A very important aspect of making a custom mechanical keyboard is your keycap choice. First and foremost, you will want to choose a keycap set that matches either a theme you want or a color combination you like. Keycap profile usually comes next, as different profiles cater to different typing styles or feels.
While the main criticism for ABS is shine, PBT has keycap warping. A very common problem encountered by PBT keycap users. This can be annoying and may cause other problems not only on the appearance but as well on the total feel of the keycaps, such as the rattling noise. Although both plastics experience their main criticisms, this article will focus mainly on warping.
Keycap material is usually an afterthought, as most custom keycap sets come in ABS. However, some tend to be picky with ABS plastic’s signature shine over regular use. With more custom keycap sets coming out using PBT material, this is great for users who prefer PBT over ABS.
This article will address any issues you may have with your keycaps. We will concentrate on keycap warping for the most part. You will understand why this occurs after reading this article. We will also provide information on how to resolve this.
What is Keycap Warping?
Keycap warping is when a keycap has a deformity in its alignment. Warped keycaps will often look very slightly off when set on a keyboard. They will also have a tendency to rattle even if you have tuned your stabilizers to the best of your abilities.
Which Keycaps Are Affected By Warping?
Longer keys, specifically modifier keys like Backspace, Enter, and Shift, are more likely to warp compared to alphanumeric keys. The longest key, the Spacebar, is the most prone to warping. Some keys with really bad warping might not even be able to be mounted onto a keyboard.
Why is Keycap Warping More Common in PBT Keycaps?
ABS and PBT are both thermoplastic polymers thus, having very strong binding characteristics, making molding with them easier. PBT keycaps tend to warp more commonly compared to ABS because of their working temperatures and material flexibility.
ABS is molded at 105 degrees Celsius and is more flexible. Meanwhile, PBT is molded at over 220 degrees Celsius while being more rigid. This means PBT will cool down at a different rate, therefore, reacting more to the elements (like humidity, temperature, and pressure). ABS may be affected similarly, but not to the same degree.
How To Check For Keycap Warping
If the warping isn’t too obvious, the simplest way to check for warping is to set your keycap onto a flat surface and check if one side is more elevated than the other. You may also opt to mount the key onto the keyboard, visually inspect and/or tap the keys. Although much less reliable, you may also press your key (i.e., Spacebar) against the same key from a different set. There is a chance that both keys are warped. Making a judgment on how warped a key is much more difficult.
Is Keycap Warping More Common in Budget-Priced Keycap Sets?
The advantage that known keycap brands and manufacturers have is definitely better quality control. With this quality control, keycaps with noticeable warping are much less frequent because they can remove these from batches. Cheaper keycaps are cheaper because they do not have the luxury of an extensive QA, unlike more expensive keycaps.
Is Keycap Warping Covered By The Manufacturer’s Warranty?
Some stores may allow returning or replacing full sets, and some may even replace the warped keycaps without needing a return. But all of this is on a case-to-case basis wholly dependent on store policy. When in doubt, get in touch with the keycap vendor.
Some stores have return processes that take much more time than if you were to try to fix the warp. The next section will discuss easy fixes for warped keycaps.
How To Fix Keycap Warping
Heat and Weight
The most popular method for fixing warped keycaps is with heat and weight. The process goes as follows:
- Apply heat to the warped keycap using a heat gun, hairdryer, or boiling water. Try to make the heat as even as possible.
- If you can, carefully check if the keycap is starting to flex. Exercise caution doing this since you may be subject to high temperatures and risk breaking the keycap if excessive force is applied.
- When letting the keycap cool down, apply a weight on top of the keycap.
If you’re still hesitant, contacting the seller for replacement is still the safest option. If you don’t mind loose-fitting and rattling keycaps, you may opt to leave your keycaps as is.