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5K words long text to help you choose a set of good-looking and durable keycaps - talk about those things about mechanical keyboard keycaps

As the days go by, many friends may become more and more bored with the keyboards purchased on Double Eleven and Double Twelve on their desktops, just like the old couples who meet every day gradually lose their passion. How to improve freshness? In addition to directly changing to a new keyboard, you can also change the keycap to enhance the freshness, just like old couples can add tricks and rekindle their passion through sexy underwear.

I have written a number of recommended grass planting articles before, based on usage scenarios, theme matching, and price grades, and have given you a variety of mechanical keyboards, so today I will talk about the important peripheral accessories of mechanical keyboards from the popular science and recommendation links—keycaps . (It should be noted that the keycaps in the article are based on MX-like shafts, that is, the shafts of the cross shaft cores produced by mainstream manufacturers such as CHERRY, TTC, Kaihua, and Jiadalong, while the crater optical shaft, Keyboards such as double-hole short shafts and membranes are not applicable.)

Picture source: zf equipment front line

ABS: Acrylonitrile Butadene Styrene (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene copolymer), the material is easy to form, and has excellent fluidity and electrical properties. In terms of keycap production: ABS material is easy to process, easy to color, and has good gloss. The disadvantage is that the hardness is slightly lower, relatively speaking, it is not resistant to wear, and the contact surface will become smooth and bright, which is commonly known as "oiling".

Picture source: zf equipment front line

PBT: Polybothlene Terephthalate (polyethylene butylene terephthalate), a material with high temperature resistance and high hardness, has the reputation of "white rock". Keycaps made of PBT materials have high hardness and are naturally wear-resistant. In addition, most PBT keycaps are treated with electric spark surface treatment, and the heavier graininess improves the wear-resistant performance.

Source: KBD Yike Peripherals

POM: Polyoxymethylene (polyoxymethylene resin), excellent wear resistance, self-lubricating and extremely strong, so it is commonly known as Saigang or Duragan. The harder texture of the POM material can keep the original surface from being scratched and slippery for a long time. However, the disadvantage of POM is that the character process is single and the shrinkage rate is high.

Picture source: zf equipment front line

PC: Polycarbonate (polycarbonate), the strength of the material is generally not very wear-resistant, but it has outstanding light transmittance performance. With the advantage of being colorable, it can be made into transparent keycaps of various colors.

Picture source: zf equipment front line

Picture source: zf equipment front line

Other materials, such as metal, resin, and clay, can also be used to make keycaps, but due to their material characteristics and price costs, they are generally used to make personalized keycaps. Most of these keycaps are manufactured with complex processes such as CNC and hand-glued glue. They are either colorful, cool in shape, or small in size, forming a sharp contrast with ordinary keycaps and showing their individuality.

Based on a standard American keyboard arrangement, we regard any keycap in the letter area as the standard 1u length, and the rest of the keycaps are marked in multiples of the 1u length. For example, the length of the regular space is 6.25u, and the length of the Ctrl key is 1.25u, the length of the backspace key is 2u. The two arrangements of 80% (87 keys) and 60% (61 keys) are based on the full-size standard American keyboard directly discarding a certain key area, so they can be used in common with full-size keyboards such as 104 keys/108 keys keycaps.

However, when encountering special arrangements such as 90%, 75%, and 65%, the length of some keys will change, or the Shift key will become shorter, or the Ctrl key will become shorter. Take the 68-key keyboard as an example. Compared with the standard configuration, the right Shift key of the 68 keyboard is shortened to 1.75u, and the three function keys on the right side of the space are also shortened to 1u. Then, to perfectly replace the keycaps for these special keyboards, you must pay attention to whether there are additional keycaps in the keycaps.

Take the milky yellow desert-themed keycaps sold in the keycap shop as an example. The keycaps in the upper part of this picture are standard 87-key keycaps, which can meet the needs of 80% and 60% of keyboard replacement keycaps. If you have a keyboard with 75% and 65% configurations, you need the supplementary keycaps in the lower part of the picture to solve the adaptation problem.

When you replace the keycaps for 980 keyboards, 96 keyboards, and full-size keyboards, you need to purchase additional keycaps for the digital area. Or feel that the milk gray tone of the keyboard is a bit monotonous, you can buy color supplementary keycaps to embellish the keyboard. This is supplementation. When purchasing keycaps, you must pay attention to the arrangement of your keyboard and the supplementation of your favorite keycaps.

The two-color injection molding process generally refers to the injection molding process of using an injection mold to realize two materials at one time. The two materials can be different in color, soft and hard. The rear mold of the injection mold can be quickly replaced, and the production cost of the keycap is low and the shipment is fast. The two-color keycaps on the current mass-produced keyboards are basically two-color injection molding. Of course, this process can also be used to produce light-transmitting keycaps, just replace the colored character material with a transparent material.

Picture source: zf equipment front line

Secondary molding is to make a color plastic part on the first single-color injection mold, and then manually put it into the second mold for injection molding. Two injection moldings are required to realize the two-color process. Due to the manual control of the secondary molding, the shipment is slow and the cost is high, but the fineness of the characters is beyond the reach of other processes. Keycap manufacturers such as GMK and Domikey insist on the secondary molding process.

Picture source: zf equipment front line

The difference between two-color injection molding and secondary molding process can be distinguished by the chrysanthemum column of the keycap: the chrysanthemum column of the two-color injection molding process is the same color as the keycap characters, and the bottom is a whole color; the chrysanthemum column of the secondary molding process and the background color of the keycap It is consistent, and there are horizontal stripes injected into the bottom.

Picture source: zf equipment front line

This process is to use the characteristics of the sublimation of the dye after the resin ink is exposed to high temperature, so that the ink sublimates into the interior of the plastic material and then condenses, and together achieves the printing of the pattern. Due to the high-temperature manufacturing process, there will be three problems: one is that the sublimation process has no relationship with ABS materials that are not resistant to high temperatures; the other is that large keys such as space keys will deform and bend slightly under high temperature; The phenomenon is not as clear and sharp as the two-color process.

The characteristics of sublimation are doomed to be difficult to print light-colored character patterns on dark-colored keycap materials. This creates five-sided dye-sublimation, which prints dark backgrounds and light-colored character patterns on white keycaps. On the bottom blank of the keycap, the five sides of the keycap are covered with a dark background. Of course, this makes the difficulty, cost, and defect rate of the five-sided sublimation much higher than that of the single-sided sublimation.

Distinguish the pros and cons of sublimation keycaps: Single-sided sublimation focuses on the clarity of characters, whether the characters are blurred seriously, five-sided sublimation pays attention to whether there are whitening marks at the junction of the five sides and whether the overall color is distorted , Pay attention to whether the keycap itself has deformation, shading and overall thickness.

The laser radium engraving process is to use a laser instrument to ablate the surface of the keycap, and the ablated part will have the opposite color tone to the keycap itself, forming characters. The biggest disadvantage of the etching process is that the characters will be slightly higher than the surface of the keycap, especially for dark-colored keycaps with light-colored characters, the surface layer will show a gray tone after wear and tear, making it look dirty.

The spray etching process is commonly used on the light-transmitting keycaps of backlit keyboards. By spraying opaque paint on the keycap base of transparent or translucent material, and then engraving and etching characters on the surface of the keycaps, the original characters are exposed. The transparent/translucent base becomes the light-transmitting keycap. The advantage is that the light transmission effect is good, and the font display is clear; the disadvantage is that the coating is not wear-resistant, and the skin-like texture is easily contaminated with dust and traces.

The principle of the screen printing process is to cover the keycap with a special screen, in which the character part is hollowed out, and then use ink to scrape over the screen, so that the writing can be printed on the keycap. The disadvantage is very obvious, that is, the characters are relatively not wear-resistant, so now the screen printing process only appears on the side engraved characters of the keycap.

It is in view of the shortcomings of the screen printing process that UV lamination technology has emerged. The UV coating technology is to brush the keycap with a layer of plastic film after the characters are screen-printed. This layer of plastic protective film covers the printed characters to ease the wear and tear on the characters after long-term use. Screen printing + UV coating can realize pattern printing on the keycap at a lower cost.

The so-called keycap height not only refers to the physical height data of a certain keycap, but also includes the overall shape of the keycap. Strictly defined, this "height" describes a set of keycap shape parameters. The height of the keycaps has been developed from the earliest CHERRY original factory through the keycap manufacturer SP and the keyboard foundry to successively appear SA height, DSA height, OEM height, and then through the vigorous development of domestic manufacturers, KAT height, ASA height, and XDA height have appeared. , MDA height, etc., now it can be said that a hundred flowers are blooming.

Source: AKKO Taobao

CHERRY original height keycaps are inherently superior and have inherent advantages. At present, the better keycaps are basically of this height, and the keycaps of manufacturers such as GMK, JTK, Domikey, and PBTFANS are all based on the original height.

The OEM height keycap is understood from the name, that is, the height of the foundry keycap. The overall OEM height is higher than the original factory height. At present, keycap manufacturers are no longer willing to produce, and most of them exist on mass-produced mechanical keyboards.

The SA height and DSA height are well-known by the American keycap manufacturer SP Company. Compared with the square shape of the original factory height and OEM height keycaps, the sides and contact surfaces of the SA height and DSA height keycaps have a certain curvature. It looks more rounded and is also called a ball cap. The SA height keycaps are very high, and the DSA height keycaps are relatively short and flat, both of which are suitable for taking pictures but not for use.

KAT height, ASA height, XDA height, and MDA height are new heights introduced by domestic keycap manufacturers in recent years. From the perspective of height parameters, they can basically be regarded as the original factory height, OEM height and SA height of ball caps. , The product of reasonable modification of DSA height, relatively speaking, makes the ball cap more suitable for the needs of Chinese people.

Source: Keycap Pavilion Taobao

Generally speaking: the original factory height keycap is the most suitable keycap height, after all, they have accepted the test of history. Of course, if you like ball caps, MDA height and JDA height, which are specially optimized for Chinese people's usage habits, are worth buying. Personally, I don’t recommend ball caps with SA height, DSA height, and XDA height. The former is too high and needs to be used with a hand rest, while the latter two are of equal height and flat chest, which is not good for input.

In a complete set of keycaps, the keycaps are not simply of the same height, but have different gradients and height arrangements, that is, the height arrangement of R1, R2, R3, and R4. In the early days, CHERRY called the six rows of keycaps from bottom to top as ABCDEF heights. With the development of time, F heights and A heights gradually withdrew from the stage, and the remaining BCDEs gradually evolved into R1-R4.

There is a convention on the keyboard: a row of space, a row of SHIFT is R1, a row of CapsLock is R2, a row of Tab is R3, a row of number area and F area is R4.

Picture source: zf equipment front line

However, in the renderings of keycap manufacturers such as GMK, SP, and PBTFANS, the definitions of R1-R4 are reversed. You can refer to the rendering of PBTFANS’s KABUKI-CHO Kabukicho-themed keycaps in the figure below. The Shift row is marked as R4.

When purchasing keycaps, we should not fall into the misunderstanding of "PBT is not oiled" and "PBT is better than ABS". We must know that the oiling of good ABS keycaps may be slower than that of inferior PBT keycaps. Even the PBT keycaps can't stand the ravages of sulfuric acid users, and they are still working in less than half a year. Personally, I recommend the keycaps of the two-color process and the sublimation process. The keycap characters produced by these two processes will not be easily worn out, and they also have a good combination of theme elements and color presentation.

Hand feeling: ABS>POM>PBT, material cost: POM>PBT>ABS, wear resistance: POM>PBT>ABS

I like the soft feel option: ABS two-color craft keycap

Users with sweaty hands: PBT two-color keycaps, sublimation keycaps, try to choose rough surface design

Backlit keycaps, which have requirements for keyboard lighting effects: PC fully transparent keycaps, ABS fully transparent keycaps

Paragraph axis users choose thinner ABS keycaps, and linear axis users prefer thicker PBT keycaps

At this price in JD.com and some reliable stores, there are usually black and white two-color ABS/PBT two-color light-transmitting keycaps, or upper and lower two-color pudding keycaps. In some Taobao C stores, you can also buy the original factory and XDA-height single-sided sublimation keycaps. Of course, these keycaps are relatively simple in character, and the keycaps of large keys generally do not have any individual patterns. The main thing is to compare them. Fresh color matching line.

For friends who like light-transmitting keycaps, I recommend Heijue and MageGee pudding keycaps here. Compared with ordinary keycaps, their look and feel is a bit cooler. They use PBT two-color injection molding process, and the price is not lower than ordinary transparent keycaps. How much are the keycaps expensive? If you don't like transparent keycaps, you can take a look at Handu's sublimation keycaps.

The price of 50 yuan to 150 yuan should be said to be the current mainstream price. At this price, you can not only buy two-color keycaps launched by keyboard manufacturers such as AKKO, GANSS, and Keychron, but also buy keyboards such as Aifei and Huoyan Senmei. Keycap manufacturers have launched two-color keycaps and sublimation keycap products.

The two-color crafted keycaps at this price have rich color matching, and the keycap arrangement is relatively complete, and non-standard arrangement keyboards can also be replaced. The sublimation keycaps began to have individual elements and five-sided sublimation spaces on the big keys, which can be said to make the keyboard look brand new and appear with a new look.

Personally, I recommend AKKO's MDA and ASA height ball caps and GANSS and Keychron's original height keycaps. The ASA highly transparent keycaps launched by AKKO are very suitable for keyboards with backlights, and have a crystal clear feeling; MDA height two-color ball caps have more than 200 keycaps in a complete set, only about 120 yuan, which can be adapted to most modern keyboards. Part of the keyboard.

Friends who like the height of the original factory can look at GANSS’s GG series and Keychron. GANSS can buy a small set of 177 keycaps for around 129 yuan, 75% and 90% of which can be replaced; Keychron’s price is slightly higher, but the number of keycaps is higher. A little more, can cover to 40, Alice arrangement.

For sublimation keycaps, this price range is mainly for two personal-oriented merchants, Shenpo and Huoyan Senmei. Witch's sublimation keycaps focus on retro and fonts, such as Hebrew and Russian fonts; Huoyan Senmei is a re-enactment of classic materials such as GMK, and the keycap color matching and personality elements will be richer.

The price range of 150 yuan to 300 yuan is the stage for manufacturers to work hard. For keyboard manufacturers, Luofei and AKKO’s five-sided sublimation keycaps, and Amilo’s fine-surface sublimation keycaps. Keycap manufacturers, Taihao, Capturer, Caicai, and Shenpo all have good products.

The price above 300 yuan can basically consider high-quality secondary molding process keycaps and element-rich five-sided sublimation process keycaps, such as Domikey, PBTFans, JTK two-color and three-color keycaps, fingertip text Chuang's five-sided sublimation keycaps and IP products jointly authorized by AKKO.

Source: Domikey rice wife

Source: KBD Yike Peripherals

Source: KBD Yike Peripherals

Domikey’s products have resident models, such as semiconductors, ancient times, and punk themes are all in stock. PBTFans and JTK are mainly for group opening, and you need to join the group to buy. After the group, you can only accept second-hand . The five-sided sublimation keycaps of Fingertips and the IP products jointly authorized by AKKO are in stock, and it is better to buy them.

There are mainly two kinds of personalized keycaps in China: HolyOOPS and ZOMO of Mr. Zha. HolyOOPS has a lot of ideas and is a bit ingenious. The early kitten back view and movable type printing are very interesting. Two days ago, I just bought the sexiest flying saucer. The keycap can be rotated and illuminated. ZOMO mainly has a lot of joint brands, especially the One Piece IP authorized series is very rich in personality and the cat claw keycap is quite healing.

If Tanhua looks back on her ten-year fever career while writing this article, she will have to lament that Wang Xietangqianyan flew into the homes of ordinary people in the old days. With the advancement of manufacturing technology, the sublimation and two-color keycaps that used to be superior are no longer as expensive as they just entered the pit. Now you can buy a set of keycaps with good quality and good color matching for one or two hundred. With rich color schemes and low prices, players can decorate their keyboards to their heart's content. It can be said that this is a good era.

The knowledge sorted out in this article just helps you when you need to replace the keycaps. Please pay attention, like, and comment on the triple arrangement. Thank you for your support!

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