Keyboard PCBs: How to Build Custom Mechanical Keyboards

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Thur, May 13, 2021

keyboard PCB

If you are a gamer or a computer enthusiast, you may already be familiar with mechanical keyboards. The key difference in a mechanical keyboard is that there are mechanical switches under the key-caps, rather than the rubber membranes widely used in economical keyboards. Mechanical keyboards differentiate from normal keyboards because of their PCBs, and if you want to make custom keyboards, create your custom keyboard PCB first.

What is Mechanical Keyboard PCB

Keyboard PCB, the heart of the keyboard, is a printed circuit board where switches and everything else fits. There is no soldering to the mechanical keyboard PCB and any switch can be replaced or customized. The following things have to be considered when selecting your keyboard PCB.

  • Compatibility with mechanical switches
    There are two leg types for mechanical switches, which are 3 legs type and 5 leg type. It's better to design or select a keyboard PCB compatible for both of these types.
  • Keyboard layout and size
    Keyboard PCBs come in different sizes. Some are compact and support 84 keys. And some have full keyboard layouts. It’s up to you to choose which one is suitable for you.
  • Software compatibility
    Most of the keyboard PCBs come with programmable RGB lighting. Make sure they have good software support to access these functions.
  • PCB quality
    The quality of the PCB or the electronic circuit board of the keyboard depends on the manufacturer of the product. So always pick the products from PCB, a high-quality PCB manufacturer.

How to Build Your Own Keyboard PCB?

If you are planning to design your own custom keyboard PCB, there are three main things you should do.

  • Design PCB circuit.
  • Write keyboard firmware.
  • Write suitable PC drivers for your keyboard.

These steps are not discrete steps. These have to be worked with a total design in mind. The firmware of the keyboard must be compatible with your drivers and should be able to work with your selected micro-controller. The micro-controller you choose must have sufficient I/O pins to support the keyboard matrix and RGB lights in any.

Fortunately, you don't have to start from scratch. There are a few open-source mechanical keyboard designs available that you can use.

G60 open-source programmable mechanical keyboard PCB design

G60 keyboard PCB schematics

G60 mechanical keyboard PCB layout

Pocket Keyboard

pocket keyboard PCB

pocket keyboard PCB layout

Note: I can't upload the design files of the two keyboard PCBs temporarily. You can tell me which one you want in the comments, or contact info@pcbonline.com to order keyboard PCB manufacturing.

Manufacturing the Custom Keyboard PCB

After selecting your keyboard PCB design, you can send the schematic design or Gerber files to PCBONLINE, a one-stop custom PCB manufacturer. Then you get your keyboard PCB manufactured.

At PCBONLINE, you can enjoy $100 coupons for online purchases. The productions are ISO 9001, ISO 16949, UL, REACH, and RoHS certified. Besides, no minimum order quantity is set for limits.

How to Build Custom Mechanical Keyboards

In today's market, every component in a keyboard can be customized. The components are plug and play and the user can select brand, type, color, and even program each and every key to get a fully customized unique keyboard.

Switches

Mechanical switches provide precise consistent feedback to fingers and a unique click depending on the switch type you use. There are mainly 3 mechanical switch types in the market.

1. Linear Switches– There is no tactile feedback or sound of these switches at the actuation point.

2. Tactile Switches– Provide tactile feedback on the actuation point.

3. Clicky Switches– Provide a unique click feedback sound and tactile feedback on the actuation point.

keyboard switches

These main types are subdivided by the number of legs and each switch manufacturer has its own subcategories depending on the actuation force, actuation distance. These subcategories should be selected by the feel of the user.

Key-Caps

key caps

Custom key-caps adds artistic value to the keyboard. There are plenty of the shelf custom key-caps available to purchase. These are available in various colors. You only have to look out whether they are compatible with the mechanical switch that you have selected. It’s also a good thing to look out for the height of the key-caps.

Building your own key-caps?

It’s possible to create your own key-cap styles with the technique of dye sublimation. In this process, you design and print the key-cap design you want on dye-sublimation paper with an ink-jet printer with dye-sublimation ink. The printed designs can be put to blank key-caps by applying pressure and heat.

key cap

Another method is to create the key-cap from Resin. This way 3D art can be integrated into the key-cap. Resin key-caps and custom print key-caps are also available on the market.

Frame and Mounting

The frame of the keyboard usually manufactured by the keyboard PCB manufacturer to match the design parameters. So you can ask PCBONLINE to mount your keyboards when the keyboard PCBs are done. Then you can receive your custom mechanical keyboards.

Conclusion

This article introduces how to select keyboard PCBs and gives some open-source designs of keyboard PCBs, and also introduces how to build your custom keyboard. Ask PCBONLINE to manufacture your keyboard PCBs, and enjoy impressive services now.