Chording Hybrid Keyboard

Based on experience with the previous chording keyboard, fully 3D printable version with two joysticks.

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The experience with the chording keyboard has been good so far. I use it now as my primary input method, for text writing, programming, and operating specialized software.

The conventional arrow buttons seems a good addition to the chords. Three problems were uncovered:

1. The thumbs operating three buttons each seem to be overloaded; two thumb buttons may work better;
2. Right hand has to leave the keys to access the mouse.
3. A keylogger program suggests Shift and Control are pressed way more often than many other keys, including the letters, thus adding separate keys for left fingers may be justified.

The keycaps' shape is inspired by Andrey Kalmatskiy project "32xe".

Not everyone can print rinse-away support structures, so for the best printing results and ease of post-processing the stems were separated from the tops. Each cap can be freed from the support structure with just two moves of a 6-mm wood chisel, then the stem is glued in place with a drop of Superglue.

For the buttons and the joystick caps, 0.1 mm step is used. With my printer, I saw no significant improvement by moving to 0.06 mm step, at the price of making the prints slower (and probably less robust).


Combined parts 02 and 04 for printers with bed larger than 170x170 mm. Step 0.2 mm, support from plate only, top/bottom 1.6 mm, wall 1.2 mm, infill 25% - 17.5 hrs print time.

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 677.57 kB - 08/13/2017 at 02:38



Combined parts 01 and 03 for printers with bed larger than 170x170 mm. Step 0.2 mm, support from plate only, top/bottom 1.6 mm, wall 1.2 mm, infill 25% - 17.5 hrs print time. Saving over printing parts 1 and 3 separately is about 1 hour.

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 677.57 kB - 08/13/2017 at 02:33



Stand for thumb keys Step 0.2 mm, no support, top/bottom 1.6 mm, wall 1.2 mm, infill 50% - 1.8 hrs.

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 62.68 kB - 08/13/2017 at 02:33



Joystick stand (print twice = 1.3 hr) Step 0.2 mm, no support, top/bottom 1.6 mm, wall 1.2 mm, infill 50%.

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 82.21 kB - 08/13/2017 at 02:32



Wrist Support Body (right hand) Step 0.2 mm, support from plate only, top/bottom 1.6 mm, wall 1.2 mm, infill 25% - 9.5 hrs print time.

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 562.19 kB - 08/13/2017 at 02:31


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  • Mechanical prototype completed

    ptrav08/26/2017 at 08:35 0 comments

    Cut the base on CNC and assembled buttons and joysticks. Tested mouse operation with a breadboard.

    Everything looks sturdy, the plastic parts are solid and have zero play. The wrist pads felt too thin for my hands, so 3-mm inserts were printed -- note the blue inserts between the base and the wrist pads.  The STL files have been modified for the extra thickness.  I have also made the files which combine the wrist pads and the switch slots for printing in one go.

    The original plan was to print the joystick caps from a semi-transparent filament to make them glow in the dark (both joystick boards have LEDs).  Well, no filament for now, may replace later.

  • Joystick boards and thumb keys

    ptrav07/09/2017 at 11:17 0 comments

    The joystick boards and thumb keys have been designed and built.

    For the prototype, a prototyping board is sufficient; sometimes in the future can do traces :)

    The body parts have been printed. Everything fits so far.

  • Initial Mockups Done

    ptrav06/11/2017 at 02:18 0 comments

    I've completed three initial mockups using cardboard, junk prints, and hot glue. The dimensions were progressively fed into the Blender model and actual components printed.

    Iteration 1. Initial layout with 3 thumb buttons.

    At this point, decided to drop one thumb button from design: one joystick plus three buttons is a bit cumbersome to handle.

    Iteration 2. Initial layout with 2 thumb buttons and approximate positions for wristpads and joysticks. Actual joystick caps and key caps are used.

    Iteration 3. The thumb layout is now final. Experimenting with the joystick offsets and finger buttons.

    The same layout ported to Blender:

  • Figured out the button printing

    ptrav06/10/2017 at 09:54 0 comments

    After experimenting with support structures, decided to use separate prints for top and bottom and glue together.

    Top row: experiments. Bottom row: final version. For the latter, the switch slots require no cleaning and look way more accurate.

    "Gravity is not just a good idea. It's the law."

    Parts completed so far:

View all 4 project logs

  • 1
    Print the body parts

    In order to accommodate the smaller printers, the body is composed of 6 parts: 2 wrist supports, 2 key holders, 1 center cover, and 1 base. On a 200x200 printer, each wrist support - key holder pair may be printed simultaneously, I will eventually release a combined STL, yet to be tested.

    The current files have been tested using Cocoon Create PLA filament. I used the step of 0.2 mm, which produced satisfactory results with no filing. Instead of using epoxy for coating, the prototype have been coated twice with the White Knight charcoal paint (it has nice glitter in it and hides dust, which will eventually settles on any keyboard). The third coating was a clear gloss.

  • 2
    Print and assemble buttons

    The project requires two joystick caps and 24 key caps. The technique is pretty much the same for all.

    1. Print the cap, studs and painting sticks

    2. Remove supports with 6 mm chisel

    3. Polish caps with 150 and then 600 sandpaper

    4. Glue studs

    5. Glue painting sticks to some used popsicle or ice cream sticks

    6. Spray paint.  I used 3 layers of transparent coating.

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