I am searching for a DIY set to build an optical mouse. What I need is a bare minimum set, giving the ability to build a very small mouse without buttons, and possibly for beginners. Should be something that can be plugged in the computer and can be practically used with Windows at least as a pointing device. If the device cannot fully and automagically comply as real mouse it could be also a possible solution for my project, if there is a dev-guide to get something from the moving sensor.

So I want to build a 'pointing-only' mouse. The button components should be included, but must be splittable from the sensor and light element, so the wires could be laid separately and all buttons distanced from the mouse, e.g. under the left hand.

My idea is that I build the body of the mouse myself, and the sensor stuff I will mount according to my needs. For this reason, the strict criteria is the form-factor of the main movement capture component, namely it should be the smallest possible. This block for the gliding body should be splittable from the rest as much as possible, and connected with thin flexible wires.

So a common monoblock with buttons or wireless solutions are out. Mechanical wheel solutions are also out.

My first idea was simply to destroy some very small mouse and look what is inside, but I really hope there is a more civilized solution.

I ask for recommendations about possible electronical components and general advice for such project. Note that I am not electronics engineer, I am working on mechanical concepts mainly and have some programming skills, if thet can help.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Optical mice are not for beginners. Consider creating a ball mouse or trackball instead to start. \$\endgroup\$ – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Aug 25 '17 at 1:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is not practical - what you could do is to buy a cheap mouse, pull out the parts, and 3d print a custom housing or something like that. Even beyond the practicality issue of trying to source new parts in small quantity by any other means than dissasembly, the question you are asking is an off-topic "shopping" question and would be closed on that basis alone. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Aug 25 '17 at 1:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisStratton why close? I did not intend to make a shopping question actually. Most things in this world become shopping questions in some sense. \$\endgroup\$ – Mikhail V Aug 25 '17 at 2:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @IgnacioVazquez-Abrams I have good concepts for mechanical sensor mouse as well, but that will be another project with totally different mechanical base. And what is the main stumbling block with optical components? I have found several enthusiast resources, but seems they all propose vandalism actions with existing devices, I wonder if that is really necessary. \$\endgroup\$ – Mikhail V Aug 25 '17 at 2:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ The hard part is the optics. The actual mouse chip and lens assembly are not hard to find, but aligning them with the surface requires mechanical engineering skills. \$\endgroup\$ – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Aug 25 '17 at 2:47

Don't try to invent another bicycle. The optical mouse is a result of sophisticated engineering, not just a lens and a chip sensor. The lens is a complex optical path from illuminating LED/laser to focusing surface image to the pinhole of receiver sensor. It is a carefully designed light-folding unit, and can't be found in general stores.

enter image description here For a prototype of something different, disassembly is a perfect way to go.

The entire assembly is actually pretty small, and the bulky mouse enclosure is just to fit a human palm. You can easily modify the mechanics to suit your ideas.

Here are real-size internals of a Targus mini-mouse for laptops, with optical wave-guide aside.

enter image description here

  • \$\begingroup\$ Exactly - I don't want to invent a bicycle, that is why I search for a ready components. And a PCB of a common mouse is huge, according to videos I've seen. On this picture it seems really small, but does it show a real one or its just general illustration? \$\endgroup\$ – Mikhail V Aug 25 '17 at 9:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Mikhail: why don't you just grab a mouse and disscet it? \$\endgroup\$ – Wouter van Ooijen Aug 25 '17 at 15:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @WoutervanOoijen My mouse must be not bigger than a toffee. You see, I can dissect a mouse but dissecting the PCB or soldering out the chip is unwanted. Most mice have huge PCB with everything on board. I think I will start to dissassemble some 'mouse pen', more chances that the optical assembly is detachable there. \$\endgroup\$ – Mikhail V Aug 26 '17 at 15:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikhailV That's a bad idea from an ergonomics standpoint. To manipulate a tiny mouse, your fingers have to be far more tense than they do to manipulate a palm-sized mouse. Try it with an actual toffee and you'll see. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Aug 27 '17 at 1:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisStratton I have tried and I like it much ;-) not with a toffee of course but special form and it gives ergonomics boost. The only problem is that the buttons must go away. \$\endgroup\$ – Mikhail V Aug 27 '17 at 2:30

Do not waste your time building a half assed approximation of some thing you can buy for a few coins or get next to free at a thrift store. The true engineer figures out how to leverage existing technology to solve some problem or demonstrate a totally new usage model.

Learn this lesson now because when you get out in the real would few people or companies will be willing to hire someone who can only re-invent run of the mill and everyday common technology.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hey, I just want to experiment with ergonomics, there are issues with common mice and I want to determine the possible limits for ergonomics. I don't want just buy and test all new devices (most of them are trash anyway). \$\endgroup\$ – Mikhail V Aug 26 '17 at 15:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikhailV: So then buy a cheap mouse of the right size and 3D-print different tops for it. \$\endgroup\$ – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Aug 26 '17 at 17:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @IgnacioVazquez-Abrams yes that is my idea, but the sensor&lens must fit into the size of a toffee. That is why I was asking. Now I think I need to buy a mouse pen, it seems they have the sensor as a separate unit. \$\endgroup\$ – Mikhail V Aug 26 '17 at 17:58

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