I’ve now run out of some components for the C64 Mini keyboard kit. More have been ordered, I’m just waiting on a last few people to send over payment and i’ll pause things for a few weeks until parts arrive.
I’m hoping that the delay also will help some focus to drive the keycap development and a feature change to the PCB
I have to say Thankyou to Perrifractic for reaching out and increasing the profile of this little kit, and that the response has been unexpected. This is a little hobby that I have in my spare time between juggling the bill-paying day job and the wife and kids, it gives me the pocket money to buy more gizmos to help develop these gizmos.
I ordered most of the ‘long lead time’ parts last week, so i’d expect it to now be mid-late february before I can sell more full kits.
Had to admit, the failure of the Beta 9 got to me a little bit. Took me a couple of days to take stock, stand back and think.
After much thinking, about life, being married, kids and generally having to work hard at a day job, remembering about that one time where that bloke ripped you off, Postulating how things can build up and get to you to the point where you just think that getting screwed and having your balls in a vice would be more preferable………..
You can come to yet another epiphany!….Screw it and put the Balls, in a vice.
I present to you……..The precursor to the release candidate for the production version….Err
D’oh!, Blinkenator Beta 9 board arrived. Powers up just fine and works ok too
BUT….I Can’t seem to get quite enough clamping force with the balls between the PCB’s to get a reliable I2c connection.
Surprisingly, as the power is closer to the edge of the connector, it powers up reliably, 100% of the time! the I2c is right at the centre where the most flex is, so makes the least contact……
If I really press hard, it works a treat.
Couple of possible options open now
1 – Something very stiff jammed inside and use the case itself to press against the board (I don’t like this)
2 – Some other, softer conductive metal thing
3 – yet another redesign (TM) – I have some ideas, but i’m concerned at the spring forces required to obtain a contact
4- give up on a ‘solderless’ design. – I’m trying hard to not alienate a bunch of people by requiring soldering, but at some point I may need to call it quits. With the new VAT rules kicking in, more parcels are being charged VAT and handling…prototyping has gone up by 25%!
Just a quick update to say I’m still working on it
They’re a “100Pcs A28 Tactile Push Button Switch Cap 6*5.1mm Applies to 5.8*5.8 7*7 8*8 8.5*8.5 Self-Locking Switch Button Cap”
And, judge for yourself……
Well, it’s more comfortable than nothing, and certainly opens up some options for unusual keyboards in the future 😛
yes, it’s not perfect, BUT for £1.68 you can have non painful pokey bits and actually do a reasonable job of typing on basic
or, splash out £3.36 and go for a dual colour like I did 😛
BONUS PRIZE TIME………………..
THE first person to order a kit and mention that they want these keycaps, I’ll chuck in a set of grey/black ones as pictured for nothing – I purchased enough to do properly do 2.5 keyboards, or 3 if you don’t mind a mix / match of black and grey!
Note, if you’re ordering your own keycaps off aliexpress, the internal dimension is key here, they fit, you can go a little smaller
the absolute maximum external dimension is 9mm, this leaves about 0.48mm clearance between keycaps.
That’s right, A few of you found me from Mr Perri Fractic’s channel on Youtube
There’ll be a little more coming up i’ve been told!
Highly recommend if you like anything slightly retro, give his channel a watch, superb production quality to it, great sense of humour and , generally seems to be a lovely chap that really brings out your inner childhood enthusiams for these weird old gadgets that a lot of us love.
Also, he’s getting close to 100,000 subscribers, so definitely is doing something right
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!!
It’s going to be a while yet, but I’ve finally fixed some long standing issues with the keyboard model i’ve been building in Fusion360
The main issue was a badly created model!. I’ve junked quite a lot and started back prior to when some odd dependencies crept in and really put some roadblocks on scaling things correctly and adding finishing touches.
But, it’s been worth it
That previous picture is the underside of the Keyboard – Those holes in the keys are 2.2 x 2.8 holes. it’s a first run at fitting the key switches into the keycaps. a lot more iteration needed to hollow it out a little and create some form of inbuilt snap-fit with stress relief, but…it’s a start!
The silver / grey keys over on the left are the ‘parent’ keys
If I make an update to the curves or size of a parent key – it rolls out to all the same sized keys in its row
if I need to iterate the hole size for the key switches, I simply change a few parameters for the hole size and it rolls out to all the keys in one go.
I’ve taken so long to develop it parametrically as it’ll now be so much quicker to iterate
and, here’s a new render!……..going to spend the next few weeks iterating, and hopefully over Christmas , fire up the resin 3D printer for the first time!
Been a busy few weeks here at Bleugh.Biz industries, working ridiculous hours at my day job, keeping kids from murdering each other during the evenings……But, i’ve been getting some good tinkering time in.
Some very good progress has been made! – and this is the board that’ll hopefully, finally, once and forever physically fit perfectly
Some Notable changes
Balls! – A revised J15 connection method that’ll provide a simple and very robust connection method
Spacings – The holes for the LED inserts have been altered a little to allow easier assembly. It’s still mildly fiddly but easy enough.
Fixtures – The J15 are has now two horizontal slices cut into it – this provides a spring mechanism for the balls. it helps to PCB distortion locally without warping all of the board from Next PCB to inserts
Holes – The whole board is now held with press fit type connection. The two screws holding the Next PCB are removed and replaced with two new ones. this holds the Blinkenator board to the next PCB and the Next PCB to the case. The two holes for the screws have been changed to 5mm!
Positions – The JST style connectors have been re-located and changed from Right angle to Vertical. Now the board’s mounted above the next board there’s plenty of space underneath. The path from the Arduino USB connector is now also free so you can tuck a cable into the board permanently
LED’s – Moar Bling! Each insert location now has a LED colour on the main board. No real purpose other than to look great and provide the end users with some assurance that the board is powered up when they do their first tests with a USB cable outside of the Next
ESP-01 – CPU_RST has been changed to a JST style connector to make ease of fitting. This whole feature is still highly experimental and may not make it into final production (if it doesn’t work, there’d be no point!)
Inserts – There’s now a 0.56mm gap between the jumpers – to fit a 0.6mm wide PCB!. makes a nice snug fit. and easy also to work with – simply trial fit once when you receive your board, that’ll loosen them up. remove and re-fit into the Next
Jumpers – Lots of experimental jumpers! GPIO to arduino, TX/RX to arduino, DB+ integration enabling / passthrough…….and some secret sauce also
THICKNESS – The board’s back to a phat 1.6mm thick. this provides significant stability to the jumpers that hold the inserts in place. Much easier to repeatedly get them soldered straight when assembling
Components – The whole board’s been rationalised for component price – and where possible using @JLCPCB’s BASIC library – that saves quite some amount in production prices as non Basic items incurr an engineering fee per component. Previously 3/4 the components were Extended, now 3/4 are Basic!
Silkscreen – Tidied up and made a bit more slick……..
I’m sure there’s a few more changes i’ve missed, but that’s the important stuff.
Where from here……….IF this last board plugs in, fits well, i’ll be sending out to the key Dev team. I can then kick back, relax a little and start again playing with the software side of things, Both Next side and Arduino side!.
I’ll eventually also need to consider switching over the whole board to SMT, or as much as possible. I’m not that daunted by this as there’s quite a number of ways this can be achieved, including just putting the 32U4 straight on-board, or considering changing the micro type entirely. After all, the main reason i’m using a 32u4 is that it’s cheap, Arduino compatible, has USB built in. All those things give a great ‘dev board’ capability that people can use to simply plug in and tweak!
A very talented Hans Liss from the Facebook group – TheC64 Mini has make a perfect assembled kit.
Drool over the photos below
Note the extras like the hacked up USB hub to make it slimline
The Extra UART connector that he’s added, and the nigh on perfect Keybaord keycap butchery!
Hans also helped by pointing out a few errors i’ve made with the original firmware sent out with the kits. I spent a couple of weeks figuring out how to fix it and have a new HEX file for those that want it.
There’s still some ‘not quite exactly commodore’ quirkery happening – which i’m working on, but i’ll bet that 99% of you won’t be able to figure it out. I’ve only found out due to Hans’s extensive knowledge of the C64 inner workings and also me, downloading the original user manual for the Commodore 64.
With a successful 2nd Kickstarter – The Spectrum Next will have between 8,000 and 9,000 users.
Lets Dream a little and imagine a Bright world where all the users have a Super LED Blinkenator 2000 installed….
9000 users = nearly 40,000 inserts to be made!.
lets say just 10% want the blinkenator, I still have to make nearly 1000 of the things.
I’ve been researching a little and identifying bottlenecks to SUCCESSFULLY produce and deliver my board in those quantities
There’s some scary numbers!
So, I’m now pressing forward with TWO designs. one design, the one you’re all familiar with, suitable for small time production in small batches here and there on my weekends, only ever endeavouring to sell maybe a 150 units ever
and the second, a ‘mass produced’ item that requires minimal ‘hands on’ time from me to deliver, but will require some significant outlay up front.
The pictures above are a first run result of my Design For Manufacture for the inserts….A different injection mould, possibly 2 parts, maybe 1 and using a flexible PCB!
some key notes……..
Advantage – no connector soldering needed on my part – currently I’m soldering 16 cheap ‘bridges’ to each main board. with this insert, someone will be soldering 8 SMT FPC style connectors
Advantage – it’s likely that this design will be easier to make ‘injection moulding’ manufacturable. the existing design is tricky, but not impossible
Advantage – FPC connectors are a bit more reliable and easier to use than my bridges for the end user
Advantage – FPC / flexible PCB ‘legs’ on the inserts will mean a little bit easier installation by the end user
Advantage – Uniformity of Light – This type of construction allows for a much thicker ‘top layer’ – which will diffuse the light far more. Also, more of the insert will be better lit up ‘from below’ rather than from the side that i’m currently doing.
Disadvantage – FPC connectors are more expensive
Disadvantage – Flexible PCB’s are more fragile
Disadvantage – Flexible PCB’s are more expensive than FR4 for small quantities, so prototyping ability is very limited. at The quantities I need though, there’s not that much difference
There’s more i’m sure, once the final numbers are ready, I can see if a kickstarter makes sense, it may not be financially viable if the whole thing needs to be sold at £80 each……
if I can get closer to that £50 mark, then who knows!
I’ve been updating the Dev group on facebook more regularly than here
Progress has been slow but constant!, the new Jumper method of getting the LED inserts to connect to the controller works well, if a little fiddly. I think there’s some changes I can make to allow for an easier installation experience.
A big milestone also – The BETA hardware is at such a point now that i’m happy to send it to the core Dev team for actual installation inside a Next….err, except they can’t have the bottoms on as the USB cable doesn’t fit, D’oh!, another re-design needed!
AND – software – My Arduino code’s finally quite stable – Also, from the Next side of things – the i2c code is great – it runs well at 14MHZ, allowing for some interesting sequences on 8 segments…..I’ll start uploading BASIC programs in the next month or two.
Also, a kind of fork in the road….
Throughout this project, I’ve had an end goal of maybe 5-10% of Next owners owning a Blinkenator. at 3000 Nexts, that’d be maybe 150-300 devices sold over a year or two, making my beer money fund quite happy
Things recently changed……and have made me realise that I’ll probably need to step up my game a little…..
Means that now, there’s over 8000 Nexts in the wild!.
Assuming the same targets, I’d now need to manufacture between 400 and 800 devices…
May not sound much – but at a top level, for just 800 units…….that means some big numbers…..
sourcing 3,200 Plastic inserts….
Sourcing 26,000 LED’s
and with big numbers comes Big Money….and long lead times.
IF someone landed me with an order for 800 Blinkenators tomorrow, at (say) 45 minutes per board, I’d need 600 hours to complete the order.
I have a day job that demands my attention for 160 hours a month. Wife and kids that demand me for a further 80 hours a month…then there’s the whole sleeping and eating thing..
It’d take me a year to be able to fulfil that order 😛
So, the fork in the road……….I may need to do my own Kickstarter!
I’m investigating larger scale manufacture – Full PCBA including through hole, better DFM and Plastic Injection moulding.
All that costs big up front ££…..hence the Kickstarter………is my 5-10% adoption figure massively optimistic. Is it woefully inadequate?
To have any chance at a successful Kickstarter, I need to turn this hobbyist , good quality (7/10, could do better) project into a slicker experience, a better presented finish and professionally produced, not at my dining room table package that would obtain a Crash Smash award, a solid 9.5/10 experience. I KNOW I’m capable of creating the hardware (i’ll learn the software). I’m genuinely uncertain at this time if I would be able to DELIVER that package.
Saying that, I know my limitations, I have a grasp of the fundamentals and i’m costed to the penny for small batches.
Extrapolating that upwards and figuring out where costs stand for different adoption rates is my focus now the BETA 1 boards are ready.
If 30% of Next owners buy this thing, that’s 1800 hours of ‘work’ to do. That’s a FULL TIME JOB!!
scary isn’t it. I have to create budgets that allow for an employee!!
A funny story about multi sourcing components and the importance of testing before shipping!
I used a supplier on Aliexpress to purchase a few thousand switches in a few orders over a few months but their prices went up quite drastically after the last order (doubled!!) they weren’t the cheapest to start with but were reliable and friendly, worth the extra ££
I found another supplier who did a good deal for a full bag of 4000! Ordered them and waited, very quick delivery and friendly also (will buy again!)
I built my first test new keyboard with the new PCB and switches
It didn’t work. Well, actually, it did! Work perfectly…but in reverse :-p …..
If you mashed every key simultaneously then only released the key you want to press….it worked!! Yeah, the supplier sent me 4000 ‘inverted’ switches! My fault for not checking prior to ordering, they ‘look the same’ so ‘must be the same’ was a wrong assumption on my part! (At least they all weren’t the shift lock type!!)
It’s a VERY easy fix though (found after several panicked hours of testing and building Keyboards)…rotate the switch 180 degrees and it’s perfect!
In each kit I’ve included a small errata note and list of basic instructions to help. It’s an annoyance but for you guys it really just means the silk screen doesn’t quite match the switch orientation so just ask first. Look at the pictures and of any doubt, email/messenger/twitter/Reddit me 🙂