What makes up a Model F Keyboard? + Detailed production status of each part

We just reached the quarter million dollar order mark!  Over $250,000 in orders so far!

There is still time to place your order.  Here is a link to the order form where you can customize your layout (ANSI, HHKB, international ISO, etc.), colors (off-white/beige, Industrial Gray, Black, True Red), etc.: https://www.modelfkeyboards.com/product-category/main-f62f77-offering/

 

What parts and technologies make up a Brand New Model F Keyboard, what does each part do, and what is the production status of each part?

 

Barrels and Flippers – all production complete

These are the key (pun intended) parts of the Model F.  The barrels hold each key in place and allow for smooth up-down movement as keys are actuated.  The capacitive flippers make contact with the capacitive PCB and complete the signal when a key is pressed.

Powdercoated Die Cast Zinc Cases – all production complete for Off-White/Beige, Industrial Gray, Black, True Red, and Silver Gray cases

These cases are made from a dense, high quality zinc metal and powdercoated so that the texture and colors match that of the originals – the IBM Industrial SSK and the IBM Model F metal case keyboard.  These cases are sturdy and will not flex or break when you are typing.  These help contribute to the 8 to 10 pound weight of each F62/F77 keyboard!

The factory did an outstanding job with texture and color matching.  Can you tell which case below is the original and which is the reproduction?

Industrial SSK original with powdercoated F62 case

Controller PCBs – all production complete for factory built/factory assembled compact xwhatsit controllers

Also complete is the new open source firmware/cross-platform GUI configuration software by xwhatsit, native NKRO / USB functionality with removable USB cable.  Typing on a brand new F77 keyboard for this post, with one of these controllers – all is working well!

Ribbon cables – all production complete

The controller PCBs connect to the capacitive PCB underneath all the keys with a ribbon cable like those on the old IDE / Floppy Drives.

Capacitive PCBs – all production complete for F62 regular, F62 HHKB style split right shift, F77 regular, F77 HHKB style split right shift, and custom F62

The Model F design completely seals all the capacitive PCB contacts so that they are not exposed to air/wear and tear – one reason why Model F’s last so long.  The flipper never actually contacts the copper inside the PCB directly, but the conductivity of the flipper material allows for a signal bridge between the two rectangles of each key when activated).

Inside foam – currently in production; expected to finish in a month or two

The inside foam ensures even pressure of the barrels against the inner assembly, and also a way of minimizing dust and other debris entering the inner assembly.  Each one is custom stamped to match the top inner assembly cutouts for the barrels, whether for the standard or HHKB style layouts.

Buckling springs – currently waiting for updated samples that more closely match the original Model F springs; production will take under one month once samples are confirmed for production.

The buckling of the spring causes the flipper/pivot plate to be pressed down on the capacitive PCB, thus completing the circuit and sending the pressed key’s signal.

Top and bottom inner assembly; ultra compact cases – currently retooling; production expected to finish in a couple months

The sample parts were slightly off spec so I rejected them.  The factory is retooling their equipment to produce all accurate parts.  I reject out of spec parts that do not meet my quality standards, even though this has caused delays in the project.  The end results though have been great so far (check out my earlier post on the challenges of making parts from the 1980s and the importance of quality control for this project).

The top and bottom inner assembly hold all the keys, barrels, flippers, and capacitive PCB securely in place.  To maximize the performance, sharpness and clickiness of the Model F it is important that these parts be built to spec exactly, as they were in the 80s.

The compact cases are made of high quality but lightweight anodized aluminum – great for frequent travelers.  The compact cases cut the weight down to about 3 or 4 pounds from 8 to 10 pounds of the original style cases.

Dye Sublimated PBT Keys – currently retooling; production expected to finish in a couple months

The factory has had significant delays adjusting the molds to ready them for production but they are expected to finish the tooling this month and then the keys can be injection molded.  They are designed to match the original IBM XT key quality.  Dye sublimation allows the keys to resist wear of the legends after decades of usage as the sublimation ink is absorbed into the key, not just sprayed on top like with the most common keyboard legend printing today, pad printing.

Product packaging – boxes and outside foam – outside foam is going into production this month; currently waiting for corrected box samples that use thick double walled cardboard for maximum protection during shipping

The goal of the Brand New Model F Keyboards project is a high quality product with the finest materials designed to last for decades.  Packaging is designed to be similar to the original packaging for these keyboards (I am one of two original IBM F77 6019303 keyboard owners on the forums – I have one brand new with original foam packaging).  These keyboards are also among the easiest to take apart and repair yourself – videos will be posted on how to do common repairs to keep your Model F typing along in the decades to come.  Just make sure you order the First Aid Kit for future repairs – it includes springs, foam, and other parts that I’ve seen fail with the original keyboards after decades of use.

Any questions, feel free to message me or post on the Q&A page.

Joe