A Complete guide to Keycaps Profile and Material
Keycaps are another important component of mechanical keyboards, mechanical keyboard keycaps have different heights, the following is the keycap height. The most common keycap heights are original height and OEM height, as well as SA high-ball keycap and DSA short-ball cap; there are also some unique heights, such as SP's DCS height, and the popular SP Mario keycap set.
The height of each row of keycaps on one mechanical keycap is also different, the common height range is: R1 ~ R4, there are also some keyboards with R5 height, such as KBT's RACE2 and Black Lord's AK33; According to typing habits, the gradient (surface tilt angle) of each row of keycaps on a keyboard is also different, which will offer a better typing experience, which is the so-called "ergonomics".
Original Height and OEM Height
The original height refers to Cherry height keycaps and is not necessarily Cherry's keycap, but the height is consistent with Cherry's usual keycap height; some of the original height keycaps "length and width" will be greater than Cherry's keycaps, such as Amelo's original keycaps. Although the height is the same, it will affect the spacing of the keycaps mixed with Cherry's keycaps.
The OEM height refers to these keycaps manufactured by other companies that will be a little higher than the original height, and the gradient (the tilt angle of the keycap surface) is almost the same. There are most OEM keycaps available in the market, such as iKBC and Gauss, as well as the famous brand Razer, Magic Duck, Cool Supreme, Filco, etc.
What are DSA Keycaps？
DSA stands for DIN standard height, spherical touch area, and the same keycap profile across all rows, DSA keycaps are approximately 7.39-millimeter tall, which is similar in height to standard OEM keycaps. Many users gravitate to DSA keycaps because they prefer the consistent height and look between keycaps and rows.
What are SA Keycaps？
SA stands for spherical all. These keys feature a spherical design and have rounder, concave tops. In achieving a spherical-like design, SA profile keycaps stand taller than most other profiles, which gives the overall look of the keyboard a unique flow.
First of all, we must know the difference between the ball keycaps and the non-ball keycaps, SA high ball keycap is very high that is more than twice the height of the original keycap, in addition, the side of the ball cap looks like a certain curvature, making keycaps more rounded and cute.
The height of the DSA short ball cap is relatively low without R1 ~ R4 height, all DSA keycap height is the same.
DSA Keycaps vs SA Keycaps
It is easy to distinguish SA Ball keycap from DSA keycap heights. The DSA height has no obvious ergonomic curve from the side while SA Keycaps have an ergonomic curve.
Let's look at the material of the keycaps. The feel of the mechanical keyboard is affected by Keycaps besides the mechanical shaft, and the keycaps are decided by the height, material, and processes. If you are still using a membrane keyboard, you should know that it will be worn off after a long time of use, and the surface gradually becomes smooth and shiny, which is called "oiling", and the keycaps prone to oiling are ABS material in most cases.
ABS material Keycaps
ABS material is the most commonly used material that is not costive because of mature process, An entry-level mechanical keyboards cost as low as 15 to 25＄, as high as more than 200＄like FILCO, the keycaps from the factory are ABS materials. It is skin-friendly with softness although it is easy to oil, so typing will be better. In addition, ABS can be made into colorful, translucent keycaps, which will better match with backlit mechanical keyboards.
PBT material Keycaps
The PBT material is the opposite compared with oiling ABS-made keycaps, it is much better o the ability to resist the oil, hardness, and thickness. PBT material is featured with decomposition under high temperatures. The pure white PBT keycaps are boiled in the pot and dyed with colorant, if processed well, the color of the infestation keycaps will be natural and beautiful. Thus it is highly-priced, such as the EnjoyPbt red Russian keycaps, as high as 80＄.
POM material Keycaps
POM keycaps are not common LIKE ABS material and PBT material, but POM's anti-oil ability is much better than ABS, I do not like POM keycaps because of their strange stickiness. The more typical products are the black keycaps of Cherry G80-3000 and the jelly keycaps that are adored by most girls.
Most of the keycaps are made with aluminum alloy, some high-ends are manufactured with titanium alloy, metal keycaps are the most common custom keycaps, but it is not comfortable and skin-friendly due to the special nature of metal, The more well-known metal keycaps aluminum alloy anime series, as well as metal hammers, etc., the recommendation is Holyoops that is costly, generally a keycap is about ¥160 or so.
There are some special materials I did not mention, such as resin keycaps, wooden keycaps, as well as more exaggerated 3D stereoscopic keycaps, shotgun bullet shell keycaps, etc., which are more for decoration purposes. If you are interested, the first choice is PBT keycaps, followed by ABS keycaps, choose metal material for custom keycaps.
The most common keycaps printing methods are front engraving, side engraving, and no engraving, and there are also mixed engraving, generally multi-functional key positions or key combinations.
The so-called laser engraving is to burn out grooves with laser engraving technology in the keycaps with which the popular CMYW supplement keycaps has adopted, the advantage is that the characters are clear, long-period use, but the carved characters are generally more linear due to the characteristics of the laser line, such as the SHIFT keycaps, the arrow on the left is outlined by the line.
Different from Laser engraving, Laser filler use ink printing for secondary dyeing after laser engraving, and the amplitude of laser engraving is much lighter than the one mentioned above, managing to ensure the integrity of the keycap surface, the filled ink will penetrate the surface of the keycap along the grain because of the engraving of the character pattern to keep completeness and clearness.
Various two-color molded keycaps are sold in the hype, this process is the plastic combination of 2 colors, showing the keycap characters with a color difference whose advantage is a bright and gorgeous color, long service time, the disadvantage is that it is difficult to show fine character. in addition, the price of keycaps of this type is expensive due to the higher cost.
In addition, some transparent keycaps are also made with this method that the colored plastic inside the keycaps is replaced with transparent to achieve the light transmission effect.
Dye sublimation is a relatively special printing method, the printing material uses a solid resin ink that will be sublimated into gas under high temperature, the gas molecules penetrate the surface of the printed items, and condense. The keycap characters with the process are more attractive, have excellent gloss and shape, and it is expensive.
As we all know that the biggest advantage of the mechanical keyboard is a great tactile feel, and keycaps are one of the factors that affect the feel of the keycap, the height of the keycap not only affects the overall height of the keyboard but also the height and strength of the typing. Therefore, everyone should consider keycaps height firstly.