For a good mechanical keyboard, a good set of keycaps is essential. Although you may ignore the differences between various keycaps in terms of appearance alone, in fact, the differences between keycaps are very large, mainly including differences in material, craftsmanship, shape and height, which will also It has a great impact on the feel of the keyboard. This article will introduce the different types of keycaps in detail to help you choose the keycap that suits you better when buying a keyboard or keycap.
1. Keycap material
In terms of keycap materials currently on the market, the most popular keycap materials include ABS and PBT. Both ABS and PBT belong to engineering plastics, but they have different properties and differ greatly in price.
1. ABS keycaps (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene plastic)
ABS keycaps are keycaps made of ABS plastic and are the most common keycaps. ABS plastic is a terpolymer of acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene. Has excellent impact resistance, heat resistance, low temperature resistance, chemical resistance and electrical properties. Good gloss and so on. Easy to color, easy to color, and can also be used for secondary processing such as surface metallization, electroplating, welding, hot pressing, and bonding. It has the characteristics of tasteless and non-toxic, can be used at extremely low minus 40 degrees Celsius, the melting temperature is as high as 217 degrees Celsius (the heat distortion temperature is 93-118 degrees Celsius), and it has strong impact resistance and is not easy to deform.
ABS keycaps are the most of all materials, mainly due to their mature technology and low price. ABS keycaps are mostly used for ordinary keyboards that cost a few dollars or mechanical keyboards that cost hundreds of dollars. But its shortcomings are also obvious, the wear resistance of ABS keycaps is poor. Usually, a matte layer is sprayed on the ABS keycaps, but when this layer wears off after long-term high-frequency use, the ABS keycaps will become smooth and greasy, just like a layer of oil, and the hand will feel Much worse, this is commonly referred to as the oiling phenomenon. However, some high-end keyboards still use ABS keycaps. They will spray a layer of wear-resistant material on the ABS keycaps, which can also greatly reduce the oil stains on the keycaps.
2. PBT keycaps (polybutylene terephthalate)
PBT plastic is a very good material, and most high-end gaming keyboards use PBT as the keycap material. PBT plastic has high hardness, high strength, fatigue resistance, hot water, alkali, acid, oil, not easy to deform, not easy to change under high temperature. It is a semi-crystalline material with very good chemical stability, electrical insulation properties and thermal stability, so it can be said to be the most stable keycap material. Based on the excellent performance of its material, PBT keycaps have very good effects in oil resistance, wear resistance, aging resistance, corrosion resistance, etc. It is said that they will never be oiled. However, due to the high hardness of PBT plastic, it is difficult to form, and the material itself is expensive, so the price is very expensive, and the hand feel will be relatively hard.
3. other keycaps
In addition to ABS keycaps and PBT keycaps, there are also POM (Polyoxymethylene, thermoplastic crystalline polymer, referred to as POM) plastic, rubber, brass and many other keycaps. The keycap made of POM is very hard, has good wear resistance, and has lubricity, so it feels oily and slippery to the touch, but it is different from the oily and slippery ABS keycap after long-term use. Dry and slippery. The keycaps of materials such as rubber and brass are even rarer, and very few keyboards use keycaps of these two materials.
Conclusion 1: In terms of keycap material, PBT keycaps are the best keycaps recognized by most users, but they are more expensive due to the difficulty of forming.
2. Keycap Character Craft
There are various printing processes for keycap characters, and the life span and light transmission difference of keycap characters brought by different printing processes are also very different.
1. Laser Etching + Screen Printing + Laser Filling
Laser-etched keycaps were the most popular early keycap character engraving process because of their simplicity and low cost. The laser etching process uses a laser to burn marks on the keycaps to form characters. These characters are also more durable. The disadvantage is that only black characters can be burned, so they can only be used on white keycaps.
Screen printing is also a low-cost character printing process. The special screen is used to cover the keycap, and the character part is hollowed out, and then the ink is scraped on the screen to print on the keycap. handwriting. The disadvantage of screen printing is that the characters are easy to wear and fade, and it is not suitable for long-term use.
Laser filling is a process that combines screen printing and laser etching. Use the ink printing method of the screen printing process to perform secondary printing on the laser-etched keyboard, so that the formed characters will have higher durability and more color keycap materials.
2. Dye sublimation
Unlike the common ink printing process that uses common liquid dye-based inks, the sublimation process uses solid resin-based inks. The solid resin ink will sublime at high temperature and then penetrate into the keycap and then sublime, forming a whole with the keycap itself, so that the formed characters are better in terms of gloss and firmness, and the characters rarely fall off. Happening. However, the dye-sublimation process is complicated, so the cost is higher, and the heat-sublimation keycaps will also be more expensive.
3. Hollow printing + two-color molding
The characteristics of hollow printing and two-color molding are that the keycap characters have good light transmission. This is because the early keycaps rarely have RGB lighting, and because of the rise of mechanical keyboards, lighting has also become an important function. . In order to cater to the backlight function of the keyboard, light-transmitting character keycaps came into being.
The hollow-out printing process is very simple. Choose a material with better light transmittance to make the keycap, and then cover the surface of the keycap outside the character part with an opaque material. Such keycap characters have good light transmittance and meet RGB requirements. Lighting needs. However, the disadvantage is that the material covering the surface of the keycap is easy to wear and fall off, and the characters will not be recognized after long-term use.
Two-color molding, also known as two-color injection molding, is a combination of two different colors of materials to make keycaps. The part with good light transmittance forms the letter part and the inside of the keycap, and the part with poor light transmittance is wrapped around the outside of the keycap, so that the characters are transparent and other parts are opaque. The keycap characters formed by the two-color molding process will never wear or fade, but the cost is higher.
Conclusion 2: In the molding process of keycap characters, two-color molding process and sublimation process are the best two character processes. Dye-sublimation characters hardly fade and have advantages in keycap pattern variety and aesthetics. Two-color molding is the best in terms of character non-fading and has good light transmittance, but it is inferior to sublimation in terms of keycap pattern diversity and beauty.
3. Keycap Profiles
Image via Reddit user u/gtderEvan
What are Keycap Profiles?
The keycap configuration file refers to the height and shape parameters of the keycap, while a configuration file describes a set of keycap shape parameters. In different keycap configurations, the shape of the keycap is very different. These different shapes and heights will bring about a different experience. Therefore, choosing a keycap profile that suits you will greatly improve your experience.
- Keycap shape difference： As far as the shape of the keycap is concerned, there are relatively square, retro round, oval, and hexagonal honeycomb shapes. Except for a few buttons, the shape of the same set of keycaps is almost the same. of.
- Keycap inclination angle difference： As far as the inclination angle of the keycap surface is concerned, some are very flat, some are concave inward, and some are inclined to one side. In most cases, the inclination angles of the same set of keycaps are quite different.
- Keycap height difference： The keycaps have different heights, which are usually in the range of 2-17mm, and in many cases, the heights of the same set of keycaps are different.
Different types of keycap profiles comparison
1. Cherry profile keycaps
The cherry profile keycap is a widely used and very popular keycap. It is one of the standard keycaps, also known as the original height. The height of the cherry profile keycap is 9.4mm, and the keycaps have different inclination angles, which are characterized by a comfortable feel and are loved by many gamers.
2. OEM profile keycaps
The OEM profile keycap is very similar to the cherry profile keycap, and is 2.5mm higher than the cherry keycap. It is the classic standard profile keycap and the most popular profile keycap. It is used on many mechanical keyboards on the market today. can find it. OEM profile keycaps The same row of keycaps use the same height and inclination, and the height and inclination of different rows are different, which will be more ergonomic and provide a better typing experience.
3. SA profile keycaps
SA profile keycaps are very tall keycaps, and are also more classic large keycaps with a height of 16.5mm. SA profile keycaps have a spherical contact surface that slopes down from the top, paired with taller keycaps, typically for users who have a habit of raising their hands when typing. If you don’t have the habit of raising your hands while typing, using SA profile keycaps will be very tiring.
4. KAT Profile Keycaps
KAT, short for Keyreactive All Touch, is a new version of the SA profile designed by Keyreactive. Like the SA keycaps, the KAT profile keycaps still have a spherical contact surface, but are smoother. Secondly, the KAT keycap is lower than the SA keycap, with a height of 13.5mm. Under these two new changes, the KAT keycap provides users with faster typing speed and higher accuracy, so it is also affected by A favorite of many typing more users.
5. DSA profile keycaps
The DSA profile keycap is a relatively low-profile keycap with a smaller stature and a height of 7.6mm compared to cherry and OEM keycaps. DSA keycaps have the same height and round contact surface in the same row of keycaps, which also makes its pressing smoother and faster, which will provide users with a good experience.
6. XDA Profile Keycaps
The XDA profile keycaps are very similar to the DSA keycaps and are also designed for low profile, with uniform keys, low height and recessed tops, and the even rows allow the user’s hands to move quickly across the keyboard while typing. Neat and uniform rows and uniform compact appearance provide users with a comfortable aesthetic.
7. KAM profile keycaps
Conclusion 3: Whether you’re buying a keyboard or repurchasing a set for your keyboard, knowing the configuration parameters of the keycaps will do you a lot of good. If you have the habit of raising your hands when typing, then taller and larger KAT, OEM, cherry profile keycaps will be more suitable for you. If you want a smoother, faster movement on the keycaps, then the more tidy and unified DSA, XDA, KAM profile keycaps are more suitable for you.
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