The materials used in mechanical keyboard switches profoundly impact their sound and feel, key factors for any enthusiast's choice.
Housing Materials: Common materials for switch housings include PA66 (Nylon), Polycarbonate, POK, HPE, and UHMWPE. Nylon, known for its durability, tends to produce a deeper sound, making it a favorite for those who prefer a more muted typing noise. Polycarbonate, on the other hand, offers a higher pitch and a clearer sound profile. POK and HPE are less common but offer unique sound signatures that might appeal to those looking for something different. They both derive from UHMWPE, but are more fortified and dense. UHMWPE, noted for its smoothness, reduces friction, leading to a softer sound and feel.
PA66 is the most commonly used type of Nylon. However, there are numerous other Nylon/Polymer blends such as PA666, PA6, PA12 and so on.
Stem Materials: The stem materials, typically POM, UHMWPE, and POK, also play a crucial role. POM is widely used due to its balance between smoothness and durability, providing a consistent sound and feel. UHMWPE stems are sought after for their ultra-smoothness, enhancing the acoustics and reducing the scratchiness in keystrokes. POK, being a newer material in the market, offers a unique blend of characteristics from both POM and UHMWPE.
Rule of Thumb: The more dense a material is, typically, the clackier/harsh they become. The softer the material, the deeper & more muted they become. *There are numerous other variables that alter sound. Such as, stem pole length, mold variations, side rail bottom out, spring weight and height (YES, it does affect primarily the top out sound.) and so much more.
- Consider the sound profile you prefer and choose housing materials accordingly: Nylon for a clacky sound signature, Polycarbonate for a slightly deeper sound signature. PA66 is slightly less dense in comparison to PC ( Omnexus, n.d.).
- For a smoother keystroke, you can't go wrong with POM, but most UHMWPE-based stems are as smooth as they get.
- Experiment with different materials to find your ideal sound and feel combination. Each manufacturer blends materials differently, with slight density variances so feel free to frankenswitch, creating the ideal switch of your own creation.
- Remember that lubrication can further modify sound and feel, enhancing the properties of the materials.
- Join mechanical keyboard communities to learn from others' experiences with different material combinations.
Frankenswitching is the act of dissembling switches in order to create another unique switch. An example of that is the creation of the Black Cherry Pie Switch. A Cherry Black top housing, a long pole stem (originally the NK Cream stem), and a JWK bottom housing (originally the H1 bottom housing) and your preferred spring would be used to create the BCP!
Density of Plastics Material: Technical Properties Table. (n.d.). Omnexus.specialchem.com. Retrieved January 12, 2024, from https://omnexus.specialchem.com/polymer-property/density#PA-PC