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The Arduino Music Keyboard (AMK) is a user-assembled Arduino DIY kit. The keyboard was designed primarily as an educational tool to teach software and electronics, whilst catering for electronics, Do-It-Yourself (DIY) or music technology enthusiasts.

Parts list

Qty Product Part number
25 RS PRO Steel Extension Spring, 34.5mm x 5mm 751-792
1 Arduino, Mega 2560 Rev 3 715-4084
2 SKS-140, 140 piece Breadboard Jumper Wire Kit 634-8651
2 2444, Breadboard Prototyping Board 164 <font face="symbol">´</font> 54mm 215-3175
1 Yageo 10kΩ Metal Film Fixed Resistor 2W ±5% FMP200JT-52-10K 199-7772
50 Switches (Non-Disclosable)
25 Bespoke Keys (3D printed)
1 Bespoke Case (3D printed)
1 Bespoke Cover (Laser cut acrylic)

THE FINAL PRODUCT

Music technology is deeply fascinating. The AMK was my opportunity to create, design and solve problems in a field I am truly passionate about, but not only, but the AMK was also my opportunity to share that passion, that excitement, and to allow others to experience it for themselves.

The AMK is an original product developed for my 3rd year individual project, as part of my Product Design Engineering degree. This keyboard was designed primarily as an educational tool to teach software and electronics, to be used within colleges and universities. Moreover, it was also designed to cater for electronics, Do-It-Yourself (DIY) or music technology enthusiasts. Thus, Arduino software and electronics were implemented to form an educative, entertaining and customizable kit. The design was successfully developed from the conceptual stage into a fully-functional physical prototype. Development prototypes and test rigs were developed for key aspects of the product at each project step. Management of complex interactions between hardware, electronics and software played a key role throughout the project.

As this product will be released commercially, there are a few sensitive areas of development that will not be discussed, in order to protect intellectual property to some extent. Nevertheless, this guide should still prove useful for anybody wanting to develop similar projects or needing inspiration for their own projects!

The AMK was meant to be delivered as a set of parts and instructions:

The AMK was meant to be delivered as a set of parts and instructions

The customer could assemble these parts into a fully functional musical keyboard in approximately 2 hours. This process included wiring of all electronics (switches, resistors and jump wires), providing the user insight into electronic circuits, and assembling the hardware (keys and case):

The AMK was a MIDI keyboard. Meaning it did not have speakers or pre-built sounds. The AMK could instead control other devices, such as phones, tablets or laptops to generate sounds and play them. The code necessary to do so was developed as an open-source resource and could be customized by the user. 

You might have noticed that there were two switches per key, why would that be? Having two switches per key allows for velocity control. Essentially, velocity is a measure of how hard a key is pressed. Imagine playing a piano key softly, now imagine pressing it as hard as you can. The sound is not only going to be louder, but it will also have a different harmonic spectrum. This is very important for allowing expressive performances. Having two switches per key allows for one of them to be actuated before the other, the time difference between actuation's is a measure of how fast the key was travelling.

two switches per key allows for one of them to be actuated before the other

The following is a demonstration of the keyboard in operation:

THE DESIGN PROCESS

Hardware. The hardware design of the keys and case underwent a number of design iterations. The haptic feel of the keys was optimised through three design iterations, more than five types of buttons were tested in the process. All hardware components were developed in Siemens NX11 and prototyped using the University's Ultimaker 2+.

hardware design of the keys

Keyboard Design

Electronics. The electronic circuit of the keyboard was designed using DesignSpark Electrical. It was challenging to implement this circuit onto a standard breadboard, especially because all the buttons had to align to the keys above them, whilst fitting on discretely spaced mounts. Nevertheless, the arrangement below was chosen:

Electronics Schematic

Circuit board layout

Software. The following flowchart showcases how the keyboard's code operates:

Software block diagram

BUILDING A COMMUNITY

This product was developed with the help and support of enthusiastic online music technology communities, accumulating over 2k up-votes on the announcement of the finished prototype on a music forum hosted on Reddit. (https://www.reddit.com/r/WeAreTheMusicMakers/comments/fz2mn9/here_you_have_it_a_midi_keyboard_you_can_build/)

SUSTAINABILITY

The AMK embraces sustainability by using compostable build materials as well as parts that can be re-used on different projects at the end-of-life of the product. (Arduino boards, switches, jump wires, etc.).

THE FUTURE OF THE PROJECT

The keyboard was originally meant to be manufactured in a medium production volume facility, using injection moulding machinery for hardware parts. Nonetheless, support from the community has highlighted the possibility of beginning production at low volumes, using 3D printing for hardware parts.

This involves minor re-design work of the hardware parts. This summer I am going to be developing the project in this direction, purchasing manufacturing equipment with the aim of setting up a company and selling the kits online. The Grass Roots Student Project Competition is an excellent opportunity to source financial support for this future stage of the project's development.

PROJECT POSTER

AMK Poster

JorgeFerrer-Bertomeu has not written a bio yet…
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