Flaretech the optical keyboard switch
Last updated: 2 September, 2018EDIT: Added Black switch, clarified specifications, hyperlinked a couple other relevant posts and adjusted switch limitations.
Gamers and MK fans rejoice, the Flaretech switch is a step closer to the next generation of mechanical keyboards and also the switch we use in the Wooting one mechanical keyboard.
The technical specifications of the switch open some amazing possibilities when you put the right minds on it. So, let me introduce the Flaretech Switch, an optical mechanical switch.
The Flaretech Switch
The Flaretech switch is an optical switch, meaning it uses a sensor and light to read the position of the keypress opposed from a regular switch that uses conductivity to activate a keypress. This is important to know because:
- It's possible to read different values from a single keystroke, hence Analog input
- The switch doesn't need to be soldered onto the PCB (the circuit board)
At the time of writing, there was only a Linear55 "Red" and Clicky55 "Blue" switch available. But starting 2018, November, the Linear80 "Black" switch is also available. As the color indicates, it has similar specifications to those of CherryMX. Let me put that into a comparison.
Red Switch Comparison TableFlaretech Linear55 "Red" switchCherryMX Red switchOperating ForceN/A45 cNKey end Force55 cN - Linear55 cN - LinearKeystrokes100 million50 millionDebounce0.03ms5msTactile feedbackNoNoAudible feedbackNoNoTotal travel distance4mm4mmActuation point1.5-3.6mm2mmReset point1.5-3.6mm1.9mmKeycap stemMX (cross)MX (cross)Blue Switch Comparison TableFlaretech Clicky55 "Blue" switchCherryMX Blue switchOperating ForceN/A50 cNKey end Force55 cN - Non-linear55 cN - Non-linearKeystrokes100 million50 millionDebounce0.03ms5msTactile feedbackYes, on 1.8mm down and 0.5mm back upYes, on 1.7mm downAudible feedbackYes, on 1.8mm down and 0.5mm back upYes, on 1.7mm downTotal travel distance4mm4mmActuation point1.5-3.6mm2.2mmReset point1.5-3.6mm1.5mmKeycap mountMX (cross)MX (cross)BlackSwitch Comparison TableFlaretech Linear80 "Black" switchCherryMX Black switchOperating ForceN/A60 cNKey end Force80 cN - Linear80cN - LinearKeystrokes100 million50 millionDebounce0.03ms5msTactile feedbackNoNoAudible feedbackNoNoTotal travel distance4mm4mmActuation point1.5-3.6mm2mmReset point1.5-3.6mm1.9mmKeycap stemMX (cross)MX (cross)(disclaimer: We can't officially speak for Flaretech or CherryMX specifications. Data is subject to errors)
There's a comprehensive video about the Flaretech Lens B switches made by Chyrosran22. You can read more about the optical mechanics in the Wooting knowledgebase.
The Flaretech switches has 2 lens types. Lens A and B. Lens B is a special Flaretech switch variations that we (Wooting) made with Adomax (Flaretech switch manufacturer) for analog input. This doesn't mean you can simply install a Flaretech switch on a mechanical keyboard and expect it to magically be analog. The switch itself is a dummy that's entirely mechanical with lens mechanics inside. It's the sensors installed on the PCB that can read an analog value in combination with the switches. This makes the Wooting keyboard natively analog, no tricks.
It's modular, in the sense that it's hot-swappable without any technical knowledge. It's literally as simple as removing a keycap for another. But it's not compatible with other switch brands.
To make sure you install it correct, it also has a little dummy proof clip on the side.
Since the switch is swappable, we've taken the liberty to also make the Wooting one top plate swappable without any technical knowledge. You can just unscrew the top plate and screw another in its place.
MX mount compatible
You can install any standard set of keycaps because it has the same stem mount as CherryMX switches.
Fast response time
It's literally light(n)ing fast because the Flaretech switches leverage infrared opitcal mechanics, the input lag is dependent on other factors than the switch opposed to regular mechanical switches that suffer from a significant debounce time. I wrote a comprehensive article about what influences input lag on keyboards if you're interested in the fastest possible input.
The switch uses SMT LED, so it's installed on the PCB and not on the switch. It doesn't go through the center of the switch, but instead through a light tunnel on the top of the switch. The LED itself is rather small but the brightness achieved with the light tunnel is magnificent.
What does this mean for Wooting one
In our search for making a real Gaming mechanical keyboard, we were looking for the best solution to capture an analog signal from keypresses. There is a multitude of possibilities: pressure, capacitive, magnetic and piezo fabric to name a few but there's another challenge beyond it, cost per switch.So when we found the Flaretech switch and saw it was optical, we immediately knew that this was it. As a bonus the switches are hot-swappable.When we just started to work with the switch, we first had to go through a rough R&D process to find the most effective and efficient method to read the analog signal from each key and how to easily and immediately implement this in games.
For the best analog experience, we've opted for the
Flaretech Linear55 "Red" switches because its smooth linear feel without any tactile or audible feedback. With the introduction of the
Linear80 "Black" switches, this is our new favorite for the best analog gaming experience. That said, the Clicky55 "Blue" switch is still a viable option and gears a bit better towards the overall typing experience, if you like the click sound of course.
Our work with the Flaretech switch has shown the manufacturer that a full-analog keyboard is a viable and an affordable option. Initially, they assumed that it would be too expensive to implement it keyboard wide (on each key), and that has caused some conservation.
The switch mechanically blocks all light until 1.3~1.5mm because it was initially designed to send a digital input as soon as it received a light signal. So, to set the actuation point, they had to block all the light until its actuation point.
(Updated: 2 September, 2018)Since the Wooting one hit the market, we started to look into the development of increasing the total analog range of the Flaretech switches. We have found that there are some larger challenges than the mechanical block alone, caused by the nature of optics.
The current 2.1mm effective analog range of the Flaretech switches are accurate and noticeable when using. Everybody will experience it a bit different, but you can immediately feel it's a step into the future.
Thanks to the continuous support from the community, and anybody owning a Wooting keyboard, we are able to allocate resources to further invest in research and development for the ultimate analog input switch.
Super-official-totally-not-subjective gaming switch comparison™©®
Introducing the all-new Flaretech optical mechanical switch for Gamers . The ultimate analog compatible switch, handmade with microscopic details by the smartest engineers in the world exclusively for gaming. The unbeatable responsiveness and blazing speed of the Flaretech optical mechanical switch will never miss a beat and enhance your gaming and typing experience beyond your imagination.
This is why the Flaretech switch will give you the winning edge.
THE ALL-NEW FLARETECH SWITCH
In a Wooting one✓
Up to 100mil Keystrokes✓
Make instant headshots✓
Be called hacker✓
100% chance on epic loot✓
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