Input modules on Framework 13

Hi there,
I’m a big fan of modularity, and starting to get into alternative keyboard designs. Because of that I love the idea of the input modules on the FW 16. But as the FW 16 is quite expensive, and I’m not a pro-user, I decided to get a FW 13, even if I will miss out on the modularity of the input modules, and the expansion bay. But while comparing the two Laptops, I wondered if there wasn’t the possibility, that with a redesigned input cover, the input modules could also be used with the FW 13. Of course the FW 13 can only accommodate the width of one keyboard sized module, but this would still enable way better customizability of input methods, and improve the intercompatibility of FW 13 and FW 16.
I’m not sure how easily this could be accomplished, as I’m not familiar with all technical aspects, but just looking at the dimensions this seems doable.
I myself, and I’m sure many others would love to see this considered.

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I’m expecting to get a framework laptop soon-ish, and would also really like to see the input modules on the FW 13. I’m also a custom ergonomic keyboard nerd, so having qmk and the possibility of custom keyboard modules on the smaller laptop is really exciting to me.

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Like you, I would love to see the the advancements of the 16" model rolled into the 13". However I also feel there are opportunities for the 13" to leapfrog its bigger sibling and maybe this is one area where that may occur.

I would be particularly keen to see just a little more depth to accommodate Cherry ULP switches as discussed here, here and here, to reference just a few threads. For the price of just a little more thickness the benefits of discrete switches for repairability, key feel and and custom keyboards can be ours.

I consider it regrettable that Framework did not make provision for these switches when they came to design the 16" model as it would have infused the “Framework” philosophy into the modules themselves. When the time comes to redesign the chassis - or offer upgrades - of the 13" model to incorporate lessons learnt from the bigger sibling, and I am determined that discrete switches are considered.

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I really want this feature, too. I’m not a hardware engineer but we can give it a shot I suppose. Where do we start?

It seems that the 16" keyboard area uses little slots of 8 pins each to communicate with the device.
On the hardware level the big pain points sound like the way to slide components in, and attaching the thing to the laptop (capacitive etc)

With us not being engineers and wanting to a. Have a usable computer b. Not mess with the heat dispersion (that is, worry about materials) I’m thinking something that somehow works over USB and is external to start with, that can be placed on top of the current keyboard cover. Not sure how to go about firmware (how it’ll communicate with the computer)

On the other hand, if the cover’s hardware source is out (I didn’t see it on github. Maybe I missed it?) maybe we could reproduce it without 2-is of the module ports. Or even get a 16" and cut a couple of the ones in the middle, providing that we can see the connections that will then need mending. Sounds risky though. And the firmware may still be an issue.

What do you think?

Alternatively, Framework, how about releasing a thinner one, even at the cost of the lid not closing well, or one that works over USB? Even temporary plans for one, where someone like me can send it to have it manufactured without knowing too much, then devise my own fasteners, connect through USB, and have my own freaky love child of a 16" keyboard, 13", USB and a breadboard. It won’t require any finishing plans or responsibility from you because you’ll be publishing half baked plans and the execution is on us.

You’re in luck. The FWL16 upper input modules are already USB. The pinout is on their github. To connect to them you just need some pogo pin contacts. The keyboards use QMK open source firmware. I recall someone planning to create a case that you could easily pop in a keyboard to use externally.