Keycap Surface Material and Printing Process

Keycap Surface Material and Printing Process


8 minute read

For mechanical keyboards, in addition to the keyboard's appearance, shaft and lighting, etc., the material and craftsmanship of the keycaps are also an issue that people will care about. For example, the most common ABS material keycaps we usually have, of course, the PBT material that has become more and more popular recently, and the POM material that we usually don’t see much, of course, there are also various surface processes. The materials of these keycaps and even the surface font technology have their own advantages.

  • Keycap surface material

          1. ABS material keycaps

ABS material keycap

Click on the picture to browse Keygeak ABS Keycaps

ABS material keycaps are the most frequently used on mechanical keyboards. Whether it is a popular product of two or three hundred yuan or a high-end flagship mechanical keyboard worth thousands of yuan, ABS keycaps can be seen. The scientific name of ABS is "acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene copolymer". The material itself has the advantages of low cost, high strength, good toughness, and convenient processing.

It is precisely because of the above-mentioned advantages of the ABS material that the keycaps made of the ABS material have been widely quoted. Due to the mature production process, the keycaps made of ABS material generally have the advantages of regular appearance, exquisite details, uniform texture, etc. Not only because of its excellent workmanship but also because of its excellent hand feel, it is also widely loved. But it is a pity that the advantages of ABS material keycaps are obvious, and the disadvantages are even more obvious, that is, the surface of the well-known keycaps is easy to oil. Dirty and greasy, so many players have a certain resistance to ABS keycaps, and because of this, PBT keycaps seem to be more popular among players!

         2. PBT material keycap

PBT material keycap 1

Click on the picture to browse Keygeak PBT Keycaps

Although the hardness of PBT material keycaps is much harder than that of ABS material, because of this, it can be processed by two-color injection molding to achieve the purpose of never dropping characters, and the keycaps made of PBT material feel dry and tough. Has a very unique matte feel. However, its processing technology and cost are higher than that of ABS material, so the popularity of PBT material is not as high as that of ABS material.

The most obvious advantage of PBT may be that its wear resistance is significantly better than that of ABS material, which can greatly extend the mechanical keyboard keycaps made of PBT material compared with ABS material, and is now very popular among gamers and peripheral enthusiasts. However, due to the high price and relatively complicated processing, it is usually only used in some brands of mid-to-high-end products, and generally, low-end entry-level products do not use PBT materials.

PBT material keycap 2

Click on the picture to browse Keygeak PBT Keycaps

Moreover, due to the large molecular gap and high temperature, PBT material also has a very outstanding feature, that is, it can be dip-dyed with industrial dyes. Dyeing PBT keycaps into colorful colors is the best choice for players to DIY keycaps. Players can purchase white PBT keycaps and then buy industrial dyes for dyeing to create a unique set of colorful keycaps. After purchasing a few keycaps in small batches for practice and familiarization, the entire set of keycaps will be dyed according to individual needs.

         3. POM material keycap

POM material keycap

Of course, there is another material that is harder than PBT material, which is POM material. POM material has high hardness, excellent wear resistance, and self-lubricating properties, so it is often used in the production of lightweight moving parts. POM keycaps feel cold to the touch, and the self-lubricating material itself makes the keycaps have a uniquely dry and slippery feel, which is more slippery than oiled ABS keycaps (ABS feels sticky after oiling due to the material characteristics).

But apart from the above-mentioned advantages, the disadvantages of POM are very obvious, which is one of the reasons why POM materials are not common! The reason is that the color is too single. Currently, the commercially available POM material keycaps are all black, which makes them only applicable to black keyboards. At present, only Cherry keycaps are widely used in POM material keycaps. There is only one reason. , Many Cherry keyboards are black keyboards.

  • Keycap surface printing process

         1. Laser Etching Technology

Laser Etching Technology

Laser etching is what we usually call laser engraving. It uses laser engraving technology to perform laser burning on the keycap to burn out black grooves. Because the engraved strokes are dotted and line-shaped, if you look closely at the printed strokes, you will easily find sunken strokes with burnt marks. The color of the laser-etched handwriting is faded, and the nicks on the text can be felt. Another reason for the popularity of the laser etching process is that it is more environmentally friendly, so basically the output of laser etching keycaps is about ten times that of other process keycaps.

Laser etching has the advantages of long life and low cost, so it is the most common character process in the keyboard market. Moreover, such a process may be seen on the keyboard of each gear, which is enough to see its popularity.

         2. Silk-screen Printing

silk-screen printing

The principle of silk screen printing is to cover a blank keyboard with a special screen, hollow out the place with writing, and then scrape the ink over it so that the writing will be printed on the hollowed-out part.

Screen printing + UV lamination

Although the cost of screen printing is also very low, compared with the laser etching process, the life of the keycap is much shorter, and it is more common on the lower-cost membrane keyboard. Screen printing + UV coating is also a very common keycap process for thin films, which is to cover a layer of UV coating on the basis of screen printing, which has a longer life than screen printing. Moreover, most screen printing is used on the keycaps of notebooks, so the popularity of silk screen printing is extremely high at present.

         3. thermal sublimation

   Thermal Sublimation

Compared with the above two processes, the cost of thermal sublimation is much more expensive! The thermal sublimation process is entirely different from ordinary ink printing. Instead of the common liquid dye ink, thermal sublimation uses solid resin ink. The solid resin ink will sublimate at high temperatures and then penetrate into the keycap. Desublimation occurs, and the thermal sublimation process forms a whole on the surface of the physical layer of the keycap, so it is more excellent in gloss and firmness. Moreover, resin inks are inherently better in terms of luster and shape.

Although the thermal sublimation process characters are more three-dimensional and more durable, due to their high cost, they are basically only used on high-end keyboards in mass-produced keyboards. 

         4. Hollow font

Hollow font

The biggest advantage of the hollow font is its own light transmission effect. This process is common in backlit keyboards, but the surface of the keycap is extremely easy to wear.

        5. two-color molding      Two-color molding

The process of two-color molding keycaps is more complicated, and the cost will be higher in terms of cost. Generally speaking, this process is to use abrasive tools to mix two materials of different colors together and use two plastic colors to display characters. Guaranteed keycap feel, apart from the above advantages, there is another point that the characters on the surface of the keycap and the keycap itself are also very well integrated, and the characters are not easy to wear. However, because of its high cost, such a process generally exists on mid-to-high-end keyboards.

At present, two-color keycaps have gradually become popular. Many backlit keyboards use backlit two-color keycaps, and the effect of light transmission is very good.

  • Summarize

In fact, I would like to introduce these things about keycaps to everyone, just to let everyone know more about keycaps. After all, mechanical keyboards are very popular now, and keycaps are the most important aspect of keyboards, and they are also one of the key points for consumers to choose keyboards. One of the important indicators. And nowadays, DIY keycaps are one of the pleasures of players. You must choose the correct keycaps, otherwise, all previous efforts will be wasted.

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