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Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
07-04-2017, 02:18 PM
Post: #1
Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
I am currently working on a desktop calculator that will be using cherry MX switches (as they are used in a lot of keyboards).

Does anyone know of a source for custom key caps that fit the cherry switches?

The other alternative is to use caps from old keyboards and put overlays on them. If I go down that route, how do I best create the images for those overlays?
How do I print and cut them? Or maybe someone with the equippment for that would be willing to make a couple of those overlays?

Cheers,
Harald
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07-04-2017, 03:04 PM
Post: #2
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
(07-04-2017 02:18 PM)Harald Wrote:  Does anyone know of a source for custom key caps that fit the cherry switches?

I have seen this site, but never used them so cannot make a qualified recommendation:

http://www.wasdkeyboards.com/index.php/p...ycaps.html

At several dollars per key, a full calculator may be expensive, but they do look very nice.

Please do share the results, however you end up going. Good Luck!

--Bob Prosperi
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07-04-2017, 10:24 PM
Post: #3
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
Keys with embedded OLED displays Smile They'd make the custom printed key caps look cheap.

Pauli
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07-05-2017, 12:26 AM (This post was last modified: 07-05-2017 12:27 AM by rprosperi.)
Post: #4
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
(07-04-2017 10:24 PM)Paul Dale Wrote:  Keys with embedded OLED displays Smile They'd make the custom printed key caps look cheap.

Takes "programmable keyboard" to a whole new level. Soft menus on the actual key labels would be real flexible. And cool.

--Bob Prosperi
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07-05-2017, 12:55 AM
Post: #5
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
They could also be used to remove the need for a display.

Pauli
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07-05-2017, 07:29 AM (This post was last modified: 07-05-2017 07:29 AM by Massimo Gnerucci.)
Post: #6
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
(07-04-2017 10:24 PM)Paul Dale Wrote:  Keys with embedded OLED displays Smile They'd make the custom printed key caps look cheap.

Pauli

I used to follow the development of their first OLED keyboard, it took years. Then it was available for an outrageous amount of money, and consequently was a short lived product.

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07-05-2017, 02:51 PM
Post: #7
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
(07-04-2017 02:18 PM)Harald Wrote:  The other alternative is to use caps from old keyboards and put overlays on them. If I go down that route, how do I best create the images for those overlays?
How do I print and cut them?

Another idea to consider would be custom made decals. You can use an ink jet printer to print you symbol on a transparent or colored decal sheet. After transfer to a blank keycap a protective coating can be applied. Decals are used extensively in model making and, although I have no direct experience myself (except childhood!), the videos I've seen on YouTube make the process seem straightforward. Here's a link to a kit to give an idea of what is involved, though the price of the kit seems excessive. Almost better to go with the custom keycaps in the earlier post.

http://www.micromark.com/Micromake-Compl...Making-Set

~Mark


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07-05-2017, 03:25 PM
Post: #8
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
(07-05-2017 02:51 PM)mfleming Wrote:  
(07-04-2017 02:18 PM)Harald Wrote:  The other alternative is to use caps from old keyboards and put overlays on them. If I go down that route, how do I best create the images for those overlays?
How do I print and cut them?

Another idea to consider would be custom made decals. You can use an ink jet printer to print you symbol on a transparent or colored decal sheet. After transfer to a blank keycap a protective coating can be applied. Decals are used extensively in model making and, although I have no direct experience myself (except childhood!), the videos I've seen on YouTube make the process seem straightforward. Here's a link to a kit to give an idea of what is involved, though the price of the kit seems excessive. Almost better to go with the custom keycaps in the earlier post.

http://www.micromark.com/Micromake-Compl...Making-Set

~Mark

Thanks Mark, that looks interesting! That might be a good solution.
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07-05-2017, 03:28 PM
Post: #9
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
(07-04-2017 03:04 PM)rprosperi Wrote:  
(07-04-2017 02:18 PM)Harald Wrote:  Does anyone know of a source for custom key caps that fit the cherry switches?

I have seen this site, but never used them so cannot make a qualified recommendation:

http://www.wasdkeyboards.com/index.php/p...ycaps.html

At several dollars per key, a full calculator may be expensive, but they do look very nice.

Please do share the results, however you end up going. Good Luck!

Thanks Bob, that's what I was looking for.
Unfortunately they seem to print only two text blocks per key. That might be worth a try for a calculator with one shift key, but won't work for calculators with more than one shift key as I would require more than two colours.
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07-05-2017, 03:53 PM
Post: #10
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
(07-05-2017 07:29 AM)Massimo Gnerucci Wrote:  
(07-04-2017 10:24 PM)Paul Dale Wrote:  Keys with embedded OLED displays Smile They'd make the custom printed key caps look cheap.

Pauli

I used to follow the development of their first OLED keyboard, it took years. Then it was available for an outrageous amount of money, and consequently was a short lived product.

It also didn't help that as a typing keyboard, it was terrible. The keys wobbled as they were pressed. The keys were flat and butted against each other so it was difficult to touch-type. I got the chance to actually play with one while working on an unreleased competing product.

As for the price, I recall that keyboard costing ~$1500. Ouch.
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07-05-2017, 04:57 PM (This post was last modified: 07-05-2017 04:58 PM by c785.)
Post: #11
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
(07-04-2017 02:18 PM)Harald Wrote:  Does anyone know of a source for custom key caps that fit the cherry switches?
I suppose by "Cherry" you mean the MX stem, which is most common in the custom keyboard community.

That said, you'd better look around there, the forums I'm aware of are called deskthority and geekhack.

I've ordered keycaps from Signature Plastics (USA) in the past, they do custom keycaps, but I'm not sure of the minimum order quantity. I seem to remember at least one company making relabelable keycaps which allow you to print your own key label and stick it under a transparent cover.
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07-06-2017, 08:04 AM
Post: #12
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
I found a supplier that allows images:

http://www.maxkeyboard.com/custom-art-ic...ycaps.html

But at $7 per key cap that would be $250 for a set. Sounds a little too expensive...
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07-06-2017, 08:46 AM
Post: #13
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
It comes down to $5 per key for six or more of the same size and colour. No mention of needing the same graphic.

That would make it $180. Still not cheap.

I didn't realise each row of a keyboard had different keys.

Pauli
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07-06-2017, 09:53 AM (This post was last modified: 07-06-2017 09:55 AM by Harald.)
Post: #14
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
On a standard keyboard the keys on top and second row as well as bottom and second from bottom are identical. The others rows are different.

I now found a supplier that looks more promissing:

http://xkeys.com/accessories/CustomPrintedLegends.php

Still only single colour print, but I will probably have to live with that.

They even do double shot key caps, but the minimum order quantity for those is 50. Probably too many for me.
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07-06-2017, 11:38 AM
Post: #15
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
It looks like the number of different key plastics varies between keyboards. Some seem to have up to five different key mouldings, others just one. That's not counting the varying sizes of key.

The double shot pricing at the site is $0.50 - $1.00 per key with 50 sets. Whereas for the acrylic printed legends it is $50 + $1/key with ten sets. $25n - $50n instead of $50 + $10n.

Existing (i.e. cheaper) keys could also be used -- either bought singly or extracted from keyboards. E.g. https://mechanicalkeyboards.com/shop/ind...ail&p=2247 is the beginnings of a calculator. A few custom keys and it could be nice. Twenty three keys and a display is on the low end.


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07-06-2017, 01:15 PM
Post: #16
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
(07-06-2017 11:38 AM)Paul Dale Wrote:  The double shot pricing at the site is $0.50 - $1.00 per key with 50 sets. Whereas for the acrylic printed legends it is $50 + $1/key with ten sets. $25n - $50n instead of $50 + $10n.

For the 36 keys I require that would be $900 to $1800 for the double shot and $410 for the printed keys ($2050 for 50 sets).
I can't believe there is no setup charge with the double shot keys, but I can inquire if and when the project has progressed that far.

(07-06-2017 11:38 AM)Paul Dale Wrote:  Existing (i.e. cheaper) keys could also be used -- either bought singly or extracted from keyboards. E.g. https://mechanicalkeyboards.com/shop/ind...ail&p=2247 is the beginnings of a calculator. A few custom keys and it could be nice. Twenty three keys and a display is on the low end.

So far the project looks like this:
[Image: screenshotpnjc7.jpg]

We'll see if it all works when the PCBs get here and I find the time to populate them.
I guess the keys only make sense if others are intereted in the project, too.
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07-06-2017, 01:23 PM
Post: #17
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
Are U1~U15 sockets for nixie tubes?

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07-06-2017, 01:54 PM
Post: #18
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
(07-06-2017 01:23 PM)emece67 Wrote:  Are U1~U15 sockets for nixie tubes?

Close, but not quite. They are VFD tubes, like these:

[Image: clock1hz12.jpg]
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07-07-2017, 06:01 AM
Post: #19
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
(07-06-2017 01:15 PM)Harald Wrote:  I can't believe there is no setup charge with the double shot keys, but I can inquire if and when the project has progressed that far.

Me either. $50 to make a custom double shot mould and run off fifty is insanely cheap.


(07-06-2017 11:38 AM)Paul Dale Wrote:  Existing (i.e. cheaper) keys could also be used -- either bought singly or extracted from keyboards. E.g. https://mechanicalkeyboards.com/shop/ind...ail&p=2247 is the beginnings of a calculator. A few custom keys and it could be nice. Twenty three keys and a display is on the low end.

A mixture of existing keys and custom ones might be a good compromise.


Quote:I guess the keys only make sense if others are intereted in the project, too.

I'd be tempted Smile


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07-07-2017, 06:07 AM
Post: #20
RE: Creating overlays / custom key kaps for cherry switches
(07-06-2017 01:54 PM)Harald Wrote:  Close, but not quite. They are VFD tubes, like these:

Beautiful. Do they come in 14-16 segment (or better a 22 segment) version?


Pauli
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