Breakout Board

The connector on the keyboard cable isn’t very friendly to DIY projects and to be able to wire it up to a microcontroller or similar I would need a breakout board. I used the free and open source PCB software KiCad to design a simple board which I then sent to PCBWay for manufacturing. It isn’t the first time I order PCB s from them and I have always been pleased with the results. I also ordered an SMD stencil because of the surface mounted connector. When I got the delivery, it turned to be a aluminum stencil on a big frame, which is very unnecessary for my small PCB but the price was good and it was the smallest size available.

ThinkPad Keyboard Breakout Boards

ThinkPad Keyboard Breakout Boards

Now, to the soldering part. I don’t have any solder paste at home and I couldn’t find a store that had it in stock so I did the only thing I could, try to hand solder it. It may seem a bit crazy to hand solder SMD components, and the keyboard connector is even more crazy, the spacing between the pins are only 0.33 mm! I didn’t succeed the first time, but after many tries, I finally got it right. The first step I did was to put some solder on one of the big pads. Then I put the connector on the PCB as good as I could and then I melted the solder on the pad with the soldering iron. If it where incorrectly aligned, I adjusted it by melting the solder again and pushed the connector a little bit. When it was aligned properly, I put some solder on the rest of the four big pads. To solder the small I/O pins, I first put some solder on the tip of the soldering iron and then wiped it off, to only leave a very, very small amount of solder. I then just put the tip of the soldering iron on the pins until they all got a connection without any short circuit.

I will try to use solder paste for the next 9 boards and hope for a much easier soldering process with a more beautiful end result.

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Comments (13)

  1. Wow, this is great! Just what I wanted. The other person who did this (and started selling the boards on tindie) has run out of connecters and no longer makes the kit.

    Would you sell one of these breakout boards?

    1. Yes, of course 🙂 But you may have to solder them your self. I am currently trying to solder a board using the stencil I got from PCBWay but without any success. I will send you an email and check if you are still interested.

  2. Really cool that you have these. I’m looking to do the same thing and came across your post on the kosagi forums. Would you be interested in sending a breakout or two to the united states?

    1. I saw your email and have responded 🙂 Sorry for a late response here, I did not get any email notification about new comments :-/

      Good to know that there are people reading the forum thread 🙂

  3. I would be interested in buying a couple of breakout boards if you have any spare.
    Let me know.

    1. I saw your email and have responded 🙂 Sorry for a late response here, I did not get any email notification about new comments :-/

  4. Would you mind posting the PCB design file? I think I’ve sourced my keyboard connector and datasheet, so I should just be able to mod yours, right?

    1. Yes, I will send it to you by email. I used KiCAD so you should be able to modify it without any problems 🙂

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