Adding magic to the mundane, one filament at a time.

Tag: keyboard

Music to Soothe the Savage 3D Printer

A Long Haul

It’s taken us two months, dozens of test prints, and several design reviews with the buyer, but we’ve finally finished the Jankó keyboard project that we started back in March!

But First an Apology

This week’s blog post is a bit late. Sorry about that! I got my second COVID vaccine shot (Moderna) on Saturday and it really wiped me out. Thankfully there was nothing super urgent to do for 3D Orcs, so I was able to take it easy and let my body recover from producing a bunch of very welcome antibodies. I’m now nearly back to normal, with just a sore arm left to tolerate.

Well, I guess I’m still tiring easily too, so today’s post will be on the short side.

The Final Stages of Jankó

Once we were finally happy with the key design, we still had a lot of printing to do.

Here’s the keyboard with most of the original keys, and just our few test keys installed at one end. But there are several new keys ready to go!

Because the Jankó keycaps overlap neighboring keys, they need to be installed in order from one end, so all of the original keys had to be removed first.

Here we’ve started installing the new keys. It was fun to see the offset black/white pattern start to emerge!

Getting close!

All keys installed!

It was awesome to see it all come together after so much work! But the best part was yet to come.

The Completed Jankó Keyboard!

Finally! Fully assembled and operational!

It’s very cool to see our 3D printed products incorporated into an actual functioning electronic device! And the customer is very happy and excited to learn to play it!

In Other News

One of the last things I did before my COVID shot wiped me out was play a game of Ticket to Ride – Europe. Like the last time I wrote about this game, we used several of our custom game pieces, making for a very eclectic board appearance!

This time I used green canoes from the Camping themed set, my wife used a set of black Christmas sleighs, my father-in-law used purple Steampunk roadsters, and my mother-in-law used the yellow heart themed set we gave her for Mothers Day.

Did you notice her spiral heart Train Stations? Those are new! So new, they’re not even listed as an option in Etsy yet!

Pursuing B2B

Aside from adding the spiral heart Train Stations, this week we’ll be turning our attention to exploring some B2B (business to business) opportunities. We want to see if some local small businesses are interested in buying 3D printed versions of their company logos, whether for their staff or their customers. Wish us luck!

What the Heck is a Jankó Keyboard?

A Fascinating Musical Concept

I’ll start with a one sentence lesson in musical history. The Jankó (pronounced Yanko) keyboard was designed over 100 years ago, and has the clever benefit of allowing each scale and chord to be played with the same fingering regardless of the key. Wild! There’s more on Wikipedia if you’re interested.

Why didn’t it catch on? Seems to be the same kind of thing that saw VHS succeed over Betamax, or Qwerty over Dvorak.

But it’s still really cool!

What’s That Got To Do With 3D Printing?

I was approached by a customer who likes to tinker with musical instruments. He had a small electronic keyboard, and wanted to convert it from a standard piano layout to Jankó keys. He had even found 3D models online for printing the replacement keys. He just needed the keys printed.

Each key involves three pieces: the key itself, and two keycaps that attach to a pair of posts.

Easy enough, right?

Not So Fast

The first problem (did you see the foreshadowing there? yup, there turned out to be several issues…) was that the keys extended far out in both directions from the lowest point, and therefore needed to be printed with supports. I talked a bit about printing supports last week, and prefer to avoid them when I can.

In the case of these keys, the support removal was time consuming, risked damaging important parts, and left an ugly mess that would have been even more time consuming to clean up.

Inversion Therapy

Looking at the keys, we saw a nice big flat top surface. If only we could print with that as the base and not need supports. But those posts would be a problem.

Print the posts separately and glue them on later? It would be pretty hard to get them positioned exactly right.


If the key base included geometry to ensure a precise fit, it should be doable.

The Solution

I ended up cutting holes in the tops of the keys so that the posts could sink into them, mimicking the way the keycaps attach to the post tops.

More Challenges … And Solutions

There were several more problems that needed to be resolved before I could deem it a workable design.

Sinking the posts into the keys made them too short, so the keycaps would strike adjacent keys when depressed. So I made the posts longer.

Getting the post height precise was difficult due to the awkward geometry. So I added a ring around each post, ensuring it would sink an exact distance into the hole, and no further.

There was a slight depression in the top of each key, requiring supports when printed upside down. So I flattened out the top of the keys.

Some of the holes went right through the keys, resulting in loose-fitting wobbly posts. So I thickened the affected region of the keys to more firmly embed the posts.

There were other issues as well, mostly caused by strange behaviour in Blender, the 3D modelling tool I use. But eventually I worked my way through all of them.

It took several attempts with keys that didn’t work, but I think I’ve finally got a design approach that will work nicely.

Taking Shape

I have several more keys to do, but here’s a look at the keyboard so far, giving you a glimpse of what it will look like when it’s finished.

Game Accessories

Through this week I’ll be producing more keys for this project, and with luck I’ll have a finished Jankó keyboard to show you next Monday. But I’m also working on another entirely new board game accessory. It’s not game pieces, nor is it strictly for any one particular board game. But if I can work out a few remaining kinks it’ll be really cool, and will be the largest item I’ve printed to date!