The original software that came with it was ‘crap’ and I struggled to get any scans out of the thing. But, an hour ago, I downloaded the latest version (from here )
and, ten minutes later, after two geometry and 1 texture scan merged, I got the below! – woo
Having an accurate scan helps a LOT when recreating things in CAD. Yes, the switches don’t look great, BUT, they’re 7mm squares – what I’m seeing, for the price I paid is, frankly amazing, AND, there’s quite a lot of improvement to be had.
So, next steps – Scanning larger things, and instead of working from photos as a canvas, I can use the original 3D item to create the angles! it’s going to be an interesting few months
That was quick! – It’s amazing what’ll come to you at random moments.
I was looking at some uneven fitting panels on a car earlier today and wondered, ‘why can’t the gaps be smaller?’ –
Well, my first idea is to simply see what happens when the gaps between the keycaps are smaller……..
If there’s no room for keycaps to wiggle, they won’t wiggle! – that’s the theory anyway – Prototype is on the printer as I type.
If this ‘rough and ready’ bodge works, I can knock out a more elegant solution that’ll look much better :-), it’ll involve going right back to the beginning, but…ho-hum, such is the nature of product development!
The idea is currently on the printer! – this is a ‘zero cost’ solution that may reduce keycap wonkyness to a level that’s acceptable.
The next idea introduces double the 3D printed parts and some extra parts on top of that – BUT, it’s still a very cheap solution compared to the alternative…..
Have been steamrollering ahead with the keyboard, and making rather good progress – Except for this little annoyance……..
It’s annoying enough to me , and a couple of trusted others to put a freeze on this method of doing things – and to invest more time doing something else!
The problems i’m facing….
The keys rotate around a bit – which, frankly, to me, is unnaceptable.
The GOOD news –
I have a way to IMMEDIATLEY fix it, Different, more expensive switches- BUT…it will increase my COST by 400% – meaning this product needs to sell for around the £70-80 mark, which I feel is waaay too high.
I do believe I have a few other good ideas which won’t cost so much, but need quite a bit of development. I’ve gotten the keys to print superbly and quickly on the printer, so I can work to good, tight tolerances. I can iterate quickly!
SO, it’ll take a couple of months longer than intended, no worries, worst case, i’ll do a limited run of expensive boards…and a wider run of boards with keys that rotate if there’s a demand (I really hope not)
This one’s been nagging away in the back of my head for some time now…I Always wanted one of these containing a hard drive when I briefly owned an Amiga. This is a GVP HD+ / HD8. and maybe a few other products also. This design really struck a chord with me when it continued the Amiga 500’s contours rather than just shove a box on the end.
No idea what I’m gonna use this for – likley a USB hub or ‘something’
This’ll need to be printed to ensure everything aligns, some of the proportions don’t look right – but seem to measure OK.
So, whilst waiting, I’ve been playing around a little with the CAD and the ‘extras’ for the keyboard kits – the Real Mini 42″ scale floppy disc.
The cocnept is – to have a ‘working’ floppy disc that you can play games off.
Still some work to do optimising, but i’m rather happy with this second attempt at printing. The metal part has been cut out on my KNK ZING vinyl cutter and has been extracted from a projected sketch.
That works for the Amiga side – But, people will need a way of getting the games onto the floppies , so – Early days yet, An External mini floppy disc drive for a PC!
This was surprisingly quick to knock up . I found an image of an eBay sale, imported as a canvas, ‘traced the canvas’ and set the scale around the floppy disc slot. I’ve never owned one of these so had to work from many pictures. Still a lot more to do, but fundementally, i’m keeping the exact same PCB’s and mechanism / holder that i’m creating for the A500 Mini. Just putting it in a shell and using a different USB cable….
I will be releasing the design files publicly for this thing so anyone can print up / adjust and make their own ones as international postage gets expensive for things larger than 25mm high here in the UK…I’ll also offer up these for sale with keyboard kits
And, if you’re wondering, just how many picures…and files needed to create a floppy drive and disc…….Here’s a quick snapshot of my A500Mini folder – just for the floppy! and these are the ones i’ve kept for now….
Three PCB’s are pretty mich ready to go . Just last minute checking, double checking, triple checking needed!.
I’m lacking lemmings on most of the boards, but be assured, there’ll be a few on the production units.
I’ve also now pretty much finished the keyboard CAD…Had to do yet another iteration to allow for the new switching mechanism i’m using..It’s really been a case of design, print, test, iterate, repeat!…Still ‘a few months away’ as always, Real life is taking over a little, meaning less time to perfect this lot.
On the plus side, I really do think this Prototype 2 will be ‘good enough’ for general testing and useage. Everything after prototype 2 will be geared to making it easier to install and add (or remove) extra features. Lots of pics after the break……………..
First working keyboard keycaps are off the printer! Only this bit to show as most of the print failed 😛
Well,, 3 prints failed, I’m trying to learn how to use my Photon Mono-X, so far mostly unsuccessfully, these were printed using a known good combination of Photon Mono and Commodore Brown resin 🙂 ….and still it partly failed!!
Next, I have to optimise the design for printing. I’d added some features to make them work better, but, those features don’t translate to printing very well, D’oh! (That’s called not doing Design For Manufacture!).
Resin printing can be a hard beast to tame, especially when printing 94/98 individual items (98 if I can two keyboard types!!)
This first print is literally an ‘auto supports, Jab a few extras on, hope for the best’ quick test to prove the mechanics. When the design is finished, I’ll need to spend a couple of solid DAYS (maybe a weeks worth of evenings) adding thousands of supports MANUALLY to ensure every keycap comes off the print perfect!
That sounds a lot, but printing a single item is different than printing the same item hundreds of times, so it’s really worth the up front investment in time.
And, speaking of time, I’ve just clocked about 600 hours evenings and weekends, on this project now 😛
I’m rather happy otherwise, next week, I should have a full working keybaord to demonstrate 🙂
Along the way, I’ve been tweaking some other bits – The Real miniature fake USB Floppy disc is progressing nicely
I’m on the second design of the 3D Printed insert, this will hold the USB PCB and also be the interface and guide rails for the floppy.
I’ve also received my memory solution for the discs, it fits superbly! – it can be seen in the badly printed / broken green area. The dimensions are exactly the same as the 3D print i’ve put in
I’ve also purchased some silver brushed effect sticky foil so I can re-create that beloved silver cover….and even have created the label ready to cut out on my dusty KNK ZING vinyl cutter thingy. Hopefully I can make the adhesive sticky enough!
I’ve also started stocking up on Printer resin, ordered a load of sample parts from Aliexpress, test fitted PCB’s…..started on box design, started tweaking firmware, there’s dozens of tasks to do!
Quite a lot of progress, but it doesn’t look like a lot of progress.
Firstly, I’ve had to re-do most of the keyboard CAD – I simply didn’t like the ‘blocky’ effect of the wider topped keycaps I’d created – as you can see below they look a lot more square in real life than they did in CAD…
I’ve now clocked well over 200 hours developing this set of keycaps, likley there’s going to be tens more tweaking / optimising!
So, along with the less blocky (more slopey) keys, I’d discovered my workflow in CAD had created tapered keys – the tops when viewed from above look like parallelograms, wheras the original Amiga had more square keys – it was quite a lot of work to alter this – see the parts below by the red arrows – the bottom bit is in towards the middle more than the top bit.
Have been tweaking things over and over, I’m now finally ready to…….
I think there’s going to be a few people out there actually using this keyboard in anger, so i’ve widened the keyswitch tops a little and added larger fonts to make it easier for someone to fill in some colour if they chose to do so.
Some other progress –
The Floppy Disc insert! – a FULL scale floppy disc fits well
I’ve refined the floppy disc insert thingy – I really think I can make this work – lots of parts on order so i’ll iterate this design over the coming weeks. I’ll do the first prints of the plug in module soon
Speaking of prints….
I knocked up a few of the mini-Floppies. Printed in various orientations to see if it’s even possible to do these. The best print is the angled one..Turns out, it’s going to be tricky as can be seen from the various failures above. Have re-designed a little and will run off some more sample prints soon. The supports on this one will be critical and hopefully not so wasteful as the C64mini keycaps were.
And, almost finally –
Here’s a collection of ‘stuff’ rendered so far. The Keyboard PCB is unfortunatley upside down – due to the way I started modelling stuff, no big deal but makes the renders look odd. The case slopes don’t need to be modelled (at this time) so i’ve just left them flat for now.
There’s loads of parts waiting to arrive in the post, but there’s also loads I can be getting on with, not just on this project, but on numerous others also!
I’ve spent a couple of days designing, and and a today, spent nearly a hundred quid at JLCPCB ordering a bunch of prototypes
I had to bite the bullet and spend some money as I now need to move on with the Keycap CAD. I have a big concern about the fitting of the printed keycaps onto the smaller switches. I’ve gone with ALPS switches as they used to be a huge brand name back in the day and i’m hoping should provide some consitency.
The prototypes will help also to test and develop the PRK Firmware i’m planning to use.
The ‘Clamp’ adaptor is fairly non-functional. It has a Rasperry Pi Pico footprint onboard and a 40 pin FPC style connector to act as a ‘stand-in’ for the Raspberry pi Pico which is currently on the back of the main PCB.
The whole idea of the ‘clamp board’ is to allow an ‘ease’ of installation – I’ll use some Pogo Pins to sit on the test pads by the 3 USB sockets on the back of the A500 Main board.
The plan is to have a basic matrix keyboard PCB, which connects to the clamp board via the 40 pin FPC.
The clamp then accesses the USB and hopefully it can all be fairly easy to assemble.
I’m also testing the Fake floppy connection with the clamp board – no idea if that’ll work or not, we’ll see.
Now the long-ish wait for Aliexpress to deliver my connectors, pogo pins, and a couple of weeks for the Cheapest post option of JLCPCB to ship the assembled keyboard! – nearly 100 switches and diodes on this one, those can be automated in assembly. I’ll need to hand solder on the rear the FPC connector but those are easy enough!
Progress to date has been surprisingly quick – most of the ‘easy’ stuff is now done and I’ve added some extra functionality. Most of the research is now done – have spent waaaaay too long googling connectors, Pogo pins and component types / dimensions.
My workflow generally is to eyeball, sketch, measure, adjust….Then when it’s close enough, i’ll print on paper, adjust in CAD, print again then………3D print
I’m quite chuffed – the first 3D print seems to fit reasonably well! – there’s some adjustments needed, mainly the top of the keycaps are a little too wide, but overall for a first run, not bad.
To work out a PCB outline, I’ve scanned the A500 Mini on a flatbed scanner and trace around the important parts, measuring many with calipers
Before I 3D printed the sample, I put the A500Mini on a flatbed scanner to match up the holes – as you can see, it’s pretty darn close! – you’re seeing a canvas underneath the actual CAD model of the keycaps in Fusion. The Enter key is black as i’d discovered a slight profile error, so spent half hour correcting a 0.2mm height error 😛
During the design phase, there’s a process of discovery. My main discovery for the A500Mini keyboard was that….I’d possibly need TWO PCB’s!!
If you look above at the underside of the keyboard you’ll see that there’s no space on the top for electronic components! The PCB needs to mount entirely flush to the case of the Mini. This means I’d need a PCB assembly service that can handle double sided boards (a possibility) – And to also consider a two PCB solution. There’s cost and ease of install considerations for both ways.
The A500Mini has a number of test points on the back, I think using Pogo Pins I can maybe make a clip-on PCB that can securely tap off the USB test points, meaning, a solderless install! – hence the upper white PCB that sits in place of the A500 PCB above
And, now I believe I’m going to go with a THREE PCB solution…….because…
the one with the holes in sits above the stock PCB
I figured I’d go one better and make a REAL fake floppy disc. and, the best thing, after several solid days of research and CAD testing, I believe it can work 🙂 – it’ll only need two small cuts inside the A500 case and be totally stock outside. there’s a little more tweaking needed for the floppy disc design to make the MicroSD slot more elegant . I’ve ordered a whole bunch of parts to physically trial this and see if it’s viable.
So, Summary. Still a long way to go, the Keyboard itself is the priority here, the ‘floppy disc’ is just a whimsy on my part for the time being, its development is secondary and may not even make it to a real release if it’s not robust enough.
Keycap CAD – Cosmetics finished, Just needs the ‘switch’ solution figured out
Main PCB – Outline finished, needs routing, quick job to finish