Hello from Commanche, Texas!
This morning, we drove from Waco to Austin and got to spend a bit of time chilling out in a cafe before this afternoon's meetup at ATX Hackerspace. As we pulled up, a member was just putting out a giant sign that read "Keyboardio!"
ATX is a relatively large space divided into three parts: a classroom/common room/office area, a paid coworking area, and a fairly large shop area. They're a co-op and it sounded like their equipment was a mix of leased hardware, donations, member-owned machinery and gear bought at auction. It sounds like they've gotten some amazing deals on big tools and machines from government surplus auctions.
The two things in ATX's space that really wowed us were an absolutely gigantic Texas-sized home-built CNC router and a work-in-progress Electric Porsche.
Today, Matt Mancuso brought along a very nice prototype keyboard he'd designed in a very nice layered acrylic case. Jose (who folks on the forums might know as XMIT) brought in a pretty nice assortment of more traditional keyboards for people to try out, including an IBM Model M, an IBM Model F and an IBM Beam Spring keyboard.
At today's event, we talked a fair bit about the hoops we have to jump through to mass-produce the keycaps for the Model 01. The technique we'll use to make the keycaps is called 'injection molding.' Roughly the way it works is that a pair very, very big blocks of steel get the inverse of the keycaps carved out of them, such that a set of keycaps would fit perfectly inside if you fit the two blocks of steel together. These big blocks of steel are then mounted on a scarily big machine that clamps the two blocks of steel together, shoots hot plastic inside them, cools the steel slightly and then pops open, so the brand new set of keycaps can be removed from the steel molds.
From there, the keycaps will be painted black and a laser will burn the labels onto the key, carefully vaporizing the paint so the underlying plastic is visible. After that, the keycaps will get painted again. This time, it'll be a clear coat of something scratch resistant to help make sure the paint doesn't flake off the keycaps over time.
Making those big blocks of steel (usually called 'molds' or 'tooling') is...not cheap. The tooling for our keycaps is easily the most expensive up-front cost for the Model 01. Most of the quotes we've gotten for the molds are well into the tens of thousands of dollars. The nice thing is that, depending on exactly what kind of steel is used, the tools last for tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of sets of keycaps.
After the meetup, we spent a little bit of time with Matt Mancuso helping him debug issues with his prototype. In the end, the issue got tracked down to the diodes on his keyboard being soldered backwards from what the software was expected. We got mail from him a bit later this evening that after a bit of software wizardry, everything is working great.
Today, we drove 258 miles, bringing the total for the trip up to 3878. We didn't mention it yesterday, but yesterday was the halfway point for meetups, though we're not quite to the half-way point for mileage just yet.
As of this moment, 1170 folks have backed us for $358,369. It looks like tomorrow, we'll hit 300% funded. Tomorrow, the campaign will also be half over.
Tomorrow is a travel day. (It turns out that Texas is...big. We're 3 hours into the trip from Austin to Denver and still have 12 hours of driving left.)
On Tuesday evening, we'll be at Stack Exchange's office in Denver. If you're anywhere near there, you should join the 20 folks who are already coming to meet the Model 01: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/meet-the-keyboardio-model-01-denver-at-stack-exchange-tickets-17316191194