Modernized Buckling Spring Keyboard Switch
Modernized Buckling Spring Keyboard Switch
The classic buckling spring switch modernized. Uses Cherry MX keys, plates, and PCBs, supports backlighting, feels like nothing else.
The classic buckling spring switch modernized. Uses Cherry MX keys, plates, and PCBs, supports backlighting, feels like nothing else. Read more
With the mechanical keyboard community growing so much in the past few years, we've seen a bunch of new products hit the market: split ergonomic keyboards, tiny 40% boards, custom keycaps, MX clones, and so much more. A lot has changed since I first joined the community in 2009. What hasn't changed so much, however, is the thing at the centre of our community: the switch. The biggest switch introduction since I've been around is the red Cherry MX. The vast majority of mechanical keyboards are based around Cherry switches. Other switches exist, but they're uncommon options.
There is a switch we all know and love, but haven't really had the opportunity to put into our favourite keyboards: the buckling spring.
The buckling spring has been around since 1981, and is still in production today. However, the original buckling spring needs to be manufactured as a whole keyboard, not allowing affordable batches of small keyboards. You cannot buy a handful of switches and hand-wire them or put your custom keycaps on them. I want to change this. I've been working on a buckling spring switch that will work with our keycap collections, our current PCBs and plates, and allows backlighting, while retaining that unique buckling spring feel.
What it Does
allows 3mm LEDs for backlighting,
fits Cherry plate holes (14mm*14mm),
fits Cherry PCBs,uses regular Cherry/Costar stabilizers,
allows for hand-wiring,
is easy to open up without requiring desoldering,
is as tactile as IBM switches,
is around the same actuation force (60-65cN) and travel distance (4mm) as IBM switches.
What it Doesn't Do
mount perfectly onto your existing Cherry MX keyboard,
sit as low down in your keyboard as a Cherry or Matias switch,
sound identical to a Model M (it sounds like this).
Cherry Compatibility Explained
The pin layout couldn't be kept identical to the Cherry MX. The two LED pins and one of the contact pins are identical to MX switches. The second pin will exit the PCB through the centre cutout, allowing for a small bridge to be soldered between the pin and the pad on the PCB. What this means is that any Cherry PCB can use these buckling springs, although it does require one extra solder joint.
The modern buckling spring switch will be taller than MX switches. This results in a different height between the plate and the PCB, which is not adjustable on many keyboards. What this means is that while you will be able to solder a modern buckling spring switch into your existing keyboard, it will only rest on the PCB, and its key will stand above the MX switches around it. Some keyboards, such as Plancks, Ergodoxes, and many custom keyboards will only need an adjustment to their spacers to convert to buckling springs! The distance between the plate and the key, however, is identical to MX switches, so you can use normal Cherry stabilizers with buckling springs.
The design is a very simple one: a two-part housing, a pin that holds the spring, an MX-compatible stem that holds the spring at the other end, and a contact plate with a pin. The spring buckles into the plate, closing the circuit. This is a very simple contact method, and also allows for a minimal switch height. The switch's clips are at the top, so it can be opened up without having to get around the plate or desolder the switch. Three prototypes have been made so far. The final design differs from the prototype in that the centre pin will be much smaller and the switch housing will be square so as to fit existing plates. The final design is depicted in a render below.
Progress & Funding
The project design is complete at this point, and a patent is pending! One last prototype will be made of the final design to ensure that everything is accurate. Manufacturers for all the individual components have been found and production is ready to begin as soon as they are given the go-ahead. I will personally assemble and test the first batch of 30,000 switches. The funding goal is 40,000 CAD, or around 32,000 USD. This is needed to cover tooling costs for the injection molds.
Thanks for the interest! Updates will come both here and on an upcoming website. Feel free to ask me any questions or send in suggestions!
Final Words and Clarifications
The third reward tier of 60 switches will contain 62 switches, not 60 as is declared. This was my mistake. You will receive all the switches you need to make a 60% keyboard! All rewards will include a few extra switches to account for potential breakage.
And a video-rant about the project!
Risks and challenges
There are two foreseeable problems with this project: Timelining and potential issues with the design or its manufacture.
Ideally, funds would have been raised last week, everything would have been manufactured yesterday and shipped today. Of course, every step of the process takes time. I've been looking at a possible design and prototyping for almost a year now. I've gotten in contact with businesses in injection molding, spring manufacturing, and metal stamping. Everything is ready to be manufactured as soon as confirmation is sent. The rest of the timeline is out of my control, but I estimate a September delivery of the first batch of switches.
The second potential issue would be in the manufacturing stages. Parts might not fit perfectly the first time due to tolerances; the springs might not be the perfect weighting or be mounted at the perfect angle for the weight and travel desired. This could introduce extra delays and costs in adjusting molds or remanufacturing. This is the reason that one last prototype will be made of the highest possible quality. I have experience hand-making and finishing small parts, and will be personally assembling the first 30,000 switches. I am prepared to hand-finish the entire batch if there are small problems with the molds!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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