The name “Minibea” (ミネベア) is pronounced quite differently from how the spelling would suggest to an English speaker; the spelling suggests such unnatural pronunciations as “mini-bayer” or “mini-bee”. It is four equally-stressed syllables, rendered in the International Phonetic Alphabet as /mʲi.ne.be.a/. The Japanese pronunciation is fairly easy to enunciate but impossible to spell phonetically in English.
Minebea (now MinebeaMitsumi entered the keyboard market in 1982, producing “keyboards for IBM's high-end personal computers”. The exact identity of these keyboards has yet to be determined, but the IBM Model F seems the most likely. Minebea staff were trained by IBM in the United States on how to manufacture these keyboards. D’Milo Hallerberg thinks that some of these made their way to Hi-Tek in the US.
In 1983, Minebea acquired Hi-Tek Corporation. This page deals with the product ranges specific to Minebea, or that were introduced much later in time than the Hi-Tek acquisition.
On the 8th of August 2002, Minebea issued a press release announcing a joint venture between Minebea and the Huan Hsin Group of Singapore. The joint venture company of Sheng Ding (Pte) Ltd. in Singapore would in turn create a wholly-owned subsidiary of Shanghai Sheng Hsin Ltd in China (later referred to as Shanghai Shun Ding Technologies Ltd). The press release noted that “Minebea's Thai factory will supply the China subsidiary with membrane switches and certain other parts, but Minebea plans to gradually shift its keyboard production from Thailand to China, with a target of all keyboard production being done by the China subsidiary in 2005.” Production in the China factory was to begin in December 2002 (reported as August 2002 in the company history). At the time that the press release was issued, both the press release and the Minebea website cited Minebea’s keyboard production to be 2.5 million units per month, with approximately 20% market share. Design and development was split between Minebea’s Mechatronics Division in Japan and NMB Technologies Corp. in the United States. Legend printing of European keyboards was provided by NMB (U.K.) Ltd.’s plant in Inchinnan in Scotland (established in October 1996).
A press release on the 2nd of July 2004 announced Minebea’s intention to move keycap printing to Slovakia and close the Inchinnan plant in the UK. This new factory would be a wholly-owned subsidiary of NMB-Minebea UK Limited. The printing capacity was listed as 500,000 keyboards per month, with production expected to begin in August 2004, and the Scottish factory to close the month after.
The joint venture with Huan Hsin was dissolved in 2006, leaving Minebea as the sole owner. In 2013, Shanghai Shun Ding Technologies Ltd was scheduled for subsequent liquidation in 2015 as a result of Minebea exiting the keyboard market. This liquidation marked the end of an era for one of the longest-running players in the industry. Shun Ding is listed as having been established on the 12th of November 2002; the exact relationship with Shanghai Sheng Hsin Ltd is unclear, but it is likely to be the same company, as nothing else relevant was announced. Shun Ding was the manufacturer name found on Dell keyboards in the 2010s.
On the 27th of January 2017, Minebea and Mitsumi merged. Minebea is now known as MinebeaMitsumi Inc., and Mitsumi is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of MinebeaMitsumi. NMB in the United States retained its name after NMB in Japan was renamed to Minebea, and it retains that name still following the merger.