It is really quite complicated to differentiate at first glance whether a plastic is of one type or another, because as a rule this plastic is always tinted with black or other colors, so if the manufacturer does not specify not what type he used, it’s hard to find out. However, they all have characteristics that can help us recognize them even without the manufacturer specifying them; Obviously, if the manufacturer tells us what materials he made his keyboard with, this will help us better assess its quality.
The different types of materials used in a keyboard
The keyboards are not only made of plastic, and even if we omit the electronic part which obviously cannot be made of this material, in the same keyboard we can find different types of plastic depending on whether it is the structure. , feet or keys., for example. Obviously most use rubber for the legs to prevent slipping, but it’s not that that has much to do with quality and durability, or at least not as much as when talking about the keys, which we are literally “overwhelming” all day long and whose durability largely depends (obviously also on the switch, but we have already spoken at length about this).
ABS plastic, the most common and the cheapest
ABS is the acronym in English for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, and it’s the one we see most frequently in keyboards and other PC components (and most commercial plastics, even LEGOs are made from this material), because it is one of the cheapest to make, and quite reasonable in strength and durability. Of course, ABS plastic is a comparatively much softer material than other modern plastics, and it also has a slightly slippery feel to the touch.
It’s not that an ABS plastic keyboard is bad, because as we mentioned before it has pretty decent strength and durability, but it’s obviously on the low end of the scale if we have to compare it. with other plastics that are also. used in industry. Of course, using this kind of material in a keyboard also makes its price much more reasonable as it is very cheap to manufacture and cast.
PBT, stronger but more expensive
PBT comes from the acronym in English PolyButylene Terephthalate or Polybutylene Terephthalate, and is a harder and stronger material than ABS. It wears much less and tends to “turn yellow” over time, although one of its drawbacks is that it is considerably more expensive to make and few manufacturers use it on their keyboards (currently only some Cherry, Poker, Leopold and IBM keyboard models).
Another disadvantage of this material (which many are not) is that it has a less smooth and grainy feel; Many users don’t like it and others like it because it literally has more grip, and for a gaming keyboard, for example, using these materials makes sweating less noticeable. However, in addition to this and the higher price, the main disadvantage of this material is that it is more brittle and can be broken more easily by bumps and drops.
POM, the most resistant of all
POM stands for polyoxymethylene or polyoxymethylene, but it is better known by its trade name: “Delrin”. This material is very resistant to abrasion and solvents, as well as wear, and its properties also give it very low friction. However, the trade-off of this material is that it is very expensive and very rare, and only a few keyboard models use it (e.g. Cherry G80 keys or older Nopoo Chocolate keyboards).
Currently, some manufacturers like Vortex use it but only to fill the keys of their keyboards in the area that should be lit, creating the PBT + POM Keycaps called Double hit.
Polycarbonate, for transparent key caps
There are also other materials used in PC keyboards, such as dry polycarbonate (PC). It is made of clear plastic and is used by some manufacturers to make transparent caps that almost completely let light from the switches pass.
However, this material is not very resistant and wears out easily. Also, like ABS plastic, it tends to create shiny areas due to wear and tear. It is used a lot in brands of dubious origin and in very cheap keyboards.
PPS, one of the rarest keyboard materials
PPS comes from polyphenylene sulfide (polyphenylene sulfide), and it’s a fairly rare plastic and rarely used for keys. It is very thick, dense and hard, almost like glass, but like this it is also quite fragile although extremely resistant to wear and tear.
In addition, given their properties, keyboards that carry keys of this material do not even have screen printed keys, because for traditional screen printing it would not stick well to the keys, and laser screen printing would end up damaging the structure and break the key. So there really aren’t any keyboards with this kind of ready-made plastic, but some manufacturers sell the keycaps separately, for users who really “crush” their keyboards and demand maximum strength.