, I’ve finally gotta bite the bullet and calibrate it. The plan is to create an offset in the CAD file so that I still design the holes accurately based on measurement, BUT, can add a accurate ‘calibration figure’ Fudge figure to make them a little larger or smaller as necessary.
Right now my Printer is doing slightly oval prints – which should be easy enough to sort out if my D9 Adventures were anything to go by
There’s quite a few, including the following types…………
Each has different properties, suited for different things……some are as easy as ‘shove it in a box’, others need complex enclosure geometry and some math………
Now, considering I have 5 speaker drivers waiting to be hooked up, own two 3D printers (and a CNC), Know a bit about Fusion360 and have a penchant for overthinking and overcomplicating stuff (hey, where’s the fun when it’s simple!?)…..I figured, lets learn a little bit about speaker enclosure design……
and being a little dissapointed that my D9 was just too big to fit inside, I’m probbaly going to knock up a small stacker with my 3020 and ender 3! ………..when i’ll actually use all this crap for making stuff for the kids to play with, who knows!, still, the ‘possibilities’ are keeping me sane right now!
Well, after endless weeks of frustration with the D9 and extrusion issues, I’ve gone and done a few things
Purchased a silly amount of ‘spare parts’ at ridiculous prices from random chinese websites – it’s like Christmas! every day!, there’s steady stream of small boxes and packages arriving. I’ll have enough bits to build a couple of spare printers soon…….