Was just about to order another 4000 switches and take the hit…Decided to check the tracking number and FINALLY, after a month in Limbo, the switches have been released from Liege, the infamously slow sorting centre in Brussels.
SO, should be here next week and i can Finally get sending kits out!
Sorry again about the delays, I’ve now bought excessive stock so, should be able to turn around things quite quickly.
also built up a little stock of the keycaps which can be included in the kits at no additional postage cost
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
The mechanical, fitty holey type tolerance, not the other type of ‘oh, that’s annoying, but i’ll put up with it’ type….
Here’s the keyswitch fitting into the space bar. zoom in. we’re talking fractions of a millimeter fit, which I can achieve consistently and reliably! there’s about 0.1 mm available on the sides with the latches and about 0.2mm availavle on the longer sides. the extra really being there to allow some grace when placing the keycap on to fit it. less clearance means it’s a royal pain to get the switch located into the hole.
BUT, the keys don’t ‘latch’ into place on the switches. So, to try to address that (if it’s even possible) i’m now adding a small feature
This is the underside of one of the ‘F’ Keys. That small part in blue is a 0.1mm ridge sat about 0.8mm up from the bottom and 1mm from the top. I’m hoping that will be enough to latch the keys on, AND allow ease of fitting without breaking the keycaps. Everything else is done now, this is the only barrier to releasing. I’ll run off a print tomorrow to see how it works out. I’ll run off further prints with this sticking out even more if i need to
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!
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
This’ll be a while away yet, but the REV4 PCB, has some new, experimental features that will possibly allow some extra functionality when used with stuff other than a C64 mini!
For the purposes of this kit though, the board is a little easier to solder due to slightly larger pads, I’ve also added silk screen ‘dots’ to the rear to show the only two pads you actually need to solder (or possibly one of the two if i’ve gone and goofed up the positioning! ).
I’ve removed the USB HELPER pads, these weren’t actually that useful
The other thing being added are pads that say ‘Joy’ – I’ve no idea if this will work, but my plan is to see if there’s any way to map the C64 Joystick onto the keyboard and then into a PC / MiSTer or other device with a USB socket. I’m putting these unpopulated pads on production boards as, now due to Brexit, it costs a fortune in customs fees and shipping for small orders of prototypes. I mayaswell order 50 boards which are tried and tested, with small mods on. If the mods don’t work, no loss – the boards still function just as sold.
If they work, AND i can develop the firmware, AND the software then it may add useful features for some people! But, my focus right now is getting the mini version perfect and not any extra features that require a lot of time for me to learn how to enable! If they’re ever enabled, i’ll probably spin them into a SMT only board so I can sell a ready assembled version for a little cheaper than the £60 i’m currently selling for
Also on this one, i’ve fixed the C64 header pin ordering to save people having to make an adaptor cable due to me swapping two columns and putting the rows in reverse!, D’oh!.
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!
If that prints, I can try adding black pigment to make it darker brown.
If it doesn’t, I can try using a CMYK mix of colours to make the correct Brown
Once I get that shade, I can try different resin bases to see what gives the best finish! Maybe clear + brown or white +CMYK will do the job!
I’ll be iterating the CAD model and the colouring at the same time!
Hopefully this new CAD model will fix the minor offset issues with the keyboard, shifting all the keys slightly to the right also allowing me to finally reveal a working test fit!
One small thing I picked up when test fitting my first attempt, I’d not perfectly centred the left shift key button and Return buttons on the PCB. It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things as hacking your own keycaps doesn’t need perfect alignment on the wider keys, only the 1 wide keys
Where it is annoying though is I can’t correct this error or any keycaps I make now won’t perfectly align on old keyboards! Heh, what’s 1/2mm between friends eh!
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.
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………………..[edit, grabbed by someone! ]
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.
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!!
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.
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 🙂
Some quick steps right now – photos to follow.. Suggest have two tabs open, this one and the other PICTURES tab for reference
Some videos are up on youtube also
SUMMARY- SOLDER PARTS ONLY IN THIS ORDER
Cut one leg shorter on the diodes – Use scissors . About 1-1.5cm is good
bend the short leg side to a right angle
Note the orientation of the diode – The F Key diodes have a diode picture on them. The white bar matches the location of the black bar on the diode.
put diode in holes and bend slightly to lock in
repeat for all diodes
Solder all diodes
clip the excess legs back
you have a few spare diodes so don’t be afraid to experiment on one or two to get the right bend / fit
Probably best to solder these in now before you forget
I’ve found it useful to PLACE the arduino on the headers (DO NOT SOLDER YET) so it keeps the headers parallel
Make sure the black part of the headers is on the underside of the PCB
Solder one pin of each header
SWITCHES – STEP 1, JUST TACKING IN PLACE
Pay attention to orientation
don’t worry about straightening the switches at this stage, the goal is to just ‘tack’ them in with a single solder blob to hold them in place. They can be wonky, it doesn’t matter.
DO NOT SOLDER MORE THAN 1 PIN OF EACH SWITCH IN ONE GO
The switches are easily heat damaged – they become ‘sticky’ and no longer move smoothly if the plastic is melted due to excessive heat. During the entire soldering procedure for the switches, do ONE leg, move to the next switch. when all are done, move back to the first switch and repeat.
I’ve damaged only 2 switches this way soldering the prototypes but it can happen if you’re not careful
Note that the white part of each switch is asymetrical. One side has a ‘dip’ / inset which guides the switch up and down. the other side is smooth
there’s a marking on the PCB to represent this dip / inset.
ALL switches go the same way
Get a sheet of paper
Insert the top row of switches into the PCB
Place PCB on sheet of paper and fold paper over the top, tightly
flip the PCB over
hopefully all the switches stay in place
Solder just ONE leg of each switch – any one – say the top right
Repeat for Row 2
DO NOT FORGET TO SOLDER THE ARDUINO HEADERS IN PLACE
Repeat for Row 3
DO NOT FORGET TO SOLDER THE ARDUINO HEADERS IN PLACE
Repeat for for row 4
(Hopefully you didn’t forget to solder the Arduino headers in place?)
and finally the space bar
SWITCHES – STEP 2, Straightening
This is probably the most important step to getting a good looking keyboard with all the switches aligned. Spend some time getting this right, you have a handful of ‘spare’ switches so now’s the time to make mistakes and fix them whilst there’s only a single solder blob on them
I’ll post a few videos shortly but there’s a technique.
Hold the board in the air
Use your index finger to push in, and slightly down on each switch whilst soldering the previous blob. The goal is to move the whole switch slightly so that it’s slightly at the top, or the bottom of its footprint.
when you melt the solder whilst pushing in and down, the switch will move slightly, sometimes you’ll hear a little click or snap as the solder melts
repeat this for each switch, pushing in and down slightly – when you look at the final position, there’ll be some of the pad visible at the top of each switch
NOW IS THE TIME TO TEST EACH SWITCH FOR SMOOTH MOVEMENT
of the 5 keyboards i’ve soldered, I’ve had two defective switches, this is partly the reason why there’s a few extras in the kit
of the 5 keyboards i’ve soldered, I’ve broken 3 switches by either over-heating, or trying to remove after putting them in backwards. unless you’ve got a hot air gun, they’re tricky to remove intact, hence check NOW whilst there’s only one solder blob!
When you get close to one side of the keyboard, you’ll have to fiddle a bit to keep pushing the switches in the same direction. I’ve found that changing technique a little and ‘flip’ the board lengthwise works. hold the board against yourself and use your thumb to pull the switch down instead of push
repeat the alignment technique for ALL switches!
SWITCHES – STEP 3, Final soldering
This is the easy / relaxing bit!
DO NOT SOLDER MORE THAN ONE LEG OF EACH SWITCH AT A TIME
do it by rows, clusters, however works for you, but here’s what worked for me
Solder ONE pad of each switch, then move to the next
once all switches are done, start from the beginning
Solder another pad, etc etc
A SMALL CHEAT – You only actually need to solder 3 points. Two on the ‘bottom’ of the switch – these are the electrical contacts. ONE on the ‘top’ – this is for mechanical stability. As you look at the keyboard, the bottom two pins are the important electrical ones. Pick any on the top
on my prototype, I found soldering all 6 pins tiring, so on my second version I just soldered 3 and it worked perfect. Up to you, but DONT SOLDER MORE THAN 1 PIN AT A TIME
Note the orientation of the Arduino by the Small USB socket and a mark on the PCB. Also the silk screen on the PCB will match the letters on the Arduino.
these need a little more heat to solder to the pins
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