Assembling a Mechanical Keyboard PCB Using Reflow

Hey all,

I noticed there were very few YouTube videos about PCB assembly for mechanical keyboards so I went ahead and made one covering my Alice-style board with hotswap sockets. This was a long time in the making, and I showed off some of the boards in the video last year. This is my first time working with recording equipment and video editing software, so constructive criticism is definitely appreciated!


I think this is great. This level of detail is often missing from many of my go to keeb channels and I have to look elsewhere for the how-to info.

I learned a lot from this as it never crossed my mind to design and build my own PCB. Again, you’ve provided the important info. Also, I’ve never heard of the reflow method so I learned something there too. Audio quality was good, commentary was clear, helpful and articulate, no stumbling over words. On the whole, it was easy and pleasant to watch. If you keep producing content like this, you’ll have a healthy YouTube channel in no time. You’ve got a new subscriber.

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13:37. Indeed. (and great video!)

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Hey, nice video! I actually am an electrical engineer, and you pretty much got everything about as good as you can doing it by hand. If you have the fab or assembly house do it they are going to have everything automated, the paste will be applied to the stencil in a machine, a machine will place the parts, and they will have a long oven with a conveyor belt through that actually ramps the temp to a specific profile through. One thing to keep in mind about getting springing to get it assembled is you can have them do only some of the parts (for example everything but the hot swaps). I commonly do this for prototyping, I’ll have the assembly house do all the SMT parts except maybe a few I want to play with the values or if there’s only one or two through hole parts since that’s a separate machine.


Yeah! I actually started looking into the requirements earlier this year and am planning a follow-up to this video where I get a through-hole version of this board (or a TKL, if I’m feeling really productive) manufactured by JLC. To be honest, I’m kind of over hotswap, and hand assembly just takes too long to make it worthwhile. Definitely a learning experience, though!

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You know I was totally supposed to watch this yesterday after work but it slipped my mind. Will definitely give it a watch today :slight_smile:

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Great video, thank you !!!

I have a very similar approach than yours when doing PCB soldering for my keyboard projects :wink:

Placing all those diodes by hand is long and tedious isn’t it ?
Like @dwarflemur suggests, I may pay for an assembly service next time because of the loong time it takes to populate a PCB by hand.

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Yeah, totally! Assembly by hand is akin to growing your own produce–Sure, you could, but the time commitment ends up negating any cost benefit. Click “SHOW MORE” in the Description to see how I really feel about the process. :smiley:

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I just saw in the “SHOW MORE” section :smiley:

To be honest, when you are in confinement due to a fucking virus you are kind of happy to fill your time doing all that by hand :stuck_out_tongue:
I recently did that for 4 keyboard PCBs of my own design, haha!

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You’re not wrong, but most of this footage was from last summer. Only the shots with the white tables are from this past month.

Tbh the solder paste will probably take longer than doing it with an iron for those, you could do the stencil without the hot swaps and with some practice I bet you could get pretty fast at dropping them in and adding some solder with the iron, could go heavy with the solder for stability that way too. I’m with ya though, idk if hot swap is really worth it in the end for more than maybe a testbed board.

I was a little wary of doing anything other than reflow with the sockets initially, but I think applying a bit of solder to each of the pads with an iron before actual placement would work well. The problem I have with placement and then soldering is that you end up with so little enforcement between the main contact and the pad (i.e., on the bottom of the socket). The cup-like shape of the leads doesn’t really help in distributing the solder evenly, either. Regardless, I don’t have any actual means of quantifying the difference between hot air and the ol’ iron in terms of reliability.