Thursday, April 25, 2013

G15 Keyboard to 5.5" Drive Bay

I recently replaced my long-used Logitech G15 v2 with a Ducky mechanical keyboard.  So far the only thing I've missed is being able to see CPU, GPU, and RAM status just by glancing at the keyboard.  I decided to see how feasible it would be to convert my G15 into a front panel display.  I haven't started the build yet, but this is what I've come up with so far:

There aren't any components in the areas of the  LCD PCB that need to be cut away, and the only parts nearby seem to be some LEDs for back-lighting.  So as long as I'm careful, it should be possible to cut them away without affecting function.

Five of the front panel buttons are the app control keys mapped out as shown in the photo below.  I added volume controls to fill out the rest of the front panel.
Figure 1: G15 App Keys.  These 5 keys will be included on the front panel as labeled.

If you attempt this build at the minimum you'll need:
  • Case from old optical drive
  • 2mm ABS plastic
  • 8 Cherry MX Switches
  • ~1 meter Cat 5 Ethernet cable
  • ~23 cm of 33 pin VM 2896 ribbon or 8 meters of ~30 gauge wire :P
  • Black Spray Paint
  • Glue, possibly Alumilite
  • Ability to cut, drill, and solder 

Inside the G15, underneath the rubber domes and key switches is a sheet of clear plastic for transmitting the LED light throughout the keyboard.  This plastic should be enough to build up the clear components of the mod, including the keycap faces.  I plan on using clear Alumilite, or glue to form the columns that connect the keycaps to the switches.  It is probably a good idea to add a metal cutout behind the keys so that they bottom out against something solid, rather than pushing against the already compromised LCD PCB.  The Cherry MX Blue switches only need about 2.5 mm of travel to activate, so it should be feasible to include a 1 mm bottom-out plate without pushing the LCD back too far.

I plan on using a chunk of the G15 case to mount the main PCB to the drive case.  I'll just run the USB cable out the water cooling grommets to the back of my computer case.  I left a cutout in the lower portion of the switch mounting plate to allow light from one of the G15's LED arrays to shine through if I decide I want additional back-lighting.

Wiring Pin-out:

Below is the PCB I've set up to carry the switch inputs to the LCD ribbon socket.  Sadly it isn't easy to achieve the necessary connections in a single layer; the grey lead either has cross over as shown below or go on a long meandering path around the edges.  It is probably easier just to use some Cat 5 cable soldered to the switches and plugged into the LCD ribbon socket.
Figure 2: Switch PCB.  This PCB collects switch leads to be routed to the PCB ribbon input.

The mute button does not connect to the LCD PCB like the rest of the switch leads, instead it connects to the main PCB. The picture below shows where to attach the mute button leads.
Figure 3: Main PCB.  Shows the inputs for wiring the mute button.

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