Spacebar warp – Expectations, reality & misconceptions!

In face of various posts, discussions and inquiries that arose throughout this year regarding warped spacebars, decline in quality and misconceptions around this topic, I decided to make some tests and discuss about what should be expected when it comes to spacebar keycaps included in custom kits, based on my experience of 7 years doing hobbyist work in this regard.

Preface:

Given that the majority of keycap sets are sold based on 3D renders or studio pictures, customers and newcomers are being lead to believe that legends, colors and keycap shapes & forms will be delivered perfectly as seen on screen. This expectation has been echoed (and reinforced) by discussions elevating manufacturer reputations and overall high quality of the products they deliver. However, this doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) induce the community to think and expect that the final products being delivered can, or should be absolutely perfect. Perfection in the hobbyist market of keycaps is unrealistic.

Some definitions:

Figure 1 – Bottom spacebar plane, in red.
Figure 2 – Top spacebar face, in red.
Figure 3 – Inner spacebar face, in red.

Discussion:

First and foremost, briefly speaking, keycaps are generally made out of ABS or PBT plastic resins which are injected in viscous (liquid) state inside metal molds. After conformation takes place, the keycaps will cool down and assume their final form. During the phase of cooling down, thanks to the molecular behavior of plastic and overall temperature/pression/humidity conditions of the environment, keycaps will warp to some degree. There is no perfect plastic keycap, to some degree all keycaps are warped. It can, however, be visible or not, constitute a defect or not.

Moving forward, regarding spacebars. The bottom spacebar plane (Figure 1) is independent from the face in which the keycap stems are attached (Figure 3). However, based on manipulation and observation of several keycaps/spacebars, I concluded that it is safe to assume that if the plane highlighted on Figure 1 is warped, the top spacebar face (Figure 2) and the inner spacebar face (Figure 3) will be warped as well. This leads me to conclude that when a spacebar presents warp on its outside faces, the body warps somewhat in progressive (or regressive) fashion until it reaches a mean point.

An important observation, based on tests and measurements I conducted, is that the dimensions of the stems remain constant regardless if a spacebar presents visible warp or not. There is practically no variation in dimension there. But positioning of the stems, however, will change to some degree and that’s the problematic phenomenon (Figure 4). In other words, the absolute coordinates of the stem in space will change, which can compromise functionality of the spacebar, since the stems must seamlessly travel inside the housing of the stabilizers. If the positioning of the stems is altered, this can’t be guaranteed. A 1% warp will cause a little over 0.1 mm stem drift.

Figure 4 – A cross section diagram comparing a mathematically perfect Cherry profile spacebar against same spacebar, but with a 1% warp. According to my tests, a 1% warp will result in a 0.1 mm stem drift in outwards direction. Because various brands of stabilizers exists, and their tolerances vary, I can not determine an exact percentage of warp which will cause the spacebar to be defective without a doubt. In other words, I’d have to test all existing stabilizers in order to determine their travel tolerances and what stem drift will result in unavoidable contact with the housing.

Expectations:

The most accurate way to observe and evaluate space bar warping is by:

1) Resting the spacebar on a flat surface as shown on Figure 4 (without pressing corners) and observing a convexity (with the spacebar on normal orientation as seen on Figure 5) or a concavity taking place, (with the spacebar resting upside down on a flat surface, Figure 6);

2) Proceed to mount the keycap on a keyboard and observe its functionality. This is probably the most important and objective step, which will lead to a conclusion and solution (when necessary).

Figure 4 – GMK Laser (ABS, 2017) and DCP Pegaso (PBT, 2020) spacebar pictures. Both present minimal alterations, none of which affect aesthethics/functionality – tested on various stabilizer assemblies.
Figure 5 – Spacebar presenting convexity. Extreme warp likely making this spacebar defective without a doubt. [Photo by: unknown Reddit user, account deleted but post archived].
Figure 6 – Vortex Poker 2 PBT spacebar presenting concavity. [Photo by Mr. Rampage]

When corners are pressed against a surface – or spacebars are compressed against each other – the geometric curvature is visibly amplified, yes, which doesn’t automatically mean that the space bar is out of spec, or defective. It simply means that the space bar is not a mathematically flat object.

An aesthetically imperfect spacebar does not automatically mean it is defective, or out of spec. All keycaps are subjected to warp at some degree. This is practically an inevitable physical phenomenon, and largely subjected to chance and randomness. This is why some people will receive seemingly perfect spacebars and others will receive warped ones, even though they are from the same manufacturing batch.

Figure 7 – Don’t do this. It doesn’t prove anything other that the spacebars are not mathematically flat. This act amplifies the alteration in shape and suggests to viewers that the spacebar should be perfect, which is unrealistic in the current state of the industry. [Photo by Ackzot]

The reality:

Across different manufacturers, there is no publicly disclosed information on what the exact threshold is – (concavity/convexity/distance from spacebar to flat surface) in order to determine what constitutes a defective spacebar. But it is safe to assume that flat spacebars are within spec and the vast majority of spacebars which present some degree of concavity/convexity, are also within spec, based on what various manufacturers have communicated and delivered so far throughout the years.

As I write this, the only way for a customer to confirm a defect with his/her own hands is to ignore the physical appearance of the spacebar and focus on observing the depress and return behavior once mounted. If uncommon resistance is observed, or if the spacebar gets stuck, or if the spacebar pops out (or doesn’t even sit on stabilizers in the first place) the spacebar is defective without a doubt. In this case, the vendor (and subsequently the manufacturer) should be contacted to discuss replacements.

Do not expect spacebars to be perfectly flat as:

1) This is an unrealistic expectation at the current state of the hobbyist/keycap industry;

2) A warped spacebar does not automatically mean it is defective or out of spec;

3) There is no correlation between the price of a keycap set and the likelihood/straightness of spacebars.

I have seen $120 sets with straight, warped and defective spacebars. And I also have seen $40 kits with warped, defective and straight as an arrow spacebars. The same applies to keycap sets manufactured 40 years ago.

Conclusion:

Mount the spacebars and observe the behavior, if something is out of place contact the vendor so he/she can arrange a solution within the manufacturer.

Keeb on,

M

GMK Laser 2 | Last 24h to pre-order – $99 and $110!

If you haven’t placed your order yet, the time is now.

We are now entering the last 24 hours to pre-order the GMK Laser Round 2 keycaps.

Kit (GMK)SoldPrice
Cyberdeck3178$110
Synthwave M170697$99
Gaijin1003$65
Kobe165$65
Blocknet828$65
Novelties2009$45
Turbo651$45
Extras296$50
ISO143$60
Bars1191$18

If you’re a fan of Laser, Cyberpunk and Retrowave don’t miss this second chance!

Hope you enjoy it!

M

GMK Belafonte & Hennessey closing now! 🐬

Just a quick reminder for you abalones and belugas out there!

The keycap sets inspired by Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou are live for pre orders worldwide at Drop.

The project will close in 5 hours.

Kit (GMK)SoldPrice
Belafonte Base311$120
Hennessey Base609$100
Hennessey Numpad92$30
Decorations433$50
Spacebars195$12

Laser SA – Last update for Cyberdeck/Gaijin owners!

Gaijin Update –

Production for Gaijin is wrapping up as the final delay was caused by this mold which was missing:

All Gaijin kits will be sent from Siganture Plastics to Drop’s warehouse by the end of this week (Feb 23rd to Saturday 29th, 2020). Drop will then ship immediately unless you also ordered Cyberdeck.


Cyberdeck Update –

The Cyberdeck kits suffered from a secondary delay due to these unacceptable molds:

I also confirmed manufacturing of these last couple of molds, which were previously delayed by Signature Plastics:

Current estimate for Cyberdeck completion and shipping from Signature Plastics facility is March 16th. Drop will then receive/ship the kits.


I would like to thank you again for the support and patience so far. When you sign up for a project of my authorship you can rest assured that I will always work as hard as possible, without compromises. I will always do whatever it takes to deliver the best.

The wait is almost over!

Godspeed,

M

Laser SA – Update for Cyberdeck/Gaijin owners!

By now you are already well aware of the delays that happened with these two kits, which suck.

But on a positive side, rest assured that manufacturing of everyone’s keycaps based on my new mold designs is already approved. The molds match the renders for Cyberdeck/Gaijin very closely, if not perfect, like they should have been from the beginning.

Previously, as some of you already know, Signature Plastics have manufactured our kits using unacceptable Filco molds. I have no clue why they went ahead and did this, spending lots of time and resources, but I was very disappointed.

Production is moving in full force and I hope to get these kits delivered quickly. Very soon the ones affected will be able to enjoy Laser as much as the rest of the participants!

Thank you very much for your patience and support, you are appreciated.

PS – For those unaware, I recently created my very own Discord server in which we are frequently discussing projects, ways to improve them, new designs and production updates. Feel free to join and invite your friends as well, if you enjoy keyboards I think you’ll have a nice time hanging out with us!

Project Mythos | Pegaso PBT – Drop is live!

I am happy to announce that the Pegaso PBT preorder is live!

In case you missed the interest check, this is a Cherry profile, 1.6 mm thick premium series of keycap sets based on Greek mythology.

The first design I am making available is inspired by the myth of Pegasus.

Prices (there will be price breaks):

  • Pegaso Base – $70
  • Mitocorn Base – $70
  • Pegaso Numpad – $15
  • Pegaso Novelties – $35
  • Pegaso Spacebars – $15

Hope you enjoy it!

Godspeed SA – Introducing the Genespeed Kit

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In today’s Godspeed SA Round 2 news I would like to introduce a kit that I have been working on for a while.

The single most incredible achievement in human history is, in my opinion, the Moon Landing. Such feat was only feasible due to centuries of work, dedication and sacrifice of countless generations of scientists, workers and dreamers.

Every time I observe the Moon, it always amazes me. To think that we managed to travel to that place and walk on its surface. It is so incredibly far to us humans and to think about the distance – 384.400 km to be precise. We fought every single step into the way of getting there.

The sheer physics and math behind this accomplishment, preparation, improvisation, maybe a lit bit of a luck… Everything we ever did as a civilization resulted into what we did on July 20th, 1969 – we, as a civilization, traveled to the Moon and came back home.

Genespeed is a tribute to one of the most inspiring moments of this journey.

Following the accident of Apollo I where Astronauts Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee lost their lives in a fire, Flight Director Eugene Kranz gathered the team into a room and gave a beautiful speech that arguably changed the course of history.

The Genespeed kit is a streamlined and robust kit which covers all of the popular keyboards with a slick and elegant colorway.

14 - genespeed

Dedicated to Gene Kranz and all of those who gave their lives so we could land on the Moon.

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Pulse GMK Keycap Set – Last day to order and 500 MOQ reached!

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Quick talk, here’s some links:

And some news!

  • This weekend the project reached the milestone of 500 unities of Base kits sold!
  • In case you missed my last piece of news, the Base kit now has a R3 1.75u CTRL included for free;
  • First project to ever feature doubleshot Arabic kit;
  • Hangul is also available;
  • Mitolet (purple custom kit) is also available!

Current prices sheet!

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If you enjoy this project please join now. The sales are going to close when this message is about 24 hours old.

Purchase Here

Thank you all very much for the support, talk to you soon!

M