The plastic layer that covers a key on a keyboard is called a keycap. It is the cover that you touch when you type on a keyboard. It essentially identifies the symbol or letter input into the device or computer. In recent times keycaps have become much more than the regular plastic keys, keyboard enthusiasts are often fond of switching keycaps by using customized options. These different kinds of keycaps can come in different shapes, sizes, and every color or texture imaginable. Having a colored keycap or a keycap with a unique texture or form has become a trend.
What makes a keycap?
A keycap is generally made through the process of thermoplastic injection molding thermoplastic. This process involves melting plastic and putting it under pressure so that it forms a steel mold. There are different plastics that are used to make these colored keycaps.
Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or ABS is found in many applications and formulations. This is the form of plastic that is most commonly used to create keycaps as the material that it is made with is easily available and less expensive.
Short for polybutylene terephthalate, this type of plastic is another upcoming favorite material for making keycaps. It is extremely durable but comes with a higher manufacturing cost. PBT does not shine even after long usage. The plastic is hard and it gives the keycap a texture. Most of the keycaps that are found in the aftermarket are made using PBT plastic.
3-D printed keycaps
With the help of 3-D printers, it has become relatively easy to customize keycap designs. You can choose the shape and color as per your requirement. All you need to have is easy access to a 3-D printer. You can create colored keycaps, or normal keycaps in unique shapes and textures.
These keycaps are relatively unique, a tad bit expensive, and highly sought-after because of their unique form and design. The process of making these keycaps is tedious. Artisans make a clay mold in their preferred shape. This is then made into a silicone mold of the design. The last step is to cast it in resin to produce a keycap. This method is extremely time-consuming and fetches a lot of money from the artists who create these keycaps.
This is the least common plastic that is used to make keycaps. These keycaps though durable, are slippery; hence are avoided by manufacturers.
Rubber keycaps are the plastic keycaps coated in an additional rubber layer. The rubber coating allows for a better finger grip and can benefit gamers who are making the jump to PC gaming for the first time.