Keycaps ABS or PBT!

AvP ABS Double Shot UK Layout Keycaps Red White Legends

Ah the age old argument what keycap material is better ABS or PBT for my keyboard.

Your keycap is the first thing you touch and the last thing you would remember when typing on it, focusing on switch type clicking and clacking, but have you ever paid attention to the keycaps?

You’ll be very surprised to learn the amount of difference between ABS & PBT, and how a simple keycap can influence your typing experience.

Keycap plastics

The most talked about difference is the plastic ABS and PBT. Generally PBT is seen as being superior over ABS, that’s because it’s a lot stiffer durable and stays true in colour (does not develop a shine over time

You will also notice during typing that the sound between ABS and PBT are different. PBT sounds a bit more “thumpy” lower toned and ABS a bit more “clicky” or higher toned. After learning what you know now you might ask, well who cares? Only once you realise how much time and key press you input on a daily base, especially the amount of time spent gaming you’ll start to get pickier, or you’ll just get addicted to the mechanical keyboard hobby and start hoarding for gimme more

Keycaps manufacturing

Most keycaps are made by either ABS or PBT, but other than the plastic type, the manufacturing process is just as important. A keycap is often made by a single- or double injection moulding process. The latter is only used for what is called “double-shot” keycaps.

Double-shot keycap section view

Double shot keycaps are made from 2 layers of plastics, most commonly ABS. The first layer is usually moulded for the legend (the graphic on the keycap), followed by the second mould injection for the keycap hull, thus “double-shot”.

Double-shot is an expensive process that requires a separate mould for each colour with a minimum of two. Therefore, single mould injected keycaps are more common. A single injection mould only produces a naturally blank keycap and requires another (different) process for the legends. The most popular methods are:

  • Pad printing
  • Sublimated dying
  • Laser printing

For each printing method, the quality is very dependent on the manufacturer, but will never last longer than double-shot keycaps.

In conclusion lets run through what makes each of the keycap types special.

ABS

  • cheaper
  • smooth
  • shiny (depending on the caps)
  • easily smudge able (depending on the quality)
  • usually thinner

PBT

  • More expensive
  • textured
  • matte or semi matte
  • usually cannot smudge
  • generally thicker

Both PBT and ABS can have double-shot legends applied to them and both have been used in high quality sets.

So after acquiring this knowledge what keycaps would you choose, for a selection please check out this link

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