Plato, a Python module for plotting plates
As part of my new hobby to build a computer keyboard, I have to draw the instructions for the cutting of the plate the switches are held in (see previous post for more on what the plate is). Rather than learn how to install and use a CAD system to do this, I have written a Python module to do it for me.
This software does the same thing as online services like the swillkb Plate & Case Builder and Keyboard CAD Assistant: it takes the serialized data from the Keyboard Layout Editor and writes DXF and SVG files that might be converted in to instructions for a CNC mill or laser cutter. The diagram looks something like this:
Part of the motivation for rolling my own rather than exploiting the Swill version was that I plan to use acrylic or wood rather than metal for the plate: this means I need to create an ‘under-plate’ support layer. This has almost the same design but is thicker (say 3 mm rather than 1·5 mm) with a few cutouts that allow the switches to clip on to the top layer. Something like this:
Ideally for strength the plate and under-plate support would be machined out of one piece of acrylic (or wood) but if that proves infeasible I can laser cut them separately and glue the layers together.
The DXF version is hard to display if you don’t have CAD software, which is where the SVG file is convenient—it can be loaded in to your favourite web browser and you should be able to zoom and pan with your browser’s ususal controls. I have also made it use lines whose thickness corresponds to the width of the laser beam, so they should give an idea of the level of detail that is or is not possible.
Update (2017-03-05)! Here is a combined image that shows how the layers are supposed to fit together:
The package—which is not yet in any kind of finished form—is called Plato and you can read the code on GitHub.