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    I suspect that the next step in keyboard customization is actually in software: a 3D, 3-degree-of-freedom layout system that has a library of existing parts and circuit requirements should be able to take a set of user specifications for an N-key keyboard and produce 1..N custom PCBs with circuits and connectors laid out. It could even reasonably take a stab at producing a 3D printable case.

    Why 3D? Curvature, elevation and separation.

    Why 3 DoF? Once we’ve specified a key’s location, we need to specify rotation on each axis.

    Kailh produces hot-swap socket mounts for MX switches, rated at 100 swaps - low for development, reasonable for a 25 year keyboard.

    PCB fabrication in single digit quantities is reasonably affordable already. Flex PCBs are easily available up to 4 layers deep. Why have a custom-modular keyboard when you can get a custom-integrated keyboard?

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      A custom-integrated keyboard has a lot of advantages, and would provide more flexibility at design-time than a custom-modular would at use-time. If you know what you want, your needs won’t change, and your needs can be met today, custom-integrated is the way to do.

      The advantage with custom-modular is greater flexibility at use-time. I don’t know what curvature, tenting angle, staggering etc is best for my hands, and even if I did it might be easier to learn by adjusting bit by bit. I also might not be able to find e.g. an easy way to integrate a TrackPoint with what’s available on the market today. Printing an entire new keyboard every time you want to change it will get expensive.

      So perhaps you start off with custom-modular, and when you’ve gone a few years without wanting to change anything you can get a custom-integrated version that looks sleeker.

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      While I like the idea behind columnar modules, with the advent of PCB’s like NeoKey Socket you can place keys at an individual level, allowing even greater flexibility in the design of the keyboard. If a flexible, smaller footprint version of the NeoKey Socket was made, that would be even better.

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        NeoKey Socket looks great! However, it does require soldering.

        I tried to envision something that could help manufacturers cater to users who don’t want to build their own, yet want a lot of customization options. I think column modules can offer that, while the NeoKey Socket seems to be targeted at those who do want to build their own.

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        By mistake, I opened the document to realize it’s barely readable on small mobile screens. I say “by mistake”, because the page is hosted on google docs, which I’m trying to avoid as much as possible. The topic is interesting, that’s why instinctively clicked on the link, but couldn’t follow due to the limitations I mentioned earlier.

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          Sorry, didn’t mean to “trick” you. Self hosted PDF for you: https://uxu.se/Column%20Modules%20for%20Mechanical%20Keyboards%20211223130031.pdf

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            Thank you for sharing PDF! Sorry for coming of dismissive. As I said, I’m interested in the topic, but it was really hard/impossible to read on my phone, due to wide margins and the amount of indenting (that is a problem of google docs, I’m not sure anyone can fix that).

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          Once you’ve tried hot-pluggable switches, there’s no going back.

          Honestly I’m not sold on hotswap. Nobody is changing switches every day – especially not with the low reliability of the hotswap sockets. If in two years there’s a new switch with such a dank thicc click that I would consider upgrading switches, it’s easy enough to desolder the old ones and solder new ones in.

          adjustable column staggering

          That does sound kinda cool I guess..

          for example this great invention that turns ordinary key switches into pressure sensitive, analog keys. […] the only product is a development kit that at the time of writing is out of stock

          Woah. That is really interesting!

          The company doesn’t seem active since 2019 except for, uh, filing a US patent. Well, I guess for hobbyists outside of the US this just serves as documentation ;)

          upd: looking at their reddit announcement from back then, turns out most of the magic is in Inductance to Digital Converters (TIL that’s a thing)

          upd: also a competitor has already researched inductive sensing for mech switches back then lol

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            The reason I see great value in hot-swappable switches, and similarly hot-swappable columns with PCBs, is that people don’t know what they want until they try it, so making it cheap to swap out components allows exploration. For example, I thought I wanted Cherry Brown, but also ordered Cherry Red Silent just in case. Turns out I wanted the red everywhere except on two keys. Exploration like that would be so tedious without hot-swappable switches.

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            Oddly I have thought of making the opposite, a board with horizontal modules so that you could go from ortholinear to staggered by sliding the rows.

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              In case you haven’t seen this, my squeezebox keyboard has independent columns and lots of dimensions that can be tailored to a particular hand. Next iteration should be ready soon.

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                I have seen it! I think we had a conversation last summer about it. I especially like the extreme curvature. I’ve added a mention of it in the document.