manufacturing

2019 Apr 18

Catching up with pre-orders

By |2019-04-18T23:49:46+00:002019-04-18 21:01|manufacturing, modules, news|0 Comments

TL;DR: We’ve been making rapid progress with manufacturing. We’ve shipped six mini batches since our last monthly update, two additional mini batches are assembled and we will ship them next week. Afterwards, only three mini batches remain to be shipped, and we’ll be caught up.

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update! Ready for warp? Let’s punch it!

Manufacturing progress

Since our last monthly update, we’ve shipped mini batches 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, and 64, which is decent, but not as many as we had expected.

Mini batches 65 and 66 (the latter is not displayed on the delivery status page yet) are already assembled, but we’re waiting for palm rests. Our palm rest supplier is behind schedule, and is expected to ship enough palm rests next week to complete these mini batches. (We ship individual packages as quickly as we can, so no need to email about this, folks.)

Afterwards, we’ll only have to assemble about three mini batches. Should the Keyboard Gods show their support, we’ll catch up then.

That is, excluding orders which contain non-black cases. Those may take a bit more time. Which brings us to the…

Non-black case shortage

Due to a temporary shortage of non-black cases including non-black UHKs and non-black extra UHK cases, orders including such items are delayed until non-black cases roll into our factory. We emailed the affected customers, and offered them the option to switch to black cases to expedite shipping. So the opportunity is there. If you want to switch to black cases, just let us know along with your order id.

This shortage is expected to be resolved in about a month, and we don’t expect that a similar shortage will happen again. We ordered literally tons of colored plastic pellets, so we may not run out for years.

Module progress

András has refined the mechanical design of the key cluster module and ordered a 3D printed version of it which has yet to arrive. Then we’ll evaluate the robustness of the new design. Based on the CAD models, the design looks good. We shall see soon.

The mechanical design of the right-sided modules is being finalized, too. Some details are still unclear, but András made major progress recently, and we’ll get them 3D printed, too. The bottom part of these modules look very similar, and we want to have a shared bottom part for them in order to minimize tooling costs and increase reliability.

The design of the modules is rapidly shaping up, and I’ll have to develop the key cluster firmware soon.

Your feedback

Twitter was noisy, which has become usual when we ship a decent number of orders. Thanks everyone for sharing your nice tweets, and please keep them coming!

We’ll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and we’re looking forward to talking to you on 2019-05-16.

2019 Mar 14

Coming up to on-demand manufacturing

By |2019-03-14T21:10:18+00:002019-03-14 21:00|manufacturing, news|7 Comments

TL;DR: We’ve been making steady progress with manufacturing, and we’re about to switch into high gear. We expect to deliver every non-module pre-order by the end of March or the beginning of April. Afterwards, we’ll transition to on-demand manufacturing.

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update! Let’s get right to it!

Manufacturing progress

On February 27, we finally received the product boxes which were necessary to resume production, and we’ve shipped mini batches 55, 56, 57, and 58 since then.

Production has been mostly uninterrupted, except for a small shortage of foam parts that reside in the product boxes and protect your UHKs extremely well from any damage on the way. Luckily, we received plenty of foam parts today.

With the above issues out of the way, we expect to deliver every non-module pre-order by the end of March or the beginning of April, at which point we’ll transition to on-demand manufacturing.

On-demand manufacturing means that we’ll assemble orders as they come in. This translates to about a 0 to 5 working day delay from order to shipping depending on the actual demand.

Our current focus

Right now, our primary focus is to deliver every non-module pre-order, and streamline our operation. András is busy with the former, and I’m busy with the latter.

Improving our backend systems will allow us to devote the smallest amount of time possible to operational issues, and focus on R&D in general, and specifically the modules. So even though it’s not directly related to development, it will accelerate development, which is a prospect I’m really excited about.

Your feedback

Jez Cope, an awesome backer of ours has written a short review about his UHK, and so has Melinda Wyers on her blog. Thanks so much, Jez and Melinda!

The Twitterverse was eventful as usual featuring the following tweets:

We’ll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and we’re looking forward to talking to you on 2019-04-18.

2019 Feb 14

Shipping is about to resume

By |2019-02-14T21:17:04+00:002019-02-14 21:14|agent, manufacturing, news, tech talk|0 Comments

TL;DR: Delivery temporarily stopped due to the shortage of packaging material which should resume around February 20. We expect to ship every non-module preorder by the end of March. Regarding the ETA of your order, please check out the delivery status page, including its FAQ section.

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update! Let’s get right to it!

Manufacturing progress

Since our previous monthly update, we’ve built plenty of UHKs, but we couldn’t ship most of them due to a temporary shortage of packaging boxes.

It’s taken more time for the printing factory to get up to speed after new year, and they expect to deliver the packaging boxes to us on February 20. We’ll make quick progress once the boxes arrive, and expect to deliver every non-module preorder by the end of March.

We didn’t simply ask for another batch of packaging material to be honest. We redesigned the boxes because they weren’t sufficiently robust. The new boxes are not only fancy, but more robust (and more expensive).

I added a news section to the top of the delivery status page which you’re welcome to check any time. This way, you can keep informed about delivery status the easiest way possible.

DeveloperWeek cancelled

In our previous monthly update, we told you that the we’ll exhibit at DeveloperWeek in the Bay Area on February 21-22. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to make it.

The reason is that I fired our marketing contractor because I found his work ethics to be extremely poor. Without him, we can’t staff our booth, so I ended up cancelling the event. Admittedly, this timing is unfortunate, but I only regret having him so long. Of course, no personal data was compromised during or after his time with us.

With the event cancelled, we won’t be able to give away the free passes offered in our previous monthly update. That, I regret. I’m sorry about this, but now that we have cancelled the event, we can’t do anything. I’ll email all of you who asked for free passes shortly after publishing this update.

As far as the project is considered, I think not attending to DeveloperWeek is actually a good thing. We should fully focus on the delivery of preorders at this point. We’ll have plenty of time to do expos later.

Module progress

Robi has implemented the kboot bootloader protocol natively in Agent. Previously, Agent used the external blhost command line utility which was unreliable. This will make firmware updates more reliable which is very important because the modules will require a new firmware version flashed to your UHKs. We have yet to release a new Agent version that contains this improvement.

In the meantime, András advanced the mechanical design of the key cluster module, so it’s closer to the final design to be mass produced.

As stated in earlier updates, we can’t fully focus on the modules yet. Only after shipping every non-module preorder and transitioning to on-demand manufacturing will be able to make heavier progress regarding the modules.

Your feedback

Mikko Ahlroth wrote a very nice UHK review on his blog. I love reviews like his which go into details and capture many facets of the UHK.

In the meantime, Brett Terpstra has been exploring the wonderful world of custom keycap sets. He pimped up his UHK, and wrote a blog post titled The addictive hobby of customizing mechanical keyboards.

We’ll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and we’re looking forward to talking to you on 2019-03-14.

2019 Jan 17

Churning out UHK webshop preorders

By |2019-01-17T19:55:43+00:002019-01-17 19:55|manufacturing, modules, news|7 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update! Let’s get right to it!

Manufacturing progress

Since our most recent monthly update, we have shipped mini batch 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, and 55. As stated in our previous update, we had already shipped every Crowd Supply non-module pre-order, so all of the above orders were made in our own webshop which is a huge step forward.

We knew that transitioning from Crowd Supply orders to UHK webshop orders wouldn’t be easy, and in reality, it’s been way harder than anticipated. Compared to the fulfillment of Crowd Supply orders, the big change is that we don’t just ship to the EU anymore (we used to ship to non-EU countries via Crowd Supply), but worldwide ourselves, and we have to generate invoices upon shipping.

We learned a lot. For example, we learned that DHL, UPS, and FedEx are unwilling to ship to Russian individuals, but fortunately EMS is willing to take the job. We learned that the City field is not mandatory for Singapore which makes the DHL API unhappy. We learned that ZIP codes are not mandatory in Vietnam which made our invoicing system not create invoices. We learned that we have to validate order data upon checkout to avoid contacting some customers when trying to create waybills.

The above is a short glimpse of the issues we’ve been encountering. I’ve been tweaking our fulfillment system since our previous update, even during holidays, and András has been taking more than his fair share of these issues. We have now dealt with enough international packages that I can finally see the matrix, and I know what needs to be done to streamline our international fulfillment operation. When done properly, and it will be done properly, it’ll end up being a highly streamlined, and low overhead operation, but until that point, it kind of feels like we’re walking in mud.

Estimated delivery dates

TL;DR: If you order now, your UHK order is expected to be delivered by the end of February (barring modules, of course).

Right now, we’re held back by a temporary shortage of various components, including product boxes and plastic cases. We could foresee this shortage, and did our best to mitigate it, but companies were closed during holidays which slowed our progress.

If everything goes according our plans, this shortage will be resolved in two weeks, at which point production will get back to normal. We’re doing our best to deliver every one of your orders as soon as possible.

Module progress

We’ve had a get-together with our injection molding supplier and his mold designer specialist to finalize the mechanical design of the modules and optimize them for mass production.

Each module has its own set of challenges. Some are complicated from an electronics standpoint, others from a mechanical standpoint, and there’s also a significant difference in the firmware complexity of the individual modules.

We agreed that we will start with the key cluster module. The main reason is that its shape completely differs from every other module, so no parts of its mold can be reused for other modules. It’s also the most complicated module mechanically.

We had a fruitful discussion, and now we have a much better idea how to optimize the design of the key cluster module for mass production. The most challenging aspect of the key cluster module is its tiny trackball, and the compact design of the module in general, but all in all, it’s doable.

Please note that the aforementioned mud regarding international fulfillment is clearly not helping us accomplish heavy R&D on the modules, so right now we’re primarily focused on streamlining our fulfillment operation and transitioning to on-demand manufacturing. Once that’s done, the modules will get our full attention.

DeveloperWeek

We’ll exhibit at DeveloperWeek in the Bay Area on February 21-22, and you’re welcome to visit us! We happen to have 3 x EXPO PLUS passes ($795 value each) and 25 OPEN passes ($295 value each) to give away. Speakers at the DevWeek include:

  • Cal Henderson, Slack CTO and Co-Founder
  • Renaud Visage, Eventbrite Technical Co-Founder
  • Chet Haase, Google Lead, Android Toolkit

And many more… Check out the full schedule!

Want to get one of these passes? Please retweet this tweet, and send an email to nikolai@ultimategadgetlabs.com. We will draw the winners on January 29th.

UHK reviews

If you’re into keyboards, the name of Xah Lee probably sounds familiar. He’s a hardcore keyboard geek who’s seen it all, and he recently reviewed the UHK.

According to his verdict:

  • “This is one of the best ergonomic keyboard on the market. I'd say, among top 3.”
  • “Among compact keyboards, this one is the best, period.”
  • “The programing capabilities of this keyboard is the best out there. The software, is also best on the market, bar none”
  • “The keyboard is highest quality built.”

The UHK was also reviewed by Frank Müller of Euronics. According to the article, Frank has a high opinion about the UHK, especially its configurability.

Your feedback

We’ll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and we’re looking forward to talking to you on 2019-02-14.

2018 Sep 13

Lunar UHKs, Unicorns, and the Freeze bug

By |2018-10-23T20:00:41+00:002018-09-13 22:37|agent, features, manufacturing, news, tech talk|0 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update!

TL;DR: Please update to the latest UHK firmware for macro support, and to help us fix the freeze bug that plagues recent firmware versions. Agent now visualizes secondary roles. We’ve churned out 6 mini batches since our last update. The development of the modules is going slowly while delivering the pre-orders, but we’ll switch to high-gear afterwards.

Update to the latest firmware!

If you’re reading this and already have your UHK, please flash the latest 8.4.5 firmware by selecting the .tar.bz2 file from the "Choose firmware and flash it" option in Agent > Firmware. This will result in many goodies over the factory-flashed 8.2.5 firmware, including macro support and numerous bug fixes.

The only gotcha is the freeze bug. Recent firmware versions cause occasional freezes on some UHKs. This is a longstanding bug, and the only reason we haven’t yet fixed it is because we can’t reproduce it. That’s why we need your help! The more people who use the most recent firmware, the easier we can fix the freeze bug based on your feedback.

If your UHK freezes, please be sure to report it according to the freeze bug issue. No worries, you can always downgrade to 8.2.5 to regain stability.

Fancy UHKs

If you’re a regular reader of our monthly updates then Max is no stranger to you, as he’s on a never ending quest to pimp his UHK. This time, he used the Godspeed Cockpit keycap set to customize his UHK and in his true style, he shared the gory details on Reddit.

In the same spirit, Richard was also busy, and ended up creating the most unicornish UHK with extra rainbow flavour!

Secondary role visualization in Agent

Dual-role keys are powerful. When tapping them they trigger their primary role. While holding them and pressing other keys, the secondary role kicks in. The UHK has always supported dual-role keys, but Agent hadn’t visualized them. Thankfully, this has just changed with Agent version 1.2.9.

Now Agent can render quite complex scenarios, such as a scancode featuring modifiers and a secondary role. This makes the rendering engine of Agent complete, so you can take a look at any layer and know exactly what each key does based on its visual representation.

As an added bonus, we’ve made modifiers show up according to your OS, so for example, Super is Command on OSX and it’s the Windows key on Windows.

Production progress

The 6 mini batches we have produced over the last month have not constituted our fastest pace, but they’re in line with our recent progress. Manufacturing progress occasionally suffers a bit due to a number of factors. For example, our palm rest supplier was on vacation recently, and had to catch up with production. Such cases only cause temporary hiccups, and they can occasionally affect the sizes of mini batches positively or negatively, but we always manage them quite well.

In the meantime, we’ve already pre-ordered the parts of the second large batch of UHKs. The first large batch contained 2,000 UHKs, and the second large batch contains 1,000 UHKs. We’re not VC-funded and fully rely on your support, so being able to pre-order the parts of a large batch is a big achievement for us. This means that production will be uninterrupted in the future, even after delivering the pre-orders. A sincere thank you to every one of our backers for making this huge milestone possible!

Development progress

As you can see, we keep pushing Agent and the firmware, but it’s quite a challenge to do heavy R&D these days because production and related tasks are so demanding.

Customer support is time consuming, as well as developing and fine-tuning backend systems. These tasks are not visible from the outside, but they’re absolutely necessary to keep things going.

Transitioning to our own webshop did end up heavily affecting our backend systems, including the integration and implementation of the webshop, factory automation, order fulfillment, and invoicing systems. Pre-ordering the parts of the second large batch also called for a procurement system which is up and running, but it has taken quite some time to set up.

Due to the above, we could only make a little progress with the modules. András has further refined their mechanical design, and will hand them off to a mold designer to finalize their mechanical features. I figured out how to optimally panelize their PCBs and factory-flash their firmware the most efficient way. We’re mindful about the modules, and will switch to high-gear once the delivery of the pre-orders is over.

Thank you for reading this update! We’ll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and we’re looking forward to talking with you on 2018-10-12.

2018 Aug 16

Webshop migration and manufacturing progress

By |2019-01-15T17:43:54+00:002018-08-16 21:24|manufacturing, news|15 Comments

Effective immediately, the Crowd Supply UHK pre-order page is closed. You can place orders in our own webshop from now on. Please read on for the details.

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update!

TL;DR: We’ve opened our own webshop! We’ve churned out 7 mini batches since our last update, which is the fastest we’ve ever produced. A ton of firmware progress has been made, but we need testers to fix a very hard to reproduce bug. We’ve received a lot of nice feedback from you, including a review.

Let’s start with the webshop migration, which is admittedly quite boring, but important.

Webshop migration

If you don’t plan to purchase more items from us, feel free to skip to the next section.

Crowd Supply has served us well. We launched a successful campaign, and they have been taking pre-orders up until this point, but now it’s time for us to take our own orders.

We have always wanted to run our webshop, because it allows us to provide the best possible customer experience. But setting up a decent shop is easier said than done. We’ve been very busy with bringing the UHK to market, so it’s taken quite some time for us to make our shop happen. Luckily, our efforts have come to fruition, and now our webshop is up and running.

At the same time, we’ve closed our Crowd Supply shop, so going forward, you can only order from our webshop. In the spirit of transparency, we’ll share everything you ever need to know about our shop. Please read on.

Delivery status

The delivery status page that contains the order ids of Crowd Supply orders will also contain the order ids of our webshop. I’m working on integrating this page with our webshop, which may take a week or two.

Please note that our webshop has just recently started, so its order ids are in the hundreds vs the order ids of Crowd Supply which are in the tens of thousands. To make this distinction clear, the order ids of our webshop will be prefixed by “#”.

Our first-come, first-served delivery policy will not be affected by this transition regardless of which webshop you ordered from.

New shop features

Our new shop offers quite a few advantages:

First, you can choose three separate currencies: USD, EUR, and HUF. The prices of the relevant currency will be shown. This results in no conversion fees if you happen to use one of these currencies.

Second, you can pay not only with your credit card, but also with PayPal. Over time, we plan to introduce further payment methods.

Third, there are separate product pages, and the pages of configurable products contain a visual product configurator. You can see a preview image that shows the exact product that you’ll receive.

Fourth, our webshop generates proper invoices. This is mainly beneficial for company purchases.

Shipping

When it comes to shipping, the first thing to highlight is delivery times. So far, we’ve directly delivered from Hungary to the EU, which is great, because it only takes about a day or two for the packages to arrive. Delivering outside of the EU however has been less than ideal because we previously sent those packages via Crowd Supply (Portland, USA). It takes a couple of days for them to receive the packages, then it can take a week or two until they forward them. It’s especially painful for countries outside the EU and USA because it can take as much as a month to receive the package starting from the day we shipped it!

This had to change, so going forward, when you order from our webshop, we’ll send the package directly from our factory in Hungary to you which shouldn’t take more than a couple of days regardless of your country.

When it comes to shipping costs, Crowd Supply has a very simple pricing structure: shipping free to the US, and $24 to everywhere else. This clearly doesn’t reflect the actual cost of shipping, because it does cost money to ship goods to the US, and the shipment of smallish packages is often cheaper than $24 outside the US.

Our philosophy is that we don’t want to earn or loose on shipping. We will simply pass the shipping cost to our customers. We use DHL, and we’ve made quite a good deal with them. The current shipping costs are based on the weight of the package, and your destination. You can see the actual shipping cost on the cart page of our webshop. For example, it currently costs $15.14 to ship a UHK to Switzerland, $19.03 to the USA, and $29.93 to Japan. For some of you, it’ll be cheaper, but for those of you who will pay more (mostly because of your location), it’ll be a lot faster!

Multiple / aggregated orders

If you have made orders on Crowd Supply, feel free to make further orders in our shop. In this case, please specify the same email address as on Crowd Supply. This way, we’ll be able to aggregate your Crowd Supply and non Crowd Supply orders, and ship them once if you happen to be from the EU. The reason order aggregation only works for EU customers is because we need to ship non-EU orders separately via Crowd Supply.

If you make multiple orders in our own webshop then the shipping cost will always added for every single order. Given that we’ll ship your orders together, the actual shipping cost will be lower. The way we’ll make this fair is that upon delivery, we’ll take the sum of the shipping costs you paid, subtract the actual shipping cost of the package that contains all your orders, then refund the difference to you.

EU VAT

Please note that this section only applies to EU citizens and companies. Feel free to skip to the next section if it’s not relevant to you.

According to tax laws, VAT must be paid when purchasing goods within the EU. The VAT rate of the origin country applies, which is 27% in Hungary. This means that given a $100 product, the final price will be $127 with VAT included, unless you’re a company.

Some of you may have noticed that this seemingly wasn’t the case so far. Our items did cost the same worldwide, the EU included. This was possible because we actually reduced the net prices of items for EU customers to offset the VAT, so we were willing to take a heavy hit on our margin for making our pricing more competitive for EU customers.

Starting from now, we won’t offset our prices anymore, and VAT will be applied. If you don’t want to pay VAT in the EU, your only choice is to purchase the goods as a company. In this case, you’ll have to provide your company’s valid EU VAT number on the checkout page, and then VAT will not be added, and it will not be featured on the invoice.

Discounts

The 10% discounts are still in effect in our new shop. We’ll remove the discounts of non-module items once all these pre-orders shipped. Afterwards, we’ll remove the discounts of module items once all these pre-orders are shipped.

Who to contact?

Regarding the items that you purchased on Crowd Supply, contact them at orders@crowdsupply.com. Regarding the items that you purchased in our webshop, contact us at support@ultimatehackingkeyboard.com.

Manufacturing progress

Since our last update, we’ve sent out mini batches 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22, which is, yet again, the highest volume batch we’ve produced so far. The production throughput of the last month is 84% of what we planned, so we’re quite close, and working to increase it further.

We’ve just looked into the stats and realized that we’ve already shipped most of the pre-orders. We shall proceed further.

Firmware progress

Eric, our intern has been hard at work. He’s implemented the macro engine, vastly improved the debouncing algorithm, fixed various bugs related to secondary role handling, and more. What a huge step forward! All of these changes are part of the latest pre-released 8.4.4 firmware.

And still, the latest stable firmware release that is recommended and which is flashed in our factory is 8.2.5 which is 152 commits behind the tip of the master branch! This drives me crazy. And why’s that? Because of the freeze bug.

This bloody bug makes the UHK freeze once in a while. The trick is that it’s extremely hard to reproduce. On my UHK, it hits less than once in a month. On some others, it’s considerably more frequent, and occurs on a daily basis.

I could go on and on about this bug, but the bottom line is that if you want to use the new features and improvements while still having stability, then please flash the latest pre-release firmware, subscribe to the freeze bug GitHub issue, and let us know your findings. We’ll release new firmware versions shortly, and will ask you to test them for stability and share your feedback. The faster and more detailed feedback you provide, the quicker we can fix this bug. And you can always downgrade to 8.2.5 if the freeze bug hits too often before we fix it.

Your feedback

Kyle Holgate, an awesome backers of ours wrote a review about his UHK. It’s a very nice write up, and you’re welcome to read it.

Meanwhile, Max, in this true style, was busy with pimping his UHK yet another time, created the most nuclear UHK to this day, and made quite some noise on reddit. Please keep up the great work, Max!

You guys keep sending us your nice mods and feedback all over the interwebs. We’re honored and delighted!

Thank you for reading this update! We’ll be keeping you updated on all things UHK, and we’re looking forward to talking with you on 2018-09-13.

2018 Apr 20

Production is up and running

By |2018-10-23T19:55:26+00:002018-04-20 08:35|manufacturing, news, tech talk|31 Comments

Important: Please make sure that your shipping address is up to date! You can change it on your Crowd Supply account page. Please also check out the delivery status page.

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update!

TL;DR: Our factory is up and running! According to the aforementioned delivery page, we’ve already sent out the first mini batch, so some of you should get your orders within days. Given our most recent production data, we’ll be able to deliver batch 1 of 2,000 UHKs and related accessories by the end of July. Many of you will get your orders much faster depending on your place in the queue. Everything’s looking great, and we’ll be transitioning to the modules soon.

Some UHKs of mini batch 1:

Manufacturing progress

Launching mass production wasn’t exactly a smooth ride, which wasn’t really surprising after all. Given our past experience, some things inevitably go wrong despite our best efforts.

We observed that some LED segments displayed gibberish – that is, unidentifiable characters. It was quite a challenge to figure out the root cause of this, but András succeeded. Apparently, the space is very tight around the FFC cable and when the case is on, it bends the cable and some pins don’t connect. The solution? We just have to bend the FFC cables in an M shape prior to assembly.

We also noticed that some pins of some through-hole components, most notably the keyswitches and the 4P4C connectors, weren’t soldered in on some boards. We talked to our PCBA supplier who told us that their selective wave soldering machine had been misbehaving and got serviced recently. They will also use a 3-dimensional automated optical inspection machine from this point forward which should greatly reduce defects. The problematic boards will be reworked.

Then we were faced with a couple of bent plates. We have yet to figure out how these plates could possibly bend, but for the time being, we’ll do heavier QA until the cause is revealed and eliminated.

And lastly, a critical piece of launching manufacturing is our custom developed order fulfillment and manufacturing execution system that I’ve been working full steam on in the last couple months. It felt like building a runway while the plane takes off, but the runway has been built just in time, and now the plane is in the air.

Given the above issues, we started up slowly. According to our most recent measurements based on actual production data, we will be able to ship about two mini batches per week, which equals about 120 UHKs and related accessories. Given this pace, we’ll be able to deliver batch 1 by the end of July, so this is our current delivery target. Of course, many of you will get your orders way faster depending on your place in the queue.

Agent and firmware progress

Starting with the latest firmware, it’s now possible to wake up the host computer with a touch of a key. The LED display also gets disabled when the host sleeps to save power. See the firmware changelog and releases.

Agent got a shiny new desktop icon, it now displays the firmware versions running on the halves of your UHK, and can recover UHKs with broken configurations. See the Agent changelog and releases.

Going forward

The next big milestone is clear: the modules. The modules clearly differentiate the UHK from every other keyboard in the market, and make it the first and so far only modular keyboard ever created.

Personally, I can’t wait to control the pointer in various ways in a finer grained manner without leaving the home row, and I know that a lot of you share our enthusiasm. I’m sure the journey will be just as exciting as getting there, and as always, we’ll make you part of the journey via these updates.

Thank you for reading this update! The next one will be published on 2018-05-17. In the meantime, feel free to keep checking the delivery status page of your much awaited UHKs.

2018 Mar 15

Pre-assembly progress and last minute issues

By |2018-10-23T19:54:15+00:002018-03-15 21:57|manufacturing, news|10 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update!

TL;DR: We’ve pre-assembled the parts of 2,000 UHKs. Things are progressing rapidly, but color-matching plastic parts and pad printing them accurately was more problematic than anticipated. The rejected parts are being remanufactured and are expected to be ready by next week, at which point the assembly and delivery of batch 1 of the first 2,000 UHKs will begin.

We’ve set up a dedicated delivery status page which you can check out to get up-to-date information on how delivery proceeds.

Mechanical issues

It never ceases to surprise us how seemingly mundane things can go sideways, such as color-matching, or accurate pad printing. Take a look at the following picture.

As you can see, the color of these case buttons is inconsistent. This is the first time we molded all case colors, and some mistakes were made due to lack of experience with the coloring agent. As it turned out, this is not the only thing that can go wrong when it comes to the case buttons.

Then we observed that the vertical positions of the Space and Mod labels considerably differ because the pad printing wasn’t set up accurately.

We’ve had our fair share of WTF moments during the manufacturing process. I mean, what can possibly go wrong with seemingly trivial parts like the above? The answer is, as you can see above, a lot. And when one thing goes sideways, the delay of every relevant supplier in the chain adds up, and trivial mistakes can end up costing weeks.

The case buttons are being remolded, and they’ll be pad-printed by the next week, at which point we will finally be able to start up the manufacturing of batch 1.

Setting up manufacturing and fulfillment

As I elaborated in our previous update, all UHK option combinations considered, there are 240 different UHK types to choose from, so we have to track orders individually during the manufacturing process, which calls for a custom manufacturing system. We also purchased a fair bit of related hardware, like label printers, barcode readers, and wall-mounted displays to aid assembly workers.

Recently, I’ve been hard at work, developing our custom manufacturing execution and order fulfillment system from the ground up. It’s surely an unwelcome detour amidst of all our responsibilities, but it’s absolutely necessary, and it’ll give us a competitive edge in the long run. The system is already running well, and we’ll be able to start manufacturing next week. I’ll likely have to tweak it during this month, and afterwards we’ll finally be able to give some much needed love to the modules.

Miscellaneous

You’re welcome to check out the new releases of Agent and the firmware as some improvements have been made which you can benefit from.

Even though a lot of progress has been made since our previous update, we don’t have too much to show besides the above. According to our current schedule, batch 1 will be delivered from March to July and batch 2 will follow very closely. Again, feel free to check out our delivery status page any time if you’re interested in our up-to-date progress, and follow up on social media.

That’s it for now! Thanks for reading this update, and talk to you on 2018-04-19!

2018 Feb 15

Ramping up production

By |2019-01-14T17:19:41+00:002018-02-15 22:13|manufacturing, news|16 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update!

TL;DR: We’ve assembled 500 PCB panels, and the parts for the first batch of 2,000 UHKs are being pre-assembled. Right after pre-assembly, the final assembly of the keyboards will proceed. We plan to ship the first batch (ordered before 2017-07-13) of 2,000 UHK from March to May. Closely after the first batch, we expect the ship the second batch (ordered on or after 2017-07-13) starting from June. We’ll ship every non-module items together on a per-backer basis.

Regarding the estimated shipping dates, please note that we can’t precisely tell you when we will ship your order because we have a multi-step manufacturing process in place, and there are some variables involved. As a general rule of thumb, the sooner you ordered, the sooner we’ll deliver. We’ll send out a shipping notification email when the time comes. Also, we can’t move you ahead in the queue because it’d be unjust towards earlier backers.

Price Increases

Effective immediately, we are raising the prices of the following items:

  • UHK: $240
  • Modules: $60 per piece (no bundles anymore)
  • Extra UHK keycaps: $25
  • Extra UHK case: $25

As we elaborated in our previous update, the cause of this raise is the heavy weakening of the US dollar. We don’t plan to raise prices again until delivering all the pre-orders of both batch 1 and batch 2, at which point we’ll raise them by about 10%, which will be the final prices.

500 PCB Panels Assembled

Shortly after our previous update, we started assembling the first 500 PCB panels.

Compared to the pilot run batch of 50 panels, this was a 10x increase. Fortunately, everything went smoothly, and 500 out of 500 panels passed the test.

I was in the factory and flashed every one of these panels. I had no choice, because our custom flashing procedure and software is not sufficiently user-friendly yet. I found this experience to be extremely valuable, because now I can not only make this more user friendly in order to be able to delegate it, but also faster and more robust.

Pre-assembling UHK Parts

Currently, the parts of the 2,000 UHKs in batch 1 are being pre-assembled. After pre-assembly, we’ll be assembling and shipping every non-module orders from March to May, on a weekly basis.

Powder-coated palm rest base plates

Colored cases

All things considered, we’re proceeding well with pre-assembly, although colored cases gave us a hard time. As it turned out, the coloring agent makes plastic more rigid, and it resulted in several broken cases when pushing the threaded inserts into the plastic. For the time being, we preheat the inserts before pushing them into the cases which solves the issue. In the future, we plan to slightly tweak the mold to avoid this extra step.

Another challenging aspect of the upcoming assembly process is the staggering amount of SKUs. Currently we offer 2 layouts * 5 case colors * 4 keycap printing options * 6 key switches = 240 variations, probably making the UHK the most physically configurable keyboard on the market.

Internally, we have to track every UHK to make sure that the correct options are implemented during the various assembly stages. This is vastly more complicated than offering a handful product versions, and I had no choice but to develop a custom production management and fulfillment system to deal with this situation. Some parts of the system are already working, and I’ll be focusing on this in the near future to make production and fulfillment a smooth ride.

While dealing with production, we haven’t forgotten about Agent and the firmware and we keep improving them. We released new versions recently, and you’re welcome to grab the latest Agent and flash the bundled firmware to your UHK. Also feel free to check out the Agent changelog and firmware changelog. We’ll keep making incremental improvements until we smash every bug and make the user experience heavenly smooth.

UHK Photos

A while back, we only had photos of our prototypes, which didn’t do justice to the final product, so we took a few photos of a production UHK. We’re quite excited about these photos, and would like to show you some of them below.

And that’s it! Right now, our primary focus is the delivery of batch 1 and, closely after that, batch 2 orders. After that, we’ll focus on the modules. In true UHK style, we’ll be keeping you updated.

Thank you for reading this update, and talk to you on 2018-03-15!

2018 Jan 19

Pilot run success and what’s next

By |2018-10-23T19:49:06+00:002018-01-19 02:36|agent, manufacturing, modules, news, tech talk|23 Comments

Hi there, and welcome to our monthly status update!

TL;DR: The first 50 UHKs and palm rests of the pilot run were delivered, and according to the feedback we received it was a huge success! The recipients of the pilot run gave us a ton of feedback, so we’ll go over the issues they encountered, and tell you how we’ll fix them in upcoming batches. We’re raising the price of the palm rest to $55, and we’ll raise the rest of the items by 10% soon. We plan to deliver the remaining 1,950 UHKs of the first batch from February to April. We’re putting an increasingly heavy emphasis on finalizing and manufacturing the modules.

The Pilot Run Was a Huge Success

It’s one thing to design a product, and another to ship it to all over the world. András and I poured our hearts and souls into this project, we obsessed about the smallest of details, and even though we were definitely hoping for the best, we couldn’t know for sure how much you’d like the end product, so it’s safe to say that we were excited.

I’m happy to say that the feedback we received from the recipients of the pilot run was absolutely fantastic! You praised the overall build quality, the nice packaging, the onboarding experience, and the ease of use of Agent among other things.

Let me feature a couple of your tweets:

Thanks so much for the posts, everyone! Your enthusiasm and support have been overwhelming!

Pilot Run Issues

Despite its success, the pilot run wasn’t without issues. In the spirit of transparency, we’ll go through all of the issues you encountered.

Smashed Boxes

There are two small boxes within the main UHK box which got smashed on four occasions out of the fifty pilot run units. We believe that some of these occurrences went unreported, and there may be more. This is what a smashed box looks like:

We spent a ton of time and a fortune on packaging, so this is a big deal. Even worse, on one occasion, even the case of a keyboard snapped apart. Luckily, the owner managed to snap it back with a bit of pressure, but this doesn’t make the issue any more acceptable.

According to the reports we received, only USPS-shipped UHKs were affected. We’re not sure whether it was due to the holiday madness, or if it’s a general issue, but we reinforced the boxes, which will hopefully resolve this issue in the long run.

Sharp USB Cable Recess

There are two recesses in the case which hold the USB cable and they’re way too sharp and chew up the USB cable quickly.

The mold has already been modified, so the edges should be smooth going forward. A backer reported that he easily managed to sand down the sharp edge, resolving the issue in no time. If you’re affected, you might want to do the same, but if you want a replacement case, please just let us know.

Loosely Connected LED Display

Some of you reported strange artifacts appearing on your LED display, which is a sure sign of a loose FFC cable.

The FFC cable connects the display with the left main board. Apparently, we could have done a better job connecting them during the assembly process. As a result, the cables of two UHKs got loose during shipping. We’ll try our best to more thoroughly assemble future batches.

This issue called for our first ever repair guide. We have already emphasized the importance of repair before, and this was the golden opportunity to follow our words up with action. Both affected backers were able to fix the issue using the guide and they even contributed to it. Thanks so much!

Just to get things straight, we don’t expect anybody to repair his/her UHK, but the opportunity is there, and we encourage repair in general. It’s certainly much faster than sending it back and forth to the other side of the world, and especially useful after the warranty period is over.

Feet Molding Issues

On two occasions, visible artifacts were noticeable on some feet.

This is clearly an injection molding issue. We’ll do heavier QA in this respect.

Software and Firmware Issues

A number of issues have been reported recently in the firmware and agent repos. The vast majority of these issues are not critical, but they affect usability in one way or another.

Understandably, we’ve been mostly busy with the critical issues. The most critical was a firmware issue that made the UHK freeze after a while. This was really annoying because it was super hard to find the root cause of it. Luckily, it looks like we’ve been able to resolve this, and it shouldn’t affect more people.

There was another critical issue in which the left keyboard half got bricked during the firmware update process. I’ve made the update process more robust, and improved the update script, which unbricked the unit. This script feature will be integrated into Agent soon. The UHK should very rarely get bricked, and when it happens it should always be unbrickable.

Going forward, we’ll be addressing all of the issues of the agent and firmware repos, but there’s a lot on our plate nowadays, so some may take a while. We’re doing our best.

All Hail Our Contributors

Mikko Lakomaa, an early contributor of ours, switched into high gear after receiving his UHK, and implemented two much-welcomed issues. Thanks to the fruits of his labor, now we can adjust mouse speed and LED brightness via Agent.

Thanks so much for your contributions, Mikko! It’s nice to see Agent improving so rapidly.

Price Increases

Effective immediately, we’re raising the price of the palm rest to $55, and we’ll raise the rest of the items by 10% soon. Let me explain why.

When we originally envisioned the UHK palm rest, its design wasn’t finalized, and we weren’t sure about the materials and technologies we’d ultimately use to craft it. We were also unfamiliar with the costs involved. As the design progressed, we were consistently moving toward an increasingly high-end, premium product which inevitably added to its cost, so much so that up until this point we haven’t had any profit on the palm rests when selling them for $30.

For what the palm rest is worth, $55 is still a bargain considering the market prices. If you search for “wooden wrist rest”, $40 is a usual price tag, but those palm rests are made of one wood piece, not two pieces, don’t feature powder coated black plates, and their geometry is less ergonomical (simpler, thus cheaper to machine) than the UHK palm rest.

Eventually, we’ll further raise the price of the current wooden UHK palm rest to about $80 which is a reasonable market price, but before doing so, we plan to offer a less premium, and more affordable palm rest in addition to the current wooden palm rest.

We’ll also soon raise the price of the other items by about 10%, including the UHK, extra keycap sets, extra cases, and the modules. This is justified by the heavy weakening of the US dollar during 2017. We pay our suppliers primarily in Hungarian forint, so this very much affects us. 10% is actually less than the weakening of the dollar which is about 15%, so we’re trying to not raise prices too heavily.

Nobody likes price increases, but we’d much rather take this route than sacrificing quality, or allocating less funding for R&D. We hope you understand and resonate with our mindset.

Expected Delivery and What’s Next

Going forward, our most immediate goal is to deliver the remaining 1,950 UHKs and accessories (everything but the modules) of the first batch. We expect to deliver these items from February to April, and then the second batch will closely follow.

Our assembly operation is admittedly micro-scale compared to the assembly lines of China. As we previously stated, instead of hiring a Chinese OEM for assembly, we opted to set up our own assembly line in Hungary and operate it in the long term. This has numerous benefits, like rigorous QA and direct control, but the downside is that the throughput of this line is rather low.

It wouldn’t make sense to massively scale up production because the accumulated preorders translate to a huge peak regarding assembly. It’ll considerably settle down after delivering the pre-orders, so hiring a bunch of people only to fire them soon afterwards doesn’t seem like a good idea.

We plan to keep assembly going continuously, and ship so-called mini batches on a weekly basis. We’ll remind you in a future update to change your shipping address before orders start going out, but please do check/change your current address by going to your Crowd Supply account.

As for the modules, fear not, we didn’t forget about them. We’ll be allocating more and more resources to finalize and manufacture them. András has been working on them recently, and this is the latest, and probably final design of the trackball module.

I think András did a great job designing this module. I cannot wait to see it work and give it a whirl (pun clearly intended).

Thank you for reading this update! We hope you enjoyed it, and we’re excited to talk to you on 2018-02-15.