Make your individual 3-D printed mechanical keyboard

Mechanical keyboards are all the trend and it’s simple to see why—there’s the pleasure of having the ability to actually hit the keys, the clicky sounds, and the truth that they are often extremely customizable. 

If you wish to improve your typing expertise with one among these devices, there are two methods to go about it: You possibly can all the time purchase one or, in case you’re up for the problem, put one collectively your self. Selecting one strategy or the opposite might not make an enormous distinction in the value tag of your new peripheral. However there’s just one means that provides you the satisfaction of getting made a keyboard that’s particularly made for you and by you. 

In the event you’re prepared for an journey, right here’s how one can construct your individual 65-percent mechanical keyboard. A high-end peripheral can simply price in extra of $100, so we designed this venture to be typically inexpensive, and if you wish to lower prices additional, you possibly can even 3D-print your case. Ordering your parts will typically be dearer, leading to a last price ticket of round $150. Making your individual elements, alternatively, can cut back that price to lower than $50.

And don’t get deterred in case you don’t have a 3D printer at dwelling—you possibly can all the time join a membership at your native maker house the place there’ll probably be machines you should utilize and even courses you possibly can attend. In the event you actually wish to make the leap and get your individual 3D printer, we’ve put collectively a information with every little thing you might want to know before you purchase one.


  • Meeting time (not together with 3D printed case):  6 hours 
  • Materials price: $50 to $166.10 
  • Problem: Reasonable

In the event you’re not 3D-printing your parts

  • Soldering iron
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Wirecutter


1. Purchase or print your case. The case is the physique of your mechanical keyboard, and it holds the switches and different digital parts. As we talked about earlier than, you should purchase one or you possibly can 3D print your individual.

In the event you select to hit the market seeking a case, on-line retailers equivalent to KBDFans and Aliexpress are good choices since they’ve a variety of circumstances. The Chinese language on-line retailer has the advantage of getting you extra bang to your buck, however with the disadvantage that orders take longer to get to you. In the event you’re impatient, Amazon additionally carries inexpensive keyboard parts, however you’ll find yourself paying a premium for having them at your step inside a few days. 

You possibly can select to purchase an aluminum case or a plastic one. Aluminum tends to be dearer, but it surely’s extra stable and hefty, which makes it a good selection in case you don’t have a tendency to maneuver your keyboard round. Alternatively, some individuals choose the look of plastic circumstances, that are additionally often cheaper. Some circumstances include a becoming plate, which is the piece that holds the keyboard switches in place, however you may as well simply search for a case that has an built-in plate. Choose the mannequin, shade, and materials you want essentially the most—simply be certain the case has a mini-USB slot for the management board.

For individuals who select to 3D print their very own case, I like to recommend utilizing FedorSosnin’s SiCK-68 tada68 ‘factor’ from Thingiverse. It’s well-designed and the printing directions are simple to observe. In the event you’re extra superior with regards to 3D printing, you possibly can alter the Thingiverse design or make one from scratch utilizing the swillkb Plate & Case Builder useful resource. I personally went with the SiCK-68 construct good and compact, and you’ll print it in no matter colours you want, however I used silver PET-G filament for the underside a part of the case and white filament for the highest. I selected PET-G filament as a result of it’s sturdy and sturdy, however you may as well use PLA, which gained’t require you to alter the default settings on Ultimater Cura.

When utilizing the SiCK-68 template you’ll must print some elements individually—the decrease and higher case items (each left and proper), the dowels (to hitch the items collectively), and the keycaps for the Alt, operate, proper shift, and CTRL or Command keys, in case you purchase a normal keycap set. These keycaps are barely smaller than the Tada68 structure, so that you’ll must make your individual to suit the case.

The printing course of must be pretty related for all 3D printers however I used a Creality Ender-3 so I’ll describe the 3D printing course of based mostly on that. If you’re utilizing a printer that doesn’t have computerized mattress leveling, begin by leveling your mattress earlier than printing to make sure that you get the most effective outcomes. I used Ultimater Cura to do my slicing, however you should utilize one other slicer equivalent to Prusa Slicer. Yow will discover the related settings I used beneath—you should utilize them as a baseline and regulate them to suit your particular machine and filament. If these settings end in a messy-looking print, slowing down the pace ought to repair any points.

Printer: Creality Ender-3

Filament sort: PET-G

Print nozzle temperature: 235°C

Construct plate temperature: 85°C

Print pace: 60mm/s

Preliminary layer pace: 10mm/s

Allow Retraction

Retraction distance: 9.5mm

Retraction pace: 40.0mm/s

Most retraction rely: 10

Combing mode: Inside infill

Allow print cooling

Fan pace 100.0%

Preliminary fan pace: 0.0

Construct plate adhesion sort: Brim

In complete, the print took round 30 hours, and in case you optimize the settings of your printer, you possibly can simply depart your machine to do its factor with out a lot intervention.

In the event you print with a brim, you’ll word that you’ll have to trim off the additional materials with a craft knife. You’ll additionally discover some leftover “strings”—these are regular when utilizing PET-G filament, and you’ll simply take away them by blasting your prints at arm’s size with a warmth gun at round 390 levels F. You can even pluck them off. 

2. Set up the switches. Set up your switches into the assembled prime half of your keyboard case or plate. We went for the Akko CS Ocean Blue, as they’re clicky and really inexpensive, however you should utilize no matter switches you want so long as they’ve three pins and are the identical measurement. 

To put in them, be certain all of the switches are dealing with in the identical route and press them into place till you hear a click on—that’s how you recognize they’re secured.

Build a mechanical keyboard from scratch with 3D-printed components
Whenever you end putting in the switches, it’ll look one thing like this.

3. Solder the switches to the diodes. Now you might want to begin organising your keyboard’s management system, which permits the sign of a pressed key to journey from the appropriate change to the management board. Step one is to solder diodes to the pins of your switches. 

Diodes often are available in units of 100, however you’ll solely want 68—one for every key. This may depart you with a variety of room for error in case you want it. These delicate parts be sure that present solely flows in a single route in order that there aren’t any loops that can find yourself frying your keyboard or inflicting your machine to register the unsuitable key. 

Begin off by figuring out which finish is the cathode of the diode—you’ll acknowledge it by the black band painted on the physique. Use your wirecutter to trim the cathode right down to 1/2-inch and solder it to the left pin of a change. Repeat the method with all remaining switches and end up by trimming the remaining ends of the diodes to 1/2-inch.

4. Join every row of switches with a wire. You’ll discover that there are 5 rows and 15 columns of switches related to diodes. Measure up, lower, and strip 5 items of stable core wire lengthy sufficient to run for your complete size of every row of switches. 

Solder the remaining ends of the diodes within the first row to one of many items of the stable core wire, and repeat the method for all of the remaining rows. End the row up by trimming the ends of the diodes which are nonetheless poking up, and inserting electrical tape over each bit of the stable core wire. This may forestall shortages from taking place between the rows and columns.

5. Join every column of switches with a wire. Measure up, lower, and strip 15 shorter items of stripped stable core wire lengthy sufficient to span the size of the columns of your keyboard. Solder one piece of wire to the appropriate pin of every change within the first column and repeat for all columns.

6. Join your rainbow wires to the row and column wires. Strip the ends of 5 wires out of your rainbow wire spool, and solder them onto the ends of every row of wire. You possibly can select the appropriate or left finish of the row wires, however no matter you do, be certain your Teensy is ready to slot into its spot within the backside half of the case with out challenge. In the event you don’t router your wires correctly, they may bunch up and never depart sufficient house for the Teensy and the case won’t even have the ability to shut up correctly. 

Proceed by stripping the ends of a set of 15 wires out of your rainbow wire spool and solder them onto the ends of every column wire. 

At this level, the again of your keyboard ought to look one thing like this. 

Build a mechanical keyboard from scratch with 3D-printed components
It appears messy, however we swear it’s not as difficult because it appears.

7. Solder the rainbow wire to the Teensy. Use this diagram. The completely different colours of the rainbow wire will make it easier to inform the distinction between every row and column, making the job a bit of simpler. Be certain to double-check your wires earlier than you solder them. 

Professional tip: You should use an unique Teensy if you wish to, however it’ll probably be dearer.

If you would like a extra theoretical understanding of how precisely this setup works, you possibly can try the place the creator takes a deeper dive into the internal workings of the sort of keyboard. However to sum up, every key corresponds to a novel mixture of row and column numbers. That is how the Teensy is aware of which key you’re urgent.

8. Program the Teensy. It’s only a matter of following these steps:

  • Join your Teensy to your pc with the mini-USB cable.
  • Obtain the file.
  • Extract the file to a handy location and open the folder.
  • Within the EasyAVR-master folder, discover and run the easykeymap.exe file. That is the setup wizard for the keyboard mapping course of.
  • Go to the File menu on the primary navigation bar on the prime of your display, and choose New.
  • Choose TAD68 after which click on OK.
  • Shut the software program for now. 
  • In a brand new File Explorer (or Finder window, in case you’re on a Mac) go to C:SPB_Data.EasyAVRboards
  • Copy the file to this folder. This file is in the primary folder from whenever you extracted the file.
  • Again on the EasyAVR-master folder, open easykeymap.exe once more.
  • From File, select New, choose SiCK-68, after which click on OK.
  • To create a operate key layer (which means, giving keys a operate completely different from the unique whenever you press the Fn key), choose Layer 1, then the 1 key (subsequent to Esc) within the window. Proceed by deciding on the Scancode possibility after which F1—it will give the quantity key the F1 operate whenever you press it together with the Fn key. You possibly can repeat the method with the remainder of the quantity keys (and the minus and plus keys to the appropriate of the row) to assign them as much as the F12 operate. 
  • Choose Construct.
  • Save the ensuing file.
  • From the primary SiCK-68_EasyAVR folder, open the Faux Teensy Loader.exe file.
  • Press the button in your Teensy as soon as to manually enter Program Mode. 
  • Subsequent, go to File after which Open HEX File, and choose the doc that you simply created in step 13.
  • Lastly, choose Program.
  • To complete, choose Reboot from the Teensy Loader menu. Your keyboard ought to now have the firmware on it.

9. Slot within the stabilizers and the keycaps. Stabilizers will assist, effectively, stabilize larger keys, just like the left shift key, the backspace, the spacebar, and the Enter keys. As soon as the stabilizers are in place, you possibly can connect the keycaps to the switches—simply line up the cross-shaped slot within the keycap and push it into place. In case you don’t keep in mind the place every keycap goes, you possibly can use this structure as a reference.

10. Check the Teensy. Be certain every little thing works because it ought to, by going to the Keyboard Tester web site and making an attempt out your gadget. You need to see the platform registering every stroke as you hit the keys. 

Any points you run into could also be attributable to shorts—perhaps you didn’t apply {the electrical} tape correctly, or it could have been broken in some locations. That is a straightforward repair: visually examine the tape to see if there are any points. If issues persist, then it would imply one thing is just not soldered appropriately. Disconnect the keyboard, take away the tape, and rejoin something that may have separated. 

11. Tuck in your parts and shut the case. When you’ve verified every little thing’s working easily, it’s time to bundle every little thing up. There’s a slot within the backside half of the case for the Teensy. Go forward and tuck it in there, ensuring that it’s as far ahead as attainable and you could simply plug in your mini-USB cable. 

Put the highest half of the case onto the underside half, ensuring there aren’t any wires protruding. Screw every little thing collectively along with your machine screws.

12. Apply the rubber toes. Do that close to or on the 4 corners of the underside of the keyboard. 

I’ve been utilizing this keyboard ever since I completed programming the Teensy and it has been an actual pleasure. There’s something concerning the roughness of it—the place I lower off the additional materials, the customized keycaps, and the joints—that makes me love this keyboard greater than anyone I might have purchased. It’s my keyboard and I constructed it. 

You won’t just like the roughness as a lot as I do (you possibly can simply polish that early on within the course of), however the motion of the switches and keycaps is fast and polished, so the feel doesn’t compromise the gadget’s efficiency. The Akko CS Ocean Blue switches are very tactile and clicky, which I personally love, however if you need one thing quieter, then there are different choices on the market.

I’m a brand new convert to mechanical keyboards and because of this construct there’s no means I’m going again to a membrane keyboard. This can be a fundamental construct however you don’t need to cease right here. You possibly can construct one to make use of at dwelling and one for the workplace. You possibly can add extra customizations like completely different coloured keycaps and you’ll even add LEDs. The sky’s the restrict.

Rahul Diyashi
News and travel at your doorstep.

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