Project Ursa is a fresh keycap profile for Topre boards

Pay attention, I don’t need to be the man who at all times posts about bizarre keyboard stuff. I’ve different pursuits. However I want to inform the handfuls of Verge readers with Topre keyboards about these keycaps. Ursa is a brand new spherical doubleshot keycap profile for Topre that’s out there for group purchase till Might fifteenth.

Reactions to the earlier sentence will possible fall into three camps:

  1. I acknowledge a few of these phrases
  2. Already smashed that checkout button
  3. A keycap group purchase? In 2024? In a brand new profile? For Topre boards? What might go improper?

I’m often a bunch three, however at present, I’m in group two. When you’re in group one, here’s what a few of these phrases imply. Topre keyboards, just like the Joyful Hacking Keyboard Skilled, use totally different switches than normal mechanical keyboards. They use little rubber domes with a quick, top-heavy tactile really feel that you may’t actually get wherever else (I’ve tried).

However Topre is a tiny slice of the large mechanical keyboard market. In contrast to normal MX-style mechanical keyboards — the place keyboard, change, and keycap choices every quantity within the 1000’s — there are solely a handful of Topre boards on the market and a really small variety of methods to customise them.

Along with the HHKB, Topre switches are additionally present in Realforce keyboards and some Leopold boards, like my beloved FC660C. With a number of exceptions, they don’t work with common MX-style keycaps, and pickings are slim.

There are the inventory keycaps, that are superb dye-sub PBT however solely are available in a number of coloration choices. There are a number of extraordinarily costly high-profile keycaps from discontinued keyboards and a few janky aftermarket units. Most individuals who need to change out the keycaps on their Topre boards find yourself placing in MX-compatible sliders.

(In case you are questioning why individuals would spend a whole bunch of {dollars} on a keyboard that’s good proper out of the field after which spend a bunch extra money altering all the things about it, all of us have mind worms.)

So, again to Ursa. The Ursa profile was developed by designer Andreas Chlupka and manufactured by FKCaps. I’ve been following its improvement for a few years now, as a result of I’m a creature who likes fairly keycaps. And these are fairly, with good sculpted spherical tops and centered legends. They’re the primary doubleshot PBT keycaps out there for Topre boards that I’m conscious of.

The Ursa keycaps can be found in traditional grey and off-white, black with white legends (with non-compulsory crimson or blue modifier keys), and a Minitel 1-inspired retro brown, inexperienced, and cream. $80 will get you a set that may cowl an HHKB or an FC660C; it’ll price $120 to cowl a full-sized Realforce. When you don’t want legends (the half that tells you what key it’s), a full set of blanks in both black or traditional will price $60.

They’re estimated to ship in Q1 2025, which looks as if a good distance away however is comparatively brief in keycap group purchase land.

These Ursa prototypes are 3D-printed. The manufacturing variations may have the identical form however solely English legends to begin.
Photograph: Andreas Chlupka

What might go improper?

Loads of issues might go improper! The FKCaps crew appears fairly clear-eyed concerning the challenges. Probably the most rapid is that in the event that they don’t get sufficient orders to pay for the double-shot tooling, they will’t make the keycaps and the group purchase will likely be canceled. Personally, I don’t desire this consequence.

Then there may be the group purchase mannequin itself, which is widespread in fanatic communities however does require paying for a product effectively earlier than it’s really made and trusting the seller to pay the producer, the producer to make the factor and get it to the seller, and the seller to ship it to you. Many a bunch purchase has foundered at a kind of phases!

Simon Tarchichi, co-founder of FKCaps, instructed me through e-mail, “We perceive the situations aren’t good for a bunch purchase, and we actually would have performed it in a different way if we might. That being stated, we’ve got expertise in producing new keycap profiles, that is our fifth enterprise (after MBK, HEX, MNT Pocket and SLK) and even supposing this one is extra complicated as a result of they’re doubleshot, we wouldn’t be gathering buyer’s cash if we weren’t 100% assured within the consequence.”

The following problem, after all, is definitely making the keycaps. Proper now, apart from 3D-printed prototypes, FKCaps solely has single-shot keycap samples from their producer, and a few of the stems are crooked. It is a widespread downside with aftermarket Topre caps just like the KBDfans set I’m utilizing proper now. PBT is a difficult materials to work with, with a number of shrinkage, so it might take a number of tries to get the stems straight and the legends proper, which is why FKCaps inbuilt 5 months to create and refine the tooling. Tarchichi instructed me that the producer is similar one which makes their different keycaps and that it has expertise making doubleshot PBT caps, which is reassuring.

I’m not going to let you know to purchase these keycaps. Group buys are dangerous, and manufacturing is tough — FKCaps solely resorted to a bunch purchase after it couldn’t discover an investor to entrance the cash for what’s, in spite of everything, an extremely area of interest product. And no person wants to spend this type of cash on keycaps for an already costly keyboard.


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