As the demand for custom mechanical keyboards grows, newcomers to the hobby may be confused by some terms that constantly get thrown around. Spending 5 minutes on Reddit’s mechanical keyboard subreddit may leave you wondering, “What are these GMK keycaps everyone is talking about?” Below, we will give a brief overview of what GMK means, how their keycaps helped shape the hobby and the pros and cons of ordering them.
What Are GMK Keycaps?
April 30, 2021
ABS PLASTIC KEYCAPS FROM GERMANY
What Does GMK mean?
In 1992, Manfred Güntner and Wolfgang Kredler founded GMK electronic design GmbH in Wernberg-Köblitz, Germany. The company manufactured surface mounted diodes and other microcomputer components.
It was not until 2011, over 19 years later, that GMK began manufacturing double-shot ABS plastic keycaps. However, their method for creating keycaps is unique and a pretty polarizing topic in the community.
What makes these ABS plastic keycaps unique?
Typically, ABS plastic is considered lower in quality than thicker, more durable PBT plastic. However, GMK has a unique trick up its sleeve: community engagement. You cannot simply purchase a GMK set from their website, and finding an in-stock set can be nearly impossible without shelling out quite a chunk of change. The reason for this is GMK relies on interest checks, group buys, and individual artists to create a set of their ABS keycaps.
WHAT ARE "INTEREST CHECKS" and "GROUP BUYS?"
Scrolling through r/MechanicalKeyboards, you will see some posts tagged with the [IC] designation. These posts mean they are hosting an interest check, gauging community interest in their keycap design and renders. If they garner enough buzz, this artist will approach a manufacturer of their choice to receive a quote.
After going through the quote process with GMK, the artist typically creates a group buy campaign to help fund the production of these caps. This process is not exclusive to just GMK sets, but they are the poster child for keyboard group buys. Once enough people buy into the keycap set, it can then be queued for manufacturing by GMK at its German facility.
SHAPING THE HOBBY
Allowing members of the community to create their own sets makes GMK a popular choice. People have no problem sacrificing quality, settling for ABS plastic, if it means receiving a custom colorway that makes their board unique.
Inspirations for these designs include classic keyboards from the past, popular culture, or pretty much anything you can imagine. GMK keycaps allow owners to express themselves using their custom mechanical keyboard setups.
DOWNSIDES OF GMK
The two main downsides of GMK are the manufacturing wait time and their ABS plastic composition. It can be easy to get excited about a brand new set that will complement your setup perfectly, but it can come as a shock when you see an estimated delivery date of the following year.
None of GMK’s keycaps are in stock, and every new group buy requires manufacturing from scratch only after its completion. With dozens of GMK sets constantly being ordered, the queue can add up, leading to longer than average wait times.
As mentioned previously in this article, ABS plastic is thinner and less durable than PBT plastic. ABS can lead to your GMK keycaps “shining” over time, losing their textured surface and matte appearance. Additionally, their sound is less resonant than the deeper tones that thicker PBT plastic create.
BENEFITS OF GPBT
For high-quality PBT keycap sets, check out our GPBT keycaps. Available in a wide variety of attractive colors, GPBT keycaps allow you to customize your board without waiting a year to receive them. Additionally, our sets cost $49.99, an objectively more affordable price than GMK’s $100+ price per set.