PBT keycaps and switches

I searched the forums and I’m surprised that these topics don’t seem to have come up before, but:

I understand that there are a lot of issues right now regarding manufacturing that have resulted in tons of delays for existing backers and that the focus is on getting those orders squared away first. However, will there be an option in the future to choose the material that keycaps are made of, specifically, using PBT keycaps instead of the current ones (which feel like ABS to me)? Same goes for switches and using Cherries instead of the Matias switches. If this was already a decision made a long time ago, could someone just re-state what the reasons were?



I can’t provide an official answer, the information below is my recollection of current affairs:

  • To use Cherry-style switches, the PCB would need to be redesigned, keycaps likewise. With the amount of effort it takes, and the delays with keycap production, I don’t see this happening for the Model01. Future keyboards from Keyboardio might use Cherry-style switches though.
  • Keycaps: the current caps are ABS-PC. Custom sculpting PBT and labelling them would be far too expensive, as far as I remember. Again, future keyboards may have PBT keycap options (especially if they use MX switches, and standard profiles, in which case you’ll have many options).

As far as I remember, the reason for going with Matias switches was the feel and the sound (or the lack of thereof, to be precise). None of the MX options at the time had the tactility and quietness of the Quiet Click.

Again, these are just my impressions.

Do we have access to the CAD files for the keycaps? I couldn’t find anything on the Github. It might be interesting to see at least how much it would cost to do a custom set of PBT keycaps for the keyboard.

At the time we made the decision about switches, Cherry had a > 18 month lead time and the Chinese options were…not good. The Matias switches were by far the best available option. Since then, the Chinese switch manufacturing landscape has matured dramatically. Because ALPS switches are a different physical form-factor than Cherry switches, changing to them would require redesigned PCBs with different LEDs, re-certification for FCC and CE, different metal key mounting plates, new keycap tooling. It’s entirely possible that we’d have to change the physical layout of the thumb arc, since ALPS switches can be placed more densely than MX switches. It’s…not a small change.

Can you talk about -why- you want PBT keycaps? The current ABS+PC caps are the best option we’ve found for durable, translucent keycaps, which are necessary to get LED shine-through.

As of now, we haven’t published the keycap models. Getting custom tooling done to make keycaps is going to be a tens-of-thousands of dollars proposition, at the low end. :confused:

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Ah, OK, the Cherry thing seems to be a thing for boutique keyboard manufacturers…a pity.

I’m a big fan of the texture on my PBT keycaps for my Mistel Baracco (which also have LEDs and shine-through keycaps, for what it’s worth) and I find it also seems to withstand getting dirty from oils a lot better than ABS keycaps (I’ve mostly had PBT keycaps for my keyboards over the years with the exception of my Ultimate Hacking Keyboard).

Also, tens of thousands of dollars? That seems crazy…but still, it would be nice to have the keycap CAD models available so that at least I could see if someone might be willing to do a one-off sculpt or something and see how much it would cost. Or are they actually meant to be proprietary (Although I was under the impression that the keyboardio was meant to be an “open source hardware” project similar to the UHK)?

Thanks for clarifying the reasoning behind the decisions though!

Ah this is bad news. Just got a Keyboardio, but the keys wobble so much it makes my fingers weep. Everything about this keyboard is amazing but that wobble is a deal breaker. I can feel all four sides of the Matias column bounce around it’s enclosure on the way down to toward the PCB. :’(

Oooo sounds like what I need… my fingers would appreciate a slightly more dense key placement. Not much, mind you. I feel a bit like Goldilocks typing with Papa Bear’s keyboard. Denser key placement would make it more like Mama Bear’s perfect keyboard… if it doesn’t mess us what you guys want.

And the ‘Function’ keys trigger in a strong breeze… I’d appreciate a little bit more travel before it engages… stop accidental brushes with the heel of my hand. My hand agility is not what it used to be and my movements are larger and shakier than ever.

Today is the one-year anniversary of the fall that changed my life… and the Keyboardio went from being a welcome relief to becoming a necessity. The only thing I need is a few little tweaks and the keyboard will be perfect for my situation. No, I don’t expect Keyboardio to change to fit me, but I hope my input will help make future design decisions more comprehensive. Maybe I should consider writing a usage blurb on my setup soon.

I assume that since my types of arthritis are so pervasive and the health problem is so common, I hope my experience helps plan product development trees.


Hi, I just tried to place a standard dsa keycap from an other keyboard over the “k” key.
It fits just fine. Therefor you may not need to redesing the PCB.
There are templates for multistem mx-alps. Wouldn’t it be possible to “just replace” them?
I would really love PBT keycaps and mx cherry switches on this keyboard.
A easy replacement mechanism like on the ergodox ez would be perfect for Model 02.
The layout of this keyboard is just perfect, but keycaps and switches are not…
I honestly wouldn’t mind not to have special sculptured keycaps, if that’s the problem.

It’s interesting how everyone has different wants/needs. One of the reasons I backed this keyboard is because of the Matias switches, which I think are leaps and bounds above Cherry’s mediocre offerings.

I’m confused. Other than my beamspring, the keys on my M01 wobble no more than any other keyboard I own.

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Now I’ve had more time with the keyboard, the wobble does not bother me as much. I quite like the feel now I am used to it, though I do not like the sound - but that’s easier for me to change with a little hacking.

WRT to the “wobble” - I may be using the wrong word. But because Matias column is rectangular, (this is my first Matias experience), It is very strange to feel the side of the rectangular column hit as as I press a key. It’s jarring to me.

If you rotate your finger around in a circle you can feel all four of the sides of the column.

Maybe I have sensitive fingers? :slight_smile:

I get what you mean; I just feel the same thing on Cherry switches (and buckling spring, for that matter). It’s least-pronounced on my Novatouch.

I also prefer PBT, both for the texture and their greater resistance to becoming shiny over time, which is already starting to happen after less than a year with my Keyboardio. I love it overall, but PBT keys would make it even better. It looks like you used good quality ABS because only a few of the most used keys are shiny so far.

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Unfortunately, PBT isn’t translucent, which is kind of a non-starter for shine-through keys.

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It can be.
“The shine-through PBT keycaps only enhance the performance.”

I appreciate that this is not a high priority, given only a couple of us seem even interested. To me, this is the one thing that would improve my Keyboardio, which is still my favorite keyboard for daily use.


@RodneyMcKay I believe those to be “double-shot” keycaps, with specific insert injection molds designed for a specific set of legends. The shine-through part isn’t PBT but is instead made of another plastic. To do that, you basically need to end up with a custom mold for each version of the key legends you want to do.

Aha! I’m sure you’re right about them being “double-shot” and with every single key on a Keyboardio being a different customized shape, I think I see the problem now.