Introducing the SteamVan 40% PCB

Hi everyone,

I’d like to share a PCB design project I started last winter. In summary, it’s a MiniVan layout PCB that’s compatible with MiniVan cases (I’ve only tested the R3 MiniVan case and a wood case made by u/lxkhn from reddit). I originally started this project as a personal challenge to design and assemble a PCB that I could use in my MiniVan case, and I was successful in that goal. I hadn’t intended to announce it publicly, but since @evangs announced the closing of The Van Keyboards (:cry:), I thought this might be an opportunity to keep the MiniVan style of keyboard alive.

With some great aftermarket MiniVan case options out there (off the top of my head, @keyboardbelle and u/lxkhn of reddit both make aftermarket cases) and access to MiniVan plate files, it seemed like a good idea to share this project. Here are some highlights about the board:

  • Switches oriented such that the LEDs are South-facing, for compatibility with Cherry profile keycaps.
  • USB Type-C support in both A to C and C to C configurations.
  • QMK support.
  • ESD protection circuitry, including data line protection and a polyfuse on the VCC line.
  • Support for per-switch LED backlighting.
  • Fits in MiniVan keyboard cases.
  • RGB LED underglow support.

I based the design on an STM32F303 microcontroller. STM32 is beginning to gain popularity as an alternative MCU to AVR in the keyboard PCB world. The name SteamVan comes from a loose combination of STM and MiniVan.

I’ve done two hardware prototype revisions, and I’m happy with the Rev. 2 iteration. Also, SteamVan support now exists in QMK master. I don’t have pictures of an assembled PCB, but you can get a good idea from the KiCAD files. I’ve built two keyboards so far from this PCB design that are both part of my regular rotation, and they’ve been working well!

It’s unlikely that I’ll ever run a group buy or do a large production run of this board, but I would be glad if someone else wanted to do that!

So, without further ado, here are the KiCAD files for the SteamVan. I’m happy to take any feedback, and I hope this work is useful to some of you!

P.S. Big shout-out to @evangs for designing such an awesome keyboard in the first place!!

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Keep the van running!

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it’s excellent to see people already carrying the torch of the minivan

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This is amazing! I’ve been working on some Rust firmware for STM32 MCUs, but there aren’t any keebs in 40% form factor with them. I really hope someone does a group buy for this, I’d buy several of these lol.

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Let me know if case files are needed. I can work up a range of options for people to make themselves.

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Thanks! Would definitely be cool if someone does a GB. If I get around to hand assembling any more prototypes, I’ll definitely let you know.

Rust keyboard firmware sounds awesome! Is the source open? If so, I’d love to check it out. I didn’t realize Rust had made its way to embedded platforms.

That’sa kind offer! Case files would be super cool, and would benefit the whole community of MiniVan users as well. What sort of case do you have in mind?

Alright. over the next few days, I can start getting screw potitions nailed, then I can start working up a variety of different cases, from 3d print, CNC, laser cut, and maybe a bent steel one too

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I’ve always be intrigued by 40% and alike keyboards, also a bit afraid to jump in because so much used to full size or tkl layouts.
I’m curious to know if I could adapt to such a small size keyboard and I’ll definitely have a try with the Kicad design you provided us.

Also wanting to jump into the STM32 MCU in the future so your design will be a very good reference :slight_smile:

Thanks for sharing your project with us!

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Woot! This is awesome! Glad you’re keeping the TVK alive!

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Very cool, thanks so much for your work on this! I’m really interested to see your case designs :slight_smile:

You’re welcome! There was definitely an adjustment period for me with the MiniVan. But now, I’m just as comfortable on the MiniVan layout as I aim on my 60% boards. A large part of my day job is writing software, and I’m able to do it quite effectively on the 40% boards as well. Thanks for checking out the project!

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Great to see that there are now also 3rd party MiniVan PCBs. There are already 3rd party MiniVan cases out there (Keyboardbelle, StrataKB — none of them seems to be open source though — yet).

Apropos, it would be nice if you could add a license declaration (e.g. by adding a file called LICENSE or LICENSE.md) to your GitHub repo. Github’s Choose A License service might help if you’re unsure what license is best for you.

Thanks for the feedback! And that’s a very good point. I’ll try to get a license on there this weekend. I’ll post back once I’ve got a license on there!

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Any recommendation where one could order PCBs based on these files? Are there even services which are producing PCBs with all SMD parts already mounted?

There are tons in China, I think JLCPCB is pretty popular around here, and PCBway is one I’ve used.

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I recommend JLCPCB too but there are a few components in this PCB are not supported by JLCPCB automated PCBA. The components are either too small or not supported by the pick and place machine. They are therefore need to be hand soldered afterward.

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The only PCB assembly service I’ve used is Elecrow in China, Their quality is quite good, but small-run PCB assembly can be fairly expensive. Small run PCB fabrication without assembly is a lot cheaper, but then you need to source all the SMD components and solder them yourself (this is what I do). It would be great for someone else in the community with some PCB design experience to do a sanity check on the design. It’s not my first design, and I’ve successfully built boards based on the design, but I’d just feel bad if I missed something and it cost you a lot of money. There’s nothing in the design itself that concerns me though.

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Sorry for the delay on this, have been dealing with some IRL stuff. I’ve added a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0 International license to the project. It’s one I used on another PCB project. I believe it’s a good choice. My goal is to make the design usable without much in the way of restrictions. If you think it might not be the best choice, I’m certainly open to suggestions!

Edit: link to license.

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Have you had a chance to test out the latest version of the PCB? I have been meaning to order some and assemble it myself…