Nov 30, 2015 | By Benedict

24 Hour Engineer has released an Instructables guide for building a fully functional, 3D printed chorded keyboard. The 3D printed device, initially designed as a Halloween costume prop, is Arduino powered and features Bluetooth connectivity.

For many of us, simply finding the @ symbol when switching between a Mac and a PC can be a deeply upsetting task. Although we can adjust to minor alterations in key size, spacing and placement over time, we remain largely dependent on keyboard familiarity. Switching speech marks with the @ symbol is one thing, but the thought of going one step further and totally abandoning QWERTY can make some typists feel sick to the stomach. Interestingly enough, the established keyboard layout is actually inadequate for many serious typing jobs. In courtrooms, for example, official reporters can be required to write at speeds of up to 225 words per minute, but most professional typists reach maximum speeds of around 80 words per minute. To hit the courtroom rate on a QWERTY keyboard would be all but impossible over any period of time, so court reporters use a special “chorded” keyboard called a stenotype machine. The stenotype keyboard contains far fewer keys than a regular keyboard, but any word can be typed using combinations of keys. These combinations are known as “chords”, just as they are on a musical keyboard.

Stenotypes represent just one kind of chorded keyboard. In fact, various key combination systems can be used to type complete sentences, including some with even fewer keys than the stenotype. Chorded keyboards can be used for a variety of purposes. One major advantage of chorded keyboards is that they can be used with one hand, making them suitable for on-the-go reporting and even typing whilst cycling or driving. Their smaller size also gives them a portability which is lacking in most alphanumeric devices. Brian McEvoy, better known as the 24 Hour Engineer, has built a 3D printed chording keyboard which possesses just seven keys, and has provided a full tutorial for its construction on Instructables. McEvoy’s creation was part of an ambitious “cyberpunk” Halloween costume, for which the maker wanted a selection of tongue-in-cheek yet fully functional props.

The 3D printed chorded keyboard is the size of a computer mouse, and features USB and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity thanks to an Adafruit EZ-Key Bluefruit. The device is Arduino powered, and was coded using the invaluable advice of chording guru Greg Priest-Dorman. The maker has made the STL files for the 3D printed enclosure available to download, as well as providing source files for tinkerers to amend the design in OpenSCAD. The maker has also offered some tips for designers looking to make their own enclosure. Cool as it looks, McEvoy has warned that his 3D printed keyboard is not fully ergonomic, suggesting that better designs could be made by incorporating curves. Never one to skimp on extra features, McEvoy also added an ADXL335 accelerometer breakout to the device, so it can function as a tilt mouse as well as a chorded keyboard.

To give the 3D printed chorded keyboard the most “cyberpunk” appearance possible, McEvoy tried to develop a brilliantly geektastic wrist mount for the device, which would swing the keyboard into the palm of the wearer using servo motors. This part of the 3D printed experiment is still under construction, as the video below demonstrates, but we would happily wear the device to many an occasion—Halloween or otherwise! The full story behind the 3D printed chorded keyboard is explained on McEvoy’s 24 Hour Engineer blog, whilst the instructions and all downloadable parts can be found on the project’s Instructables page.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


Jon S wrote at 11/30/2015 10:15:09 PM:

This type of device is known as a "chording keyboard". According to Wikipedia, they've been around since 1836. A more-modern, electronic, version that I recall is the Microwriter from the 1980s.

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive