Ailis is a 40% Arisu with a Rotary Encoder, an optional OLED display to the left side and optional LED underglow. Built with a stacked acrylic case and a gasket-mounted plate provide vibration isolation from the rest of the case. Ailis uses an Elite-C controller for both the solder and hotswap variants of the PCB.
Design Aspects and Goal
The original design goal behind Ailis was threefold. First and foremost, to create something that was enjoyable to build. Several design elements have been built around this concept, for example the stab cutouts in the plate are slightly enlarged to assist with post-assembly stabilizer tuning - so that disassembly is not required should further tuning be warranted.
Second, to create something using somewhat lesser represented parts. Stacked acrylic has certain design constraints due to the layer aspect, but also has several benefits. Copper is also used for both the weights of the keyboard and wrist rest, as well as the plate. When viewed from below, or any of the three sides the copper is immediately visible. When viewed from above the plate and weights are visible through the case, providing another design element.
The Third and final design goal was to create something that was aesthetically pleasing (to me at least). The layers of acrylic serve to reveal the inner components and workings of the keyboard. (In a nod to 90’s electronics that I grew up with, eg. My Jungle Green N64 and frosted gameboy pocket). The top and bottom layers of the case are frosted, which act as a light diffuser for the underglow LEDs and soften the view into the bottom and top of the PCB.
Several pictures have been taken of the current prototype to display these features, and can be viewed in the renders below.
PCB and Layout
The layout is largely inspired by boards such as the Prime Elise, Chalice, and Alix40, amongst other 40% boards. Ailis also includes an arrow cluster and two additional keys to the right to keep in line with a traditional Arisu layout in a smaller form factor, and to also provide symmetry to the knob and oled on the left side. The centre line between the two alpha clusters is also the centre of the keyboard as a whole.
Split backspace is an option, as well as two different options for each of the thumb clusters - either 1u and 2.25u or 1.25u and 2u. Both sides equal 3.25u across both keys. A visual of the layout options is below:
Ailis uses through-hole diodes and an Elite-C controller. The controller provides a raised platform for the oled to rest on, bringing the display up to meet the base of the keycaps. An Elite-C is required (or equivalent with the additional breakout pins available) in order to function correctly. The additional pins are used for the rotary encoder and underglow LEDs. Both a solder and a hotswap variant are available, with the same layout options on both.
Case and Mounting Style
The case is made up of stacked layers of acrylic. This presents some design limitations as well as some benefits (in my experience acrylic cases do not resonate as much as aluminum, for example). A benefit of the stacked layers is that different materials / finished can be applied. This has been used by having a frosted layer on the bottom for light diffusion, a frosted layer on top to soften the plate view, and the inner layers being of clear acrylic to show off the internal mounting structure.
The design is gasket mounted for several reasons, notably limitations with 3mm layers of acrylic being put under pressure. In this design the gasket cutouts span two layers, totalling 6mm of space, and use a 3mm gasket on the bottom, a 2mm gasket on top, and a 1.6mm PCB. This provides approximately .6mm of compression overall. The thicker gasket is applied on the bottom of the plate for two reasons:
- Cushioning when bottoming out (More cushion for the pushin’)
- Doubles as mid-plate foam
The case when fully built with the copper plate weighs almost 2.4kg / 5.2 pounds.
Currently there are four plates planned. Work is being done to make each one unique in a different way, and as such small differences exist between each plate. The four planned materials are:
The FR4 and metal plates are based on the same design using relief cuts on the gasket tabs directly. This helps to take out some of the stiff feel of the metal without it feeling ‘flexy’. The POM plate does not require additional cuts, so is using a modified design. The FR4 plate also has some aesthetic differences such as the Ailis logo being present in the right-side blocker. FR4 is aiming to provide a ‘bouncier’ feel, while aluminum and copper providing a stiffer bottom out. The goal with POM is to provide a softer typing experience.
For those that can’t commit to anything a half-plate option is being considered, the material has not yet been decided. FR4, POM and Copper have all been tested. Aluminum has not yet been tested but is planned with the next order of metal parts.
Foam for the sake of foam?
Ailis combines mid-plate foam with the bottom gaskets, this allows for a total of three (if you count no foam) configurations:
Full Foam Layer
Half Foam Layer (Alpha section removed)
No Foam Layer (Traditional gasket on bottom layer)
Pictured below is the foam layer with the removable alpha section (in red), along with the optional gaskets which can be used instead of foam. Picture taken from CAD for convenience of showing all three versions together:
The Full foam layer provides the deepest sound and stiffest feel, as it supports the plate from beneath. This option also helps all keys sound similar across the entire board.
The half foam layer removes the alpha section, isolating those keys and providing more sound definition between alpha and modifier keys. There is a small amount of additional flex with this option.
No foam removes the foam between the plate and PCB entirely. This provides the most flex due to the lowest amount of additional support as well as a more ‘clacky’ sound as the keys resonate within the case itself. The choice of weight (acrylic / copper) does not change the sound profile due to the weight being on the outside of the case.
Credit to Nutbotty for the renders above
Kitting and Pricing
Two kits are currently being planned, with a potential third entry. An entry edition and a Copper edition. The former using frosted acrylic for the weight, and the latter with three copper bars. Matching wrist rests are available for both versions. Depending on feedback from the IC a potential third version using an aluminum weight may be available. The entry edition will come with an FR4 plate, and the copper edition with potentially an aluminum plate (once testing is finished).
Pricing currently is TBD, and will be based on feedback from the IC to determine volume and to get accurate quotes from manufacturers.
All kits will come with a branded microfiber cloth measuring 400mm x 400mm, pictured in the prototype section.
Additional Design Elements
Enlarged stabilizer cutouts to assist with post-assembly stab tuning
Custom hardware. Standoffs are nickel-plated brass and approximately 50% wider (and heavier) than typical brass standoffs.
Typing Angle: 5 degrees
- Copper: 2.3kg
Weight (Wrist Rest):
- Copper: 1.5kg
- Acrylic: 665g
Mounting Style: Gasket
- Case: 367 x 119 x 23/32(w x d x h(front/back))
- Wrist Rest: 367 x 105 x 12/17 (w x d x h(front/back))
Front Height: 23mm