Advantages of Double Shot Keycaps for Mechanical Keyboards

March 20, 2024

Double-shot keycaps for mechanical keyboards might be the perfect solution for you if you want aesthetics mixed with durability. These keycaps are constructed from two layers of plastic, promising unmatched durability and a unique tactile sensation. They are designed to withstand wear, ensuring the legends remain visible even after prolonged usage. 

Interested? Let's check out the benefits of double-shot keycaps that can significantly improve your typing or gaming experience.

What are Double-shot Keycaps?

Double-shot keycaps are a type of keycap crafted with two layers of plastic, each serving a distinct function. 

Double-shot refers to a type of keycap construction method that involves molding two layers of plastic together to create a keycap with distinct and durable legends (characters or symbols). The two layers are usually in different colors and molded simultaneously. This process creates legends that are not prone to wear or fading.

The precision of the double-shot molding process results in crisp, clear legends seamlessly integrated into the keycaps, offering a professional and polished look. 

Characteristics

Double-shot keycaps have several characteristics that make them stand out. Let's list down some of their key features:

  1. Durable Legends: The legends (characters, symbols, or markings) on double-shot keycaps are molded from a different colored plastic layer than the keycap's main body. This dual-layer construction ensures that the legends are an integral part of the keycap and are highly resistant to wear and fading.
  2. Longevity: Double-shot keycaps tend to have a longer lifespan compared to keycaps with printed or laser-etched legends. The durability of the legends contributes to the keycaps' overall longevity.
  3. Consistent Appearance: The two-color molding process results in a keycap with consistent and vibrant colors. This consistency remains intact even with prolonged use.
  4. High-Quality Aesthetics: The contrasting colors of the keycap body and legends allow for creative and visually appealing designs. 
  5. Legends Feel Integrated: Since the legends are an inherent part of the keycap, they feel integrated and smooth to the touch. There are no tactile irregularities caused by printing or etching processes.
  6. Available Materials: Double-shot keycaps can be made from various materials, including ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate). The choice of material can influence factors such as texture, weight, and overall feel.
  7. Popular in Custom and Premium Keycap Sets: Double-shot keycaps are available in custom and premium keycap sets. Enthusiasts who want a high-quality and durable keycap set often opt for double-shot keycaps.

Manufacturing Process

The double-shot molding process produces keycaps with durable legends. Without going into the super technical details, let's see how double-shot keycaps are made.

  1. Design and Mold Creation: The process starts with the design of the keycap, including the desired legends. A mold is then created for the first shot, which forms the main body of the keycap. This initial mold is commonly referred to as the "base mold."
  2. First Shot (Base Layer): The first layer, made of a durable plastic material such as ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) or PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate), is injected into the base mold. This layer forms the main structure and color of the keycap.
  3. Second Shot (Legend Layer): A second mold, known as the "legend mold" or "insert mold," is created to fit precisely over the base mold. This mold features cavities corresponding to the legends or characters desired on the keycap. The second layer, often made of a different colored plastic, is injected into these cavities to form the legends. The two layers are molded simultaneously.
  4. Bonding Process: During the injection molding process, the second layer fuses with the first layer, creating a seamless bond between the keycap body and the legends. 
  5. Cooling and Ejection: After the injection is complete, the double-shot keycap is allowed to cool and solidify within the mold. Once fully cooled, the keycap is ejected from the mold.
  6. Finishing Touches: The newly molded double-shot keycaps may undergo additional finishing processes such as polishing or coating, to enhance the final appearance and feel of the keycaps.
  7. Quality Control: Keycaps are inspected for quality and consistency. Defective or imperfect keycaps are rejected.
  8. Packaging and Distribution: The final double-shot keycaps are packaged and distributed to keyboard manufacturers, vendors, or directly to consumers.

Key Benefits of Using Double-shot Keycaps

an image of a mechanical keyboard

Using double-shot keycaps in a mechanical keyboard comes with several key benefits, making them a popular choice among enthusiasts. Here are the primary advantages of using double-shot keycaps:

  1. Durable Legends: The legends on double-shot keycaps are molded from a different colored plastic layer than the keycap's main body. This creates legends that are resistant to wear and fading, providing a durable solution for long-term use.
  2. Longevity: Due to their construction method, double-shot keycaps have a longer lifespan compared to keycaps with printed or laser-etched legends. 
  3. Consistent Appearance: The two-color molding process ensures a consistent and vibrant appearance for the keycaps. Even with prolonged use, the non-fading colors maintain the keycap's aesthetic appeal.
  4. High-Quality Aesthetics: Double-shot keycaps allow for creative and visually appealing designs thanks to the contrasting colors of the keycap body and legends. 
  5. Legends Feel Integrated: Since the legends are molded on the keycap, they feel smooth and integrated to the touch. There are no tactile irregularities caused by printing or etching processes.
  6. Enhanced Customization: The dual-color nature of double-shot keycaps enables a wide range of customization possibilities. Keycap manufacturers can create intricate designs and multicolored legends to satisfy the diverse preferences of the mechanical keyboard community.
  7. Improved Aesthetics in Backlit Keyboards: In backlit mechanical keyboards, the two-color construction of double-shot keycaps can enhance the visual impact of the backlighting. The legends remain visible and maintain their color contrast when illuminated.

Drawbacks of Using Double-shot Keycaps

While double-shot keycaps offer several advantages, they are not without their drawbacks. 

  1. Cost: Double-shot keycaps are often more expensive to manufacture compared to keycaps with printed legends. The dual-layer molding process, along with the use of high-quality materials, contributes to a higher production cost, which is then passed to customers.
  2. Limited Color Options: The dual-layer construction limits the number of color combinations available for double-shot keycaps. Achieving certain color combinations may require specific molds, which increases the complexity of production.
  3. Limited Texture Options: Double-shot keycaps may have a limited range of texture options compared to keycaps made from a single material. 
  4. Complex Manufacturing Process: The dual-shot molding process is more complex than the methods used for printing or laser-etching legends on keycaps. This complexity leads to higher production costs and potential challenges in achieving intricate designs.
  5. Weight: Due to the dual-layer construction, double-shot keycaps may be slightly heavier than single-shot keycaps made from a single material. 
  6. Less Common in Low-Profile Keyboards: Double-shot keycaps are less common in low-profile keyboards or keyboards with specialized form factors. The manufacturing process may be more challenging for these designs, limiting the availability of double-shot options.

Comparison with Other Keycap Types

an image of three mechanical keyboards

Let's compare double-shot keycaps with other common keycap types, such as laser-etched, pad-printed, and dye-sublimated keycaps:

  1. Double-shot Keycaps
    • Durability: High
    • Characteristics:
      • Durable legends due to the two-layer molding process
      • Resistant to wear and fading over time
      • Long lifespan compared to printed or laser-etched keycaps
    • Advantages:
      • Legends are an integral part of the keycap, providing excellent resistance to wear.
      • Consistent appearance and high-quality aesthetics.
  2. Laser-etched Keycaps
    • Durability: Moderate
    • Characteristics:
      • Legends are engraved onto the keycap's surface using a laser
      • Prone to wear over time, especially on frequently used keys
    • Advantages:
      • Allows for detailed and precise legends
      • Typically more affordable than double-shot keycaps
  3. Pad-printed Keycaps:
    • Durability: Low to Moderate
    • Characteristics:
      • Legends are printed onto the keycap's surface using a pad-printing process
      • Susceptible to wear and fading with extended use
    • Advantages:
      • Cost-effective manufacturing process
      • Enables a wide variety of color and design options
  4. Dye-sublimated Keycaps:
    • Durability: Moderate to High
    • Characteristics:
      • Legends are infused into the keycap's surface through a dye-sublimation process
      • More durable than pad-printed or laser-etched keycaps
    • Advantages:
      • Resistant to wear and fading, offering better longevity
      • Allows for detailed and vibrant designs

How to Maintain and Care for Double-shot Keycaps

Maintaining and caring for double-shot keycaps, like any other keyboard component, ensures their longevity and preserves their appearance. Here are some maintenance tips:

  1. Regular Cleaning: Dust, dirt, and oils from fingers can accumulate on keycaps over time. Regularly clean your keycaps using a soft brush, compressed air, or a keycap puller. For more thorough cleaning, keycaps can be removed and soaked in a mild soapy solution. Ensure they are completely dry before reattaching.
  2. Avoid Harsh Cleaning Agents: When cleaning keycaps, avoid using harsh chemicals or cleaning agents as they may damage the plastic or the legends. A mild solution of water and a small amount of gentle dish soap will do.
  3. Use a Keycap Puller: When removing keycaps for cleaning or customization, use a keycap puller to avoid damaging the stems or the keycap itself. Gently wiggle the keycap puller to lift the keycap without applying excessive force.
  4. Avoid Excessive Force: While mechanical keyboards are designed to withstand regular use, avoid typing with excessive force to help prevent premature wear on the keycaps.
  5. Mind the Environment: Keep your keyboard in a clean and dust-free environment. Avoid eating or drinking near the keyboard to prevent spills or debris from reaching the keycaps.
  6. Use a Keyboard Cover: If you are not using the keyboard for an extended period, use a keyboard cover to prevent dust buildup. 
  7. Avoid Direct Sunlight: Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can cause colors to fade over time. Cover your keyboard so it's protected from direct sunlight.
  8. Rotate Key Usage: To distribute wear evenly across all keycaps, consider rotating the keys you use most frequently. This helps prevent specific keys from showing signs of wear more quickly than others.
  9. Check for Loose Keycaps: Periodically check for any loose or wobbly keycaps. If you notice any, reseat them properly to ensure a stable connection to the switch.

Conclusion

Double-shot keycaps offer a significant upgrade to your mechanical keyboard. Yes, they might cost a bit more, but the benefits they bring are well worth it.

They offer unparalleled durability, a tactile sensation that's second to none, and the possibility of tailoring your keyboard's look to your liking. These keycaps outperform their competitors, enduring long-term use and extended gaming marathons.

Chris Greiner, a Mechanical Keyboard specialist, boasts a solid educational background with dual bachelor's degrees in Computer Science and Business Management from Lewis University. His additional certification in Mechanical Keyboard Design showcases his dedication to staying on the forefront of keyboard technology. Chris primarily writes for keyboard enthusiasts and has been featured on platforms like Jestik, solidifying his reputation as a thought leader in the mechanical keyboard community.
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