This month we reached a major project milestone: $500,000 in orders! Thanks to everyone on their confidence in the project and their patience as the factories work to make sure the new Model F lives up to the classic original.
Producing these parts to IBM’s tolerances has been a significant challenge for the factories. There have been many iterations of prototypes that I’ve rejected as out of spec. I had to cancel the agreements with two factories (key molds and springs) last year as they could not produce parts to spec and the new key mold factory had to start over.
Fortunately the constant rejection of prototype parts until they get it perfect has resulted in the factories finally succeeding on almost all parts. Many of the parts have finished production already and are waiting for assembly – die cast cases, flippers, barrels, controller PCB’s, capacitive PCBs. The top and bottom inner assembly production is almost finished (just need the powdercoating) and one key mold is good while the other needs adjustment. These are all parts whose production examples I’ve approved for quality and tolerances. Right now we just need the springs, keys, and dye sublimation to finish and then the keyboards can be assembled and ship.
Update on the springs: The Japanese material springs were technically perfect, within spec, but too quiet! They lacked the full volume Model F resonance after a pressed key is released. The factory is sourcing the same spring material from the material analysis report but from other factories (same spring factory though). Not all materials of the same grade are exactly the same or sound the same as I’ve learned. I’ve gone through about 20 unique spring production runs over the span of this project so far. We are getting there! A new run of spring samples should be ready by month end or early next month.
Update on the keys: One of the two new key molds has passed my examination of the sample parts (the mold containing the 1U cavities) so the 1U keys are approved for production! The keys meet all dimensions’ tolerance measurements (+/- 0.1 mm!); the key tops are richly textured like those of the brand new original Model F’s in my collection. They interact with both new and original barrels smoothly, including on the Model M barrel frames. Unfortunately the second mold with the other keys needs some more adjustment. The black PBT from the new production keys is of excellent quality and texture; I do not see circular areas of excessive shine on the tops characteristic of the original Lexmark black keys. And we are also waiting on the color matching. The factory has original Model F XT and Industrial SSK blue Model M keys for color reference.