May 17, 2016

Making a Realforce 87U compatible with HiPro caps

The Topre 87U is unquestionably my favorite TKL of all time. Unfortunately with Topre, keycap options are quite limited. I am also a huge fan of high profile caps, such as SA profile caps, and luckily Topre actually makes a full size keyboard called the HiPro that features high profile dye-subbed PBT keycaps. So, if you have the money to buy both, you can simply swap out the caps, right?Unfortunately, no. Because the HiPro only comes in a full size variant, like all full size Topre boards, the status indicator lights (Caps, Scroll, Num) are above the numpad. The 87U, due to not having room at the top of the case for these lights, uses under switch LEDs.  Due to the position of these LED’s the bottom left CTRL key features a special slider, and slider housing, to accommodate for the indicator LED (on the 87U Caps and CTRL can be swapped via a DIP switch, and in that case there is a Caps LED where CTRL normally is). Because of that, only keys made for the 87U, and that left hand slot can be used in that location. Here a visual example of the difference:

As you can see, the left slider and left windowed keycap, have stems that go in the opposite direction of all the other stems on the board, which are like the other stem pictured. To further complicate matters, the housings is also different.

The left CTRL housing has a cut off corner, thus turning the housing 90 degrees, or swapping out the housing all together is not possible.Now, there are a few solutions to this issue, with the first being to modify the keycap stem, or 3D print a new slider for that location. Cutting the keycap stem off was simply not an option for me. I feel like there is a huge possibility of making a mistake and ending up with a keycap that doesn’t sit properly, or simply doesn’t lock in place at all. I decided the best course of action was to simply modify the plate to allow the housing to be turned 90 degrees, allowing me to keep my keycaps stock and allowing me to very easily swap the entire housing back if I ever wanted to make the 87U stock again.

Do do this, I simply used the grinder on my Dremel tool. Cutting the plate was extremely easy to do and came out looking rather good. I could have sanded it down slightly more, but I wanted the housing to snap into place and not be loose either, so once the housing fit I didn’t shave any more of the plate off.
Now that my slider was in alignment with all of the others I simply needed to desolder the LED from the PCB. With the housing turned, the LED hit the bottom of the housing. This was a very easy process, and the LED came out without any issues.
After that I simply put the keyboard back together, and put on my fresh caps. In this example, I used caps from a 104US and swapped out the sliders for purple silenced sliders, as I no longer have any HiPro caps at the moment. The 104US caps would have the same compatibility issues as the HiPro caps though, and still are a good example.

Also, the sexy triple shot ESC key is from KeyKollectiv!

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It was unexpected to me. :-) Thanks for the tip.
Here is a ready-made search for any interested parties:
I agree with you. Well I am saving for a Type-S upgrade so no hurry on the mod :)

Not sure if I'd buy that ugly Bluetooth they made to try to eliminate Hasu's mod. If that was done with a internal Li-ion battery I would have had replaced my Pro 2 already.
Not sure how you had it set up on the Novatouch, but usually I hear about o-rings on the Novatouch being on the keycaps to dampen the down stroke. In case it's unclear, most Topre silencing mods (dental bands, soft landing pads) are installed on the sliders themselves, at the base, to damped the upstroke. It works wonders.

The biggest difference between the o-rings you'd use on keycaps and the dental bands, I believe, is thickness. The dental bands are quite thin when installed and barely impact key travel distance. I hardly noticed a difference in feel even when I first installed them, now I can't tell. But the sound is much closer to the bassy, clean thock we like to hear out of the Topre switches. I recommend it highly as a cheaper (and easier) alternative to EK's soft landing pads (less ironing). I would not recommend using o-rings, as I suspect they are thick enough to shorten the key throw more than I would like.
There are many posts about it on, Deskthority and Geekhack.
I have a ton of o-rings at home. I'll give them a go next week to see what changes. But I suspect that it would feel very close to my former Novatouch with them. And I wasn't a big fan of how it felt/sounded.
Dental bands as O-rings? Damn, that's unexpected.
I've got dental bands installed on my HHKB. I love the way it feels and sounds, and dental bands are dirt cheap.
Great Idea! I have a rf87u with novatouch sliders, and those don't fit on the left Ctrl, so I put a 3D printed matt30 slider but still the keycap is just displayed as the steam is too short, need to figure a solution soon :)
One does not 'simply' put the topre together. Also, your topre boards: ungh
I got Topre for dayssssssssssssssssssssss
Nice write up Andy, i love my Dremel, too.

You're a wizard, i wish you could do another tiny miracle and pull 6u SA spacebars out of SPs hat to make my 87u go hipro-style with Jukebox :). That should be looking fantastic!
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Here is my current setup.
Very nice,

MD is giving me a hard time again, Oops all the time and timestamps are wrong too on every page/drop.
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