SpaceCat Launchpad v2, an awesome cool little macropad
Published: 05-03-2019 | Author: Remy van Elst | Text only version of this article
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On Reddit, Josh (from SpaceCat) did a valentines day action, 10% off yourentire order. I'm eyeing a LaunchPad for a while now, both to have a small macropad and to experiment with QMK (firmware). So I ordered the LaunchPad full kit,an assortment of Gateron switches and a VIM keycap. This article goes over thequality, the build process and my current setup of the Launchpad.
The contents of the package laid out on my soldering desk. The switches andkeycaps are not included in the kit, I ordered those seperately.
The kit comes with:
- 1x Launch Pad v2 PCB
- 1x Arduino Pro Micro 5v
- 2x 12-Pin Headers
- 8x Diodes
- 1x Alps SMD Switch (reset switch for the Arduino)
- 1x High Quality "Launch Pad" Vinyl Sticker
In my case I ordered the following switches:
- 2x Gateron Blue (clicky & tactile)
- 2x Gateron Green (stiffer than blue, clicky & tactile)
- 2x Gateron Red (linear)
- 2x Gateron Yellow (stiffer than red, linear)
- 2x Gateron Brown (tactile)
The keycaps are Gateron because they are cheaper than Cherry MX. This build is anice way for me to try out linear switches (red & yellow), the green was unknownto me and the blue and brown are my favorites. A usefull switchtester you mightsay. I ordered two extra switches because I know I might break one or two in thebuild process. (And I did break one switch so good foresight)
I also ordered this super cool VIMkeycap. That one was for my white ergodoxat work, not for this Marcopad.
They threw in an extra sticker and an extra Catstrounaut keycap. Thequality of these keycaps is amazing. They're thicker than the normal Ergodox DSAblank keycaps and snap on to the switch better. It takes more effort to get themoff the switch tho. Very sturdy, the print is high quality and it looks cool.
The kit contained 20 diodes, 3x12 header pins and three reset switches insteadof the stated quantity.
The PCB is very thick. I doubted to get a case since just the bare PCB mightfeel flimsy, but that is not the case. For a PCB it's very thick. The feet havesolder pads (instead of hot-glueing them together), you solder them to the PCBand they snap on to the plate & PCB, so it doesn't wobble at all. Overall thequality of the PCB is amazing and sturdy, which pleasently surprised me.
Do note that to build the kit, you need to have a soldering iron, solder andpreferably some other tools used in soldering (desolder, flux, sponge cleaner,desolder sucker, etc.).
The Launchpad kit can be bought here. I'm not affiliated with spacecat, Ibought this kit myself, no sponsorship or anything involved.
The finished Lauchpad on my desk at work, next to an Ergodox EZ and aEvonluent left handed vertical mouse.
So what is a macro pad? As you can see in the picture above, it's a smallkeyboard. The advantage is that you can fully program the keyboard to doanything you want. Macro pads can be small like this one, but with specifictools you can convert a normal keyboard to a macro keyboard, that's a LinusTech Tips video. In my case I have two usecases for this macropad.
I use Jetbrains Clion a lot these days to develop C++ software. The debuggeruses specific keys as shortcuts for
Step Over and other debuggingrelated keys. These keys are by default mapped to
F8 and other
Fxkeys. My current Ergodox keyboard layout does not have
Function keys on thebase layer. One of the layers for the macro pad will be a debugging layer forJetbrains which has all the keys (plus a shift key, to start a debug build with
SHIFT+F9) to debug quickly.
The other, default layer, will have a few keys I often use during the day. Threewill be
SUPER (the windows key), right next to that will be
L. These keys are used to lock my workstation when I walk away. The other keyswill be
ESC, a layer switch key and media controls (
SKIP).I'm hoping to build a macro for
qmk (a macro is a series of actions one keyexecutes) to send a
CTRL+ALT+L to lock my workstation with one keypress.
These two layers will make my life a bit easier. Yes, I could program them onthe Ergodox or make a special layer, but, that just isn't as clear and direct asa specific set of keys. Next to that I wanted this cute little device justbecause it looks so adorable and isn't hugely expensive like most mechanicalkeyboard things are.
Building the board
The build process for this kit is straightforward:
- Snap the board in half. One half is the PCB; the other half is the switch plate plus standoff feet
- Solder the header pins for the Arduino (on the bottom of the PCB where it says Pro Mirco)
- Solder the eight diodes (on the bottom of the PCB)
- Solder the switches (on top of the PCB. DO NOT FORGET TO PUT THE PLATE IN FIRST )
- Flash firmware to your Arduino and test it first
- Place the Arduino on the pins (this is tricky)
- Solder the Arduino to the pins
- Snap on the feet and solder them to the plate
The manual is has pictures and detailed steps to build the kit.
It took me about an hour to build the enitre kit. I did make a mistake duringbuilding, I forgot to put the plate between the switches and the PCB. That makesit a PCB mounted pad, which looks quite okay:
I finished the build, tested the firmware and then decided I wanted the plate inbetween. So, I desoldered the switches (two under the arduino are harder todesolder), broke one switch in the process and put the plate in between.
With plate it looks like this:
Some notes on the build process:
- Putting the Arduino on the header pins is a time-consuming process. It involves bending the header pins just a tiny bit and retrying. Be carefull because they can break.
- The manual did not state to put the plate between the switches first, so I forgot to do that.
- The manual does not explicitly says which side is which and on which side components go. I had to deduce it from the pictures.
- The reset switch is hard to solder correctly (mine is angled)
- Both PCB mount and plate mount switches work, but if you use the middle plate, you don't need PCB mounted switches.
The difference between PCB and plate mount switches are two small pins on theswitch:
- The Arduino's Micro USB port sticks out. If the Arduino is moved a little bit deeper into the PCB, it wouldn't stick out. My USB port wobbles a bit so I suspect it might break off in the future. Placing it sandwiched between the Arduino and the PCB would prevent that.
This picture shows what I mean:
Not a huge issue for me, since I can easily desolder the Arduino and replace theUSB port.
Here are three other Launchpads, not mine, but I find them to be cool. One witha case, one with matching keycaps and one with a huge ass enter key.
Launchpad with matching keycaps
Launchpad with a clear case
Launchpad with a huge enter key
Mine is nice, plain and simple. Keycaps come from a DAS keyboard, blank SA. Thegreen and red keycap come from a cheap set I had lying around and the Astrocatis from Spacecat.
The Ardiuno runs QMK, which is firmware for keyboards. It allows you to do manyamazing things, supports RGB leds, layers and such. I just used the webconfigurator to create a basic first layout and QMK Toolbox to flashit.
My first layout
QMK toolbox flashing the layout to the Arduino
On Ubuntu I installed the Arduino IDE and used
avrdude to flash the compiled
# install the Arduino IDEsnap install arduino-mhall119 # flash the firmware. Replace ttyACM0 with your USB port. Also replace the filename for the hex file./snap/arduino-mhall119/5/hardware/tools/avr/bin/avrdude -C/snap/arduino-mhall119/5/hardware/tools/avr/etc/avrdude.conf -v -patmega32u4 -cavr109 -P/dev/ttyACM0 -b57600 -D -Uflash:w:/home/remy/launchpad_rev1_layout_mine.hex
I do need to look into QMK more to program macro's and explore all other coolfeatures for this Macro pad.
I've made my own keymap with QMK, see the code here.
,-------------------------. | RUN DEBUG | RUN TARGET | |------------+------------| | STEP OVER | STEP INTO | |------------+------------| | STEP OUT | RESUME | |------------+------------| | PLAY/PAUSE | LOCK | `-------------------------'
After flashing the first keymap, flashing the second and latter firmwares isharder. You need to press the reset switch twice quickly. The Arduino goes intofirmware programming mode for 8 seconds. If you just press reset once, it willgo into programming mode for 750 ms.Tags: arduino, articles, electronics, ergodox, ergonomic, jetbrains, keyboard, launchpad, macropad, matias-ergo-pro, mechanical-keyboards, qmk, spacecat, split-keyboard