ABS keycaps ABS keycaps, short for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene keycaps, are a common type of keycap material used in mechanical keyboards. They are made from a thermoplastic polymer known for its versatile properties and are widely used in various consumer products due to their cost-effectiveness and ease of manufacturing. Furthermore, injection molding is used to […]
ABS Vs PBT Keycap: What are the differences and which one is better for you?
ABS keycaps, short for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene keycaps, are a common type of keycap material used in mechanical keyboards. They are made from a thermoplastic polymer known for its versatile properties and are widely used in various consumer products due to their cost-effectiveness and ease of manufacturing.
Furthermore, injection molding is used to create the shape of the majority of ABS keycaps. After that, the legends (characters, symbols, or letters) on ABS keycaps are typically laser-etched, dye-sublimated, or pad-printed. Laser-etched legends offer better durability compared to pad-printed ones, as the letter can wear off more easily.
ABS keycaps are notable for their smooth and shiny surface texture, which can enhance the typing experience for some users. However, over time, prolonged use can lead to the development of a greasy or shiny appearance due to the natural oils from fingers as the result of UV rays exposure.
Curious and wondering what keycaps are, join us and learn more about keycaps as well as its various materials, not ABS only.
The process of making ABS keycaps involves several steps, including molding, printing, and finishing.
- Design the keycap mold: Keycap molds are usually made from metal, and they are created to match the desired keycap profile and shape.
- Injection molding process: ABS plastic resin is heated until it becomes molten. The molten ABS is then injected into the keycap mold cavities under high pressure. The plastic fills the mold, taking the shape of the keycaps.
- The hot ABS inside the mold begins to cool and solidify, then be opened, and the newly formed keycaps are removed.
- Legends (characters, symbols, or letters) are added using various aforementioned printing methods.
- Surface finishing process: This process can involve polishing, buffing, or applying a clear coating to enhance the shine and aesthetics of the keycaps.
PBT keycaps, short for Polybutylene Terephthalate keycaps, are a type of keycap material used in mechanical keyboards. They are made from a type of thermoplastic polymer known as polybutylene terephthalate, which is durable, heat-resistant, and has excellent wear-resistant properties.
PBT is often considered the best keycaps by keyboard enthusiasts due to its unique characteristics and benefits over other materials. PBT keycaps have a slightly rougher and matte texture, which many users find more comfortable to touch and less prone to showing fingerprints. They are less likely to wear out or develop a shiny appearance over time, providing a consistent typing experience.
Additionally, PBT keycaps come in various colors and designs, allowing users to customize the look of their keyboards. The legends (letters and symbols) on PBT keycaps are typically either dye-sublimated or doubleshot, which means the legends are either directly infused with dye or molded in a separate color, ensuring the legends’ durability and longevity.
One famous type of keycap that is made typically from PBT plastic is pudding keycaps which have a dual-layer design, making it unique and different from others.
- Preparing the PBT material (in the form of pellets or granules.) The PBT pellets are mixed with colorants if the keycaps are intended to have a specific color or design.
- Injection molding: the PBT material is melted down and injected into metal molds before being allowed to cool and solidify. This step ensures that the PBT material takes the shape of the mold and forms the keycap structure.
- Once the molds are opened afterwards, the excess material is trimmed away from the keycaps.
- Surface treatments: for specific textures or finishes, for example, sandblasting or chemical etching might be used to create a rougher texture on the keycaps.
- Printing process: If the keycaps are intended to have legends (letters and symbols), the two most common methods are dye-sublimation and double shot molding.
Firstly, the dye-sublimation method involves applying heat and pressure to transfer dye into the surface of the PBT keycap, resulting in durable and long-lasting legends that are resistant to fading or wearing out.
In the doubleshot molding method, two different colored plastics are used to mold the keycap. The legend is molded using a different color plastic, creating a two-layer keycap with the legend permanently embedded.
ABS vs PBT keycaps
PBT keycaps are generally heavier than ABS keycaps due to the denser nature of the material. If you have both types of keycaps, you can compare the weight by holding them in your hand to feel the difference.
Keycap Texture and Feel
ABS keycaps have a smooth and slightly glossy surface, while PBT is textured and matte. The smoothness of ABS can lead to a slippery feel, especially if your fingers tend to sweat. On the other hand, PBT keycaps can provide a better grip and feels more comfortable for extended typing sessions.
While ABS keycaps are reasonably durable, they are more prone to wear and shine over time due to their softness. Frequent use can cause the legends (letters/characters) to fade, leading to a less appealing appearance.
However, PBT keycaps are known for their superior durability. The material is more resistant to wear and shine, so the legends tend to remain more legible for a longer period, even with heavy use.
Resistance to Shine
PBT keycaps are highly resistant to shine, even after prolonged usage. In contrast, ABS keycaps tend to develop a glossy shine over time due to the oils from fingertips and wear on the keycap surface. This shine can alter the appearance of the keycaps and potentially affect the typing experience.
However, users can still extend their keyboard’s lifespan by cleaning it regularly.
- Tap or press on the keycaps to listen to the sound they produce.
- ABS produces a softer sound, PBT produces a crisper sound.
ABS keycaps generally produce a slightly higher-pitched and more “clacky” sound compared to PBT keycaps. This is due to their softer nature and the way they interact with the switches when pressed.
In contrast, PBT keycaps usually produce a deeper and more muted sound, which some people prefer for a quieter typing experience.
In terms of compatibility, both ABS and PBT keycaps are generally compatible with most mechanical keyboards. They are designed to fit standard Cherry MX or similar switch types. However, it’s always important to check the specifications of your specific keyboard to ensure compatibility.
When it comes to customization, both ABS and PBT keycaps offer a wide range of options. Both materials can be easily molded and shaped into various keycap profiles and designs. You can find a variety of colors, styles, and even artisan keycaps made from either ABS or PBT.
Additionally, both ABS and PBT keycaps can be customized further through techniques such as dye-sublimation, laser etching, or double-shot molding. These methods allow for legends (letters or symbols) to be applied to the keycaps without fading or wearing off easily.
ABS keycaps shine in terms of vibrant colors and extensive design options, making them perfect for users who want eye-catching and visually striking keyboard aesthetics. They offer a wide array of colors and themes to suit various tastes and are often the go-to choice for those seeking unique and colorful keyboard setups.
On the other hand, PBT keycaps may not offer as many bright and vibrant options, but they provide a more subdued, sophisticated, and timeless aesthetic. They are well-suited for users who prefer a more elegant and mature appearance for their keyboard or those interested in vintage and retro designs.
ABS keycaps tend to be more budget-friendly compared to PBT keycaps. This is because ABS is a cheaper material to produce, making it a popular choice for entry-level and mass-produced mechanical keyboards.
To give you a rough idea, a basic set of ABS keycaps might cost around $15 to $50, while a similar PBT keycap set could range from $20 to $130 or more. Of course, premium or custom-designed keycap sets can command higher prices, regardless of the material.
|Criteria||ABS keycaps||PBT keycaps|
|Texture and feel||Smooth and slightly glossy||Textured and matte|
|Durability||Worse durability||Superior durability|
|Resistance to shine||Develop glossy shine||Highly resistant|
|Sound Characteristics||Higher-pitched, clacky||Deeper, more muted|
|Compatibility||Great compatibility||Great compatibility|
|Customization||Great customization||Great customization|
|Aesthetic Considerations||Unique and colorful theme||Elegant and mature appearance|
If you want more detail about specific keycaps, we are here to recommend you top 25+ best keycaps. Let’s embark on a journey of personalization and upgrade your keyboard with the finest keycaps available!
We’ve gone through all the benefits and drawbacks of these two typical materials: ABS vs PBT keycaps. Investing in high-quality keycaps can significantly enhance your typing experience and overall enjoyment with your keyboard. And of course, the decision lies in your hands. Let this knowledge be your guiding star, illuminating the way towards an enchanting and personalized keyboard experience.
PBT vs ABS keycaps: Which is better for gaming?
PBT keycaps are more durable and would be a better choice for intensive gaming sessions.
PBT vs ABS keycaps: Which is better for typing?
PBT keycaps generally produce a deeper and more muted typing sound compared to ABS keycaps. This can be preferred by users who want a quieter typing experience.
ABS vs PBT keycaps: Which is more durable?
PBT keycaps are the better choice. They are especially recommended for gamers or heavy keyboard users who want their keycaps to maintain their texture and appearance for a longer time.
Are ABS keycaps cheaper than PBT keycaps?
ABS keycaps are generally cheaper than PBT keycaps. ABS is a less expensive plastic material to produce, which is one of the reasons for the price difference.
Are PBT keycaps thicker than ABS keycaps?
Yes, generally speaking, PBT keycaps are thicker than ABS keycaps. Due to their density, PBT keycaps are often thicker and feel more substantial when typing.