Default:Topre/Realforce Reference - all things topre
Good feeling of oneness with cup rubber
So you want to understand the mystery of the keyboards with Topre switches. Well you have come to the right place. This wiki page is an attempt to answer that question. As well as being a reference for all the keyboards that use the Topre switch. This includes the Topre branded Realforce product line and all the OEM boards that currently use the Topre switch. Of the OEM keyboards the HHKB Pro line by PFU is the most fames.
We are also going to try to cover how you go about getting your hands on one of these keyboards as well. Either locally in the US or shipped out of Japan or Korea depending on witch keyboard you want.
NOTE: The new content will take shape over time because I can only work on this for a limited amount of time every day. I will also be testing some BBCode as well so expect things to be mangled while I do this. Sorry.
The Topre switch in their own words
But what does all of that mean in practice? Lets see if we can figure it out from various drawings and from some keyboards we have taken apart here.
First lets take a look at Topre's drawing of the switch:
Ok that picture does kinda show how the actual switch looks but how about the actual switch and how that actually works.
Part one of the switch the PCB:
This forms the first part of the switch as described "an insulating substrate, a first electrode laid on the insulating substrate".
Part two of the switch the spring:
Cool now we have this part "said second electrode being formed of a conical coil spring, and being positioned on the dielectric so that one end portion of the spring may be in contact with the surface of the dielectric". As you can see the spring is fits perfectly on top of the first electrode formed in the PCB.
Part three how the capacitance changes:
"a capacitance between the first and second electrodes being mainly defined by the contact area between the dielectric and second electrode"
See how the spring collapses. The bottom coils flatten and come into contact with the dielectric on the PCB. Cool stuff..
Part four that Good feeling of oneness with cup rubber.
There are many aspects of this particular rubber dome that are very interesting. A big part of the patent for the Topre switch is spent on the design of this dome. It is shaped the way it is to provide what they describe as a snap feeling. Here is the relevant quote
And now the spring in the dome:
So what we have so far is a spring sitting in a specially designed rubber dome and as the dome is pressed down the spring collapses from the bottom until it is completely flat when bottomed out. On bottom out the plunger presses that nice big and thick bump at the top giving a nice soft landing.
Next up we have the switch housing that fits around the dome/spring:
Then we have the plunger that is used to press down on the dome with a key cap attached to the top:
Nice and round so that is can smoothly ride in the housing.
Plunger and key housing combined from the bottom:
Do you see those channels the plunger rides in? That is what keeps the key from twisting.
and from the top:
And now the dome and spring sitting in the housing:
Those two guides on either side of the housing align the dome and sit on the PCB so that the dome and spring are completely contained in the housing. Here is an illustration that shows the point of switch activation as you can see the dome has just buckled to give that snap feeling:
As you continue to press down on the key the dome will collapse on itself and on bottom out the plunger is stoped by the top cap of the dome giving the switch a nice soft landing.
So that is how the Topre switch is put together. A very well put together switch with allot of attention and thought put into every little detail of it.
I recently ran across these switch force graphs and thought that this is a good place for them. I found them here if you want to go and brows around yourself. That site has force graphs for a bunch of keyboards so even if you are not interested in Topre's you will find graphs for most of the available switches.
They were tested using this device.
Enough of that lest take a look at the graphs:
The top two lines are the down stroke and the bottom line the recover. The bottom two lines are for a different key on the same keyboard.
The activation point distances were measured using a table saw dial indicator.
This is the force graph for a typical rubber dome. Although it shares the rather rounded tactile bump the activation point is at the end of the stroke.
This is for the short throw HE0100 keyboard. What is interesting here is that the specification that I have seen for this board and the MD01B0 indicate that these boards should have 40g keys. I can at least verify that the MD01B0 does indeed have 55g keys using the RipOmeter test.
This is a comparison chart. What I find the most interesting here is that the Topre switch has the smoothest force gradient of all the switches.
And more switches. And again the Topre has the smoothest force gradient of all of them.
Topre/Realforce did not spend all that time and effort on the key switch just to put it in a junky or low quality keyboard. They put just as much thought into the keyboards as well. From the quality of the materials used to the way they are constructed you just know that you are typing on a very high quality keyboard. I'm really not going to spend too much time on the keyboard construction itself and instead point out some of the more distinctive features of most if not all of the Topre/Realforce line of keyboards.
All Topre based boards come with either variable or uniform force key weights. On the uniform force or weight keyboards all the keys require the same amount of force to activate a key. On the variable force keyboards depending on the key location the amount of force required to activate a key will be different. The key weightings that have been produced up till now are 30/45/55 and 35/45/55 for the variable force keyboards and 30, 45 and 55 grams for the uniform force keyboards. In the patent for the switch Topre somewhat covers why they decided to offer a variable force keyboard. Their research showed that if you reduce the weight of the pinky keys that the user of the keyboard suffered less fatigue when typing all day. So the original research was really aimed at office workers that must reliably type all day long as part of there job. And they have been very successful in Japan of selling this concept to businesses where they sale the majority of their keyboards.
Here is the official key weighting of the 87U as you can see they have reduced the weighting of the keys that are pressed by the pinky.
With the number of inquisitive members we have and the invention of the low cost RipOmeter by one of our members we feel that the official force layout is not correct. What we think it should really look like is this:
We are not completely sure why some of those keys are measuring 40g but they do. On the 87U and the other variable force keyboards the domes in the alpha area are a single sheet. This makes us wonder if when Topre is changing the wall thickness of the domes if there is some limitation on how much they can change it from row to row. It should also be noted that Topre specifies the dome tolerance at +- 15g so technically they are with in specification. But still if there is some process limitation that does not allow them to do 10g steps they should really update their official weighting chart to reflect that.
Topre uses PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate) for their keys. As quoted from here PBT Market research
On the majority of the Topre boards the keys have a different shape depending on the row the key is at so you can't just move the keys around on these keyboards because they will not fit properly. On the Topre/Realforce and HHKB Pro the keys are labeled as to which row they go on the underside of the key:
Another unique characteristic of a Topre keyboard is a key that is printed with India(black) ink on black keys. As a result you get a dark almost black key with black printing.
One other thing everyone that types on a Topre board notices is the feel of the surface of the keys. The below picture shows the texture of the key but you really have to put you fingers on it to understand how it really feels. All I can really say is that they feel great.
The Realforce 101 is a copy of the IBM Model M layout but with Topre switches instead of Buckling spring switches. It also is a variable force board where the pinky keys are 30g and the main keys are 45g with the escape key coming in at 55g.
Currently this keyboard is getting hard to find but you can find it if you want it. Also the only place to get them is from Japan. For Japanese sellers see the Merchants in Japan section.
This is the current production full size keyboard it comes in both black and white. The variable weighting is the same as the 87U. (although one member reported the pinkies being lighter, 30g)
And the black one:
Various threads about this keyboard:
Realforce 103 White - One of our members just ordered this board and this is a long thread discussing what was just purchased.
Realforce Topre 87U Vs. 103UB - Another thread about which of the Realforce boards to get either the full size keybaord or the tenkeyless version.
The Realforce 86U is an older model of the 87U. The differences are:
So you have decided to purchase a Realforce keyboard or one of the OEM keyboards like the HHKB Pro. Until recently if you wanted a Realforce keyboard you had to get them out of Japan which will drive up the price considerably but some of these keyboards are now available in the US.
So read on in the following sections about where to find these wonderful keyboards.
Currently there are a few merchants that carry the HHKB Pro but only one merchant that is importing Realforce keyboards.
Realforce keyboards can be found at elitekeyboards here. elitekeyboards currently only stocks the 103U/103UB and the 86U.
Realforce keyboards tend to be expensive, no matter where you get them from. Elitekeyboards often has specials throughout the year though, so be on the lookout for them. It's also worth joining their mailing list so you can be notified of these specials early. Another way to get discounts is you can contact them or majestouch to see if they have any "b-stock" (scratch/dent or refurbished) keyboards. They often do, and they are discounted.
If you're interested in ordering a different Realforce keyboard (such as those available on benippon.com or geekstuff4u.com) Brian from EK can do one-off purchases in multiples of 10 keyboards (The 87U is not available). So if you can get a group of at least 10 people together who want the same keyboard that's currently not stocked, contact majestouch on Geekhack or email EK.
HHKB Pro's can be found at multiple vendors if you search for them but in the last search I did elitekeyboards had the lowest price on them. They can be found here
elitekeyboards also carries some of the HHKB Pro options as well. Like blank key caps and red ESC keys and blue WSAD keys. You can find them down the page here. It should also be noted that the key caps for the HHKB Pro also fit the 87U but you only get enough keys for a HHKB Pro.
This reference is a translation of the one on Moonlight Cafe and is a work in progress as I decipher the meaning of some of the notes.
NOTE: In the below tables I have included links to other content where the link leads depends on the column. For instance in the Availability column the links lead to where you can purchase that particular model. Other columns will lead to other places.
NOTE 2: The links to where you can get the keyboards are random and are what I happened to find quickly when putting these tables together. Topre has many resellers in Japan so please take a look at the where to buy section when trying to find one of these keyboards.
(1) These keyboards are included with a full system. In both cases these are Video editing workstations that are multi million Yen systems. NS Keyboard I think this is the EDKEY 2 It is in the picture with the system.
(2) These keyboards have the black on black key lettering. See the keys section for what this looks like.
(2) These keyboards have black keys with black lettering. See the keys section for a example.
ed info on on the Topre Realforce and Happy Hacking Keyboards? What about accessories? And what about that nifty Red Esc Key!
-this link provide details information of all Topre version - http://cafemoonlight.blog55.fc2.com/blog-entry-20.html
-purchasing information (sellers, cost/fees/shipping), for keyboards and for replacement key(s) or keysets.
-differences between the boards, layout differences, key weighting differences, by model
-other metrics and mods
Where to Purchase
an online currency converter:
possible ebay or geekhack sellers:
repoman on gh is trying to get a bunch of red escape keys and etc for selling stateside. Tell him to "go for it, dude".
stlensbar on ebay (who chose the most impossible to spell or remember username he could come up with) used to sell topre stuff but apparently no longer does.
topre/realforce in US:
keyboards, keysets for hhkb only (both black and white, both lettered and blank, each keyset is about 60 bucks plus shipping). No keysets for other topre boards. NO single red escape key available to be bought seprately.
topre/realforce from japanese sites:
Geekstuff4u Select currency and language options, upper right of page. I think they're located in japan but apparently ship to US. An HHKB Pro2 replacement keyset is about $70 plus shipping here.
BeNippon (need deets and urls)
PFU may have something (spare keys or key pullers anyway) if you can read whatever the hell language this is in:
Here's the pfu site in english:
Here's their online store (where they seem to only sell the HHKB Lite (which I think is the non-topre version) for 70 bucks.
This page at pfu seems to sell replacement keytops but good luck if you only know english:
keyboards and key(s)
Here's the red escape key page at leopold. Good luck if you only know english:
The cost is about $4. Dont get excited. It'll be like $40 to ship it. Yes, thats for one escape key.
topre keysets from leopold (with korean/english lettering):
price is 45,000 won plus shipping. (about $35 plus shipping)
good luck if you only know english.
more leopold notes:
Communication from leopold webmaster:
Q. Do you have an English language website?
A. I am sorry but we don't have English website yet.
All of the products in our Korean website (www.leopold.co.kr) can be delivered any place in the world.
Q. How to pay for a purchase?
A. Payment is allowed Korean Currency only now.
I'd like to recommend you to order when we can introduce "Paypal" payment method.
Q. "Do you have replacement keyset for Realforce keyboards? Is the red escape key included?"
A. Key set in website is for Realforce103 / Realforce 86, not for Realforce87. And it is not all of Key cab but 28pcs of Key cab including alphabet character line and Ctrl key and Alt of left side (red ESC Key is not included).
Q. "Do you have replacement keyset for HHKB pro2?"
A. Key cab for replacement of HHKB Pro2 is not selling in Korea, it is selling at http://www.pfu.fujitsu.com/direct/hhkb/option.html by on-line only of HHKB Pro2 manufacturer in Japan.
sites that help you buy from korea:
crescent (link?) 2000 Yen broker fee.
J-Goods (link?) (japanese site)
"It was going to be $80 for 2 sets of wasd keys and 2 red escape keys."
55g Realforce Vs Variable Weighted 35/45/55 Version
RealForce 87U - US Version 35/45/55g
HHKB Pro 2
RealForce Versus HHKB
RealForce 87U - US/Korean 55g Version
Professional Gamer Likes His Topre 55g
Korean Version Review #2
RealForce 86U - Previous Version
Realforce 91UBK Japanese Version
TECHNOLOGY AND MODS
Realforce 87U Opened Up
Secrets of Topre Part 2 - Key Weighting Mod
Turn Any Board Into a HHKB2
Rit Dye Your Keys
Realforce 87U Specs and Dip Switches (back of box)
HHKB Dip Switches
The Famous Red Esc Key!
|Search this Article|