I’m thinking about working on a keyset, but I’d like to know what my limitations are. So far I know that available manufacturers and their options are:
(Edited to include more options from below.)
Signature Plastics (Pimp My Keyboard):
- DSA - ABS & PBT, double shot & dye sub
- SA - ABS, double shot
- SA-P - PBT, dye sub (same as above, but PBT)
- G20 - PBT, dye sub
- DSS - ABS, double shot
- DCS - ABS & PBT, double shot & dye sub
All Signature Plastics keycaps are available with their standard font, Gorton Modified, which is similar to Ariel. Three additional fonts available for additional fee.
They don’t actually spell this out anywhere that I can find, but it seems that they only do Cherry profile ABS double shots. They do list many languages that they support, including US-English paired with many different sublegends, but they do not specify a font or font options. Sublegends can be printed in separate colors from primary legends, via UV printing.
They can also do custom legends for an additional fee, with some limitations.
Can’t find a website for them or any solid information at all, but judging from just what sets I can find which are attributed to them they can do Cherry profile in double shot ABS and dye sub PBT. In at least PBT they can do multi-color sublegends in different languages.
They can also do the shine-through cutouts on locking caps, like caps lock. That’s nice to see. And that’s it, as near as I can tell. Cherry profile only.
Not really a manufacturer, but you need to go through them if you want to do MT3 profile. Both dye-sub PBT and doube-shot ABS are available. Drop has a “design submissions” option in the support contact section of their website.
Again, not really a manufacturer, but you need to go through them for MG and MDA profiles. No information on capability, and the only mention I can find of accepting independent designs is a request to contact them on their help page. They seem to do MDA in PBT dye-sub, and MG in ABS double-shot.
Manufacturer who seems to do PBT dye-sub only, in Cherry profile or “thin walled XDA.” They say they can do five-sided printing but the only examples I can find are solid color, no legends or designs on the sides of the caps. Think maybe they’re just talking about reverse dye-sub (it’s a translated page, so have to do some interpretation). They don’t seem to offer services to independent designers, so you’d likely need to go through a vendor in order to work with them.
They do PBT dye-sub and reverse dye-sub, in Cherry and DSA profiles. They offer to work with independent designers directly on their website, and provide an email contact for that purpose, and they claim a prototype lead time of six weeks and a manufacturing lead time of four to six months. Other manufacturers don’t specify these times, but judging from typical group buys these seem to be better than many. Infinikey seems to have special relationship with The Key Company.
Mysterious group behind KAT and KAM profiles. (KAM is just r3 uniform KAT) PBT only, dye-sub and reverse dye-sub. They don’t have a website and exist outside of time. Probably necessary to contact a vendor who has the power to reach them. Edit: Suggestion below that they may have a special relationship with zFrontier. Makes sense to me, that jives with search results.
The have their own CA profile, which is similar to Cherry. ABS only, legends are double and triple shot. Also HSA profile, or “half SA” - a profile similar to SA, but shorter. ABS only, double-shot. Only manufacturer that I’ve seen which advertises a triple-shot process, though the only examples of this that they give are legends and sublegends of different colors. In other words, the colors are separated from one another. It would be pretty neat if they could layer the colors to make more complicated patterns, but I don’t know if that’s possible with the multi-shot process. Seems complicated.
JTK is apparently eager to work with independent designers, and have a contact email on their website.
Maxkey and Domikey:
These are both producers of double-shot ABS keycaps in SA profile, though they use clones of the official SA molds owned by Signature Plastics. Maxkey has worked with independent designers in the past (see this comment below), though apparently it’s difficult to contact them directly. If you want to work with these you’ll likely need to go through vendors. Try contacting KDBFans for Maxkey, and Drop or KPRepublic for Domikey.
Still many profiles unaccounted for, OEM most notably. Even though nobody seems to really want that. I did find this list, which isn’t quite the same thing but may be useful if you’re looking for information on another profile.
There are also examples like this (warning: porn), which have full color printing on all sides of every key, on thick pbt, for $28. That’s just so much better than any other options that I can find, but I don’t know anything about whether something like that is possible for group buys.