Shoes and Keyboards

It all started with this 4 years ago. There is supposedly a correlation between the type of switch / keyboard one uses with his/her shoes. For example, red switch users apparently go bare foot…? Putting aside the science, the exercise of matching a shoe and a keyboard and posting on r/mk has withstood time and still a daily occurrence in 2017. So I tried it myself. There definitely is this strange satisfaction of photographing my best shoe, Allen Edmonds Park Avenue, with Miuni32 with a case from u/lxkhn.

Padauk cases from u/lxkhn

They came all the way from Ohio, US to the west coast. I was ecstatic when I received his package.  They look, feel and smell simply amazing. Lines are simple. and elegant. I don’t know if he treated the wood, but the grain is smooth yet texture is very much felt. And most surprisingly, the waft of Padauk really adds personality to the cases. Arguably the 2 cases he cut are prototypes. They did not have all the features we wished due to limited time we had. They look absolutely gorgeous.

Miuni32 with Cases From Friends

 

A big part in the big equation of group buy is the case. Miuni32 is a 30% keyboard. There is no such thing as universal case which is the case for the 60% keyboards.

However, I am not at all worried about this. Even though I know nothing about cutting cases, I have been fortunate enough to work with prominent members of the community like u/lxkhn, u/jolimon, and u/goosekbd who are simply wealth of knowledge and resources when it comes to making cases of different materials. I have padauk cases from u/lxkhn literally on the way at the moment! u/jolimon have been working on the cases that fit the latest PCB revision, and u/goosekbd is working on some amazing carbon-fiber plates.

Additionally, some of the OAs decided to not wait and began making their own cases. I have seen cases made of cardboard boxes, and even *LEGO* and 3D printed! This is exactly what I wanted to see. Miuni32 is extremely compact. It is very easy to create a custom cases regardless of material of your choice. I believe it will be one of the important features of the board :).

I took the liberty to include a few of cases shared by the OAs here:

Lego case from u/MrMontgomery:

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Bamboo case from u/lxkhn:

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3D printed case from u/that-canadian:

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Acrylic case from u/jolimon:

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I am glad I was able to write this post within a week since the last one. I hope to keep on writing the behind the scene of this project. After all, I am building a keyboard so I can write blogs while I am sitting in the transit. Like all of you who is reading my blog, I am quite busy with life, but this community is where I find myself calm, tranquility and excitement amid all the noise in this world. So it is too bad I don’t get more time to spend on this project. However, I am committed with all the energy I have. I have been getting helped by amazing people I met since I posted the very first Miuni32 revision. So it is almost there!

Getting Miuni32 manufactured

Putting together a group buy requires much work and attention to details.

After all, this is the part of product development where things are not so straight forward. There is no V = IR really. Selecting vendors, testing out multiple manufacturers, finalizing the designs and figuring out how and where to launch are only a portion of the big equation.

Assembly service is the one I am putting much effort and thoughts into these days. There is no way I will be manually soldering every single component like I did for the OA release. While I loved every moment of it, it just takes too much time! It took 2 hours to solder the components and get a single board tested.

So naturally I have been getting quotes for PCB assembly services, both local and remote companies. Local vendors are too expensive for what they offer. One quoted $12 per PCB and the tolerance requirement was very large. The representative told me relaxing the tolerance from 6 mil to 8 mil would reduce the cost, but I doubt it will make any difference in the end, as this is already 3 – 4 times more expensive than popular PCB services in China (ie. PCBWay.com). My favorite assembly services thus far are US-based MacroFab.com and Circuithub.com. They are PCB Assembly Service 2.0 start-ups with kick-ass user interfaces. They automate most of the process with intuitive front end, so I don’t have to “email” my files with instructions. This is nice because I can get instantaneous estimates with breakdown of PCB manufacturing, component costs, and assembly services. The final prices based on MOQ are still being worked out, but I would love to go with one of the two. The next best thing in the world is assembly houses based in China. PCBWay.com has been my go-to PCB manufacturer thus far. Extremely fast, reliable, and even friendly experience all around for very reasonable cost. The only downside is I get dinged for duty and custom, this applies to every service oversea. I have not been able to calculate the cost for their turn-key style assembly service yet, as their user interface is not as automated as the US-based ones. I believe PCBWay.com will still be cheaper after all said and done, but nothing is decided yet. Really need to finalize this soon.

Miuni32-OA PCBs delivered!

Alright, I am typing this with the first released version of Miuni32. Even though Miuni32 is a minimalist 30% keyboard, it took a good amount of effort and time. It also required patience and persistence.

My beta testers, I call them the OAs, and as well as the rest of the mechanical keyboard community have pointed out many of improvements on the design of the PCB through a few iterations these past months of the year 2017. There is no way I would have spotted the short-comings of the initial design of Miuni32 without the keen eyes of the OAs. I will write a separate post for the changes.

They also kept me motivated. I realized designing a piece of PCB was easy, and arguably very fun. The rest of stuff – ordering parts, keeping track of parts, handling shipping and deliveries, processing payments, and other administrative tasks – took a bunch of time and patience. I kept on marching because I was not alone.

Perhaps the most surprising part was that not one OA dropped out. It has been nearly four months since we became a team. We have been fairly well engaged the whole time. You see, I was a little shy of getting Miuni32 out to the world. I was not sure if it will have any sort of acceptance. And it is definitely a great assurance that all my OAs have stuck together. I truly appreciate them.

There has been very little updates on the surface for the past 2 months. Most of the activities happen in the r/miuni32, Github and on our private Discord channel. So I owe the world an update. It is my wish to write more often on the subtle details around this project. So please stay tuned :).

 

 

 

Quick Update on the First Batch of Beta GB

Hello everyone! I have been getting inquiries about the selection process for the first batch of eligible participants of the beta version of Miuni 32 PCBs a lot in my inbox.

While I try to answer all the questions I receive, I won’t be announcing the list of eligible participants until after the January 20th, which is the last day to submit the survey I included in the newsletters! To give everyone a fair chance, I will withhold myself from making decisions until then. This process is necessary because I can’t complete this project alone. I need your expertise in the areas I am not. This means pretty much all aspects of the project except for the PCB design and firmware writing (truthfully, I need your help on that too) :). I have included these areas in the first newsletterI hope to connect with you to be partners in this endeavor!

I am likely to send a follow-up survey or emails once I receive all the responses. So it will take me another a week or so to officially announce the list.

That said, I tremendously appreciate everyone who have signed up thus far. I would like to stay engaged with you all. So please help this project by responding to the survey, and also polls that you will be receiving. Your feedback is extremely important.

Thanks, and feel free to contact me anytime!

Project Update

I *really really* wanted to launch the group-buy before the year 2017. I had my hand-assembled prototype PCBs working. Sure there are some revisions to be made, but the PCB design itself is in a good condition.

However I won’t run group buy just yet. The problem at the moment is this:

There is no case for it. And this is a major deterrent to buyers.

The most intriguing part of Miuni 32 is the form factor. It won’t replace your GH60 or Whitefox. With only 32 keys, the purpose of Miuni 32 is to become an on-the-go writer’s mechanical keyboard. So it has to fulfill that goal. And without a good quality case to complement the PCB, the point is moot.

I came to this realization after asking for guidance on the MK community on Reddit, as well as talking to Henry at ZealPC.net. Henry graciously offered his insights and advice on my project. And the bottom line of our conversation was that the PCB alone is not enough to be a product on its own. It has to become a whole.

And that ultimately means I need to have an MOQ that is acceptable not only by me, but also by my partners (case makers, assemblers, shipping/handling and etc). And my partners won’t and shouldn’t commit until the I do my due diligence – which includes the quality of the finished PCB. In other words, goodbye to manually soldering.

The PCB and components are cheap. However, professional assembly service is another matter. Initially I thought I could hand-solder the SMD components myself. This proved to be not only time consuming, but also extremely error-prone. I don’t like inconsistent solder quality of my bare hands. Professional assembly service will cost more, but it is a necessary ingredient to offer a quality product.

It has been a learning experience these last two weeks. I asked and received quotes for components as well as professional assembly services. All very new to me. I am too used to my garage-band / brute-force approach where I source my components from Digikey and do the rest manually myself. However learning is never the end. It is always a means to an end. Hence I must stay focused and figure out how to complete Miuni 32 as a product.

I have been working with a few case makers for my board. I have not received them just yet. It is my wish that I can put together a kit with these amazing people in the community in the very near future. Until I am confident, and satisfied, I must not rush.

And in the mean time, I plan to do a *beta run* of just the manual-assembled PCBs in January 2017. I will probably produce *10 pieces*. If you are a maker, who is not looking for a complete build, and are eager to test out the PCB, firmware or build plate, cases, accessories and etc, please let me know :). I will try to get you a board. Additionally, if I promised you a board already, and never heard from me yet, let me know too!

So that said, if anyone in the community can offer up advice or critique my thought process above, feel free to hit me up.

And last but not least, I thank everyone at /r/MK who have contributed to this one way another. I truly appreciate all of you!

First Post

I needed a place to keep all the bits and pieces of my work (mainly Miuni 32 Keyboard PCB at the moment). Hence I slapped this site together. I will be making frequent updates on development and progress of Miuni 32 PCB, as I explorer the world of mechanical keyboard. I believe it is still a niche world.

I feel very much like Captain James T. Kirk on USS Enterprise most of the time – the world of mechanical keyboard is still very much an unknown territory to me. It is fascinating to say the least. It is utterly ludicrous at times. It is hard to convince friends and family that there are people out there (including myself) who happily spends hundreds of dollars for computer keyboards.

I am not Mr. Spock. I am rarely driven by logical reasoning. That is just what I am at this stage of life. I can’t say *passion* is the motivation however. Passion is rarely logical and is uncontrollable emotion. I think that much is true. There is a sense of purpose in my journey however. Keyboard allows me to keep my illogical brain organized by expressing my thoughts and ideas into words. It may not be a passion. I don’t know yet. It is, however, a necessity.