Author Topic: Polyethylene key caps?  (Read 1309 times)

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Offline cathode

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Polyethylene key caps?
« on: Sat, 31 December 2011, 13:02:05 »
Ok, about three years ago I ordered a 12" x 12" x 3/8" sheet of Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene to use as a mousing surface. Trade name - TIVAR 1000 (there are other variations and trade names from various manufacturers). This stuff is much cheaper than Teflon, but has very close to the same ridiculously low coefficient of friction. It has a bunch of other miraculous physical properties... read more on wikipedia...

When I got this sheet, it had a glossy and slightly uneven surface (due to the manufacturing process i assume), so attacked it with a random orbit sander with some fine grit sandpaper. Anyway, after three years of use there is virtually no visible wear. Due to the way I sanded it, it has a *silky* smooth feel to it. It has a very slight amount of texture but it's soft, not bumpy. It's hard to describe, but it has a "nice" feel to it.

My question is: is this polymer being used for key caps at all? It seems like a fantastic use case for UHMWPE. It can be made with a variety of different colors as well.

Offline cathode

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Polyethylene key caps?
« Reply #1 on: Sat, 31 December 2011, 15:17:23 »
A little more research indicates that UHMW-PE is very difficult to work with due to it's resistance to abrasion. I'm not sure if typical methods of lettering would work such as dye sublimation or laser marking. It seems like keycaps made from this material would be quite expensive to produce, a double-shot injection method might be required.

Offline Findecanor

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Polyethylene key caps?
« Reply #2 on: Sat, 31 December 2011, 17:49:37 »
It is very hard to print, paint, glue or dye any polyethylene. Its resistance to anything sticking to it is why it is used a lot for plastic bottles, sewage pipes and garbage bins. Bottles with labels have sticky labels, where the glue remains sticky all the time. By heating PE with a torch you could influence the "surface tension" (that is how it was described to me) to make stickers stick better.
Some people have reported limited success with RIT dye, though ...
Man must shape his tools lest they shape him
-- Arthur Miller