TRIFL Buyer's Guide

Helping you make an informed buying decision.

General Group Buy Procedure

The TRIFL alpha keycaps are sold as a group buy, which is a form of time-exclusive pre-order, where all orders are gathered until the close date and then are submitted as a single large made-to-order order to the manufacturer.

The group buy will close on March, 5th, 2023. After that further ordering will not be possible.

The keycaps will be made 100% in Germany. 

Current lead times are around 7 working days for the 3D printing service provider for the TRIFL alpha group buy. After bulk delivery every group buy order will be manually packaged and shipped in the same order the orders came in according to the first-in-first-out principle. This might take a while, updates will be posted. Plan is to have shipped in April this year.

Return & Refunds

Since the keycaps are made-to-order, there will be no return and refunds. In case a refund is direly needed, please use the contact form, so we can work something out. The issuing of chargebacks will lead to strict bans from future sales.

There will be no stock available after the group buy, aside from maybe a small amount of B-stock due to quality imperfections such as printing artifacts.

This group buy called the "alpha" group buy, because this initial version will not be available ever again. The keycaps and material have been thoroughly tested over months by me (see below).

Shipping costs

Shipping costs are flat rate depending on order value:

  • 9 eur for orders below 50 eur
  • 5 eur for orders below 100 eur
  • 0 eur for orders above 100 eur

All shipping will be handled by DHL as the primary shipping provider.

General Material

The keycaps are made using the multi jet fusion 3D printing process PA12 (= a form of nylon). In simple terms: first an ink jet printer runs over a layer of loose fine white PA12 powder, dyeing a cross section of the printed object black. Then an infrared flash light heats up only the black powder particles, melting them together. The resulting object is a dark stone grey and has a slightly rough and fuzzy surface especially compared to other keycaps. Just like any nylon the object can then be dyed further using synthetic dyes. Due to dark nature of the natural color only black is currently available. The darkness of individual stone grey keycaps may slightly but still noticably vary, the black dyed keycaps appear very uniform in color.

Microscope pictures of the keycap surface: natural stone grey (top) and dyed black (bottom)

The keycaps are printed front first, back last, with a layer height of 80 micron (roughly 3 thou). Due to the properties of the printing process, this leads to a smoothing on the front curvature making layer lines over the whole keycaps invisible, but generating tiny visible layer stepping on the back of the keycap. This look was an deliberate artistic choice and preferred over other printing orientations as it presents very cleanly from the front while also showing off the 3D printed origins on the back side.

Keycap macro back view (The notches on the bottom are prototype markers and will not be present on the final product)


Expected Wear From Usage

While PA12 is chemically pretty stable and in itself hard to destruct, the print has micro pores due to the printing method. The most important factor (experienced so far) is skin based acetone leaking through those pores. While on ABS keycaps acetone excreted from the skin leads to a shine due to a polishing effect, here it seems to help getting skin fats deposited in those pores leading to a noticable darkening of the grey keycaps and a noticable lightening of black keycaps over time. Luckily this effect seems to be mainly visual and so far does not seem to lead to a tacky, sticky or otherwise unpleasant feeling when typing on keycaps which are longer in use and show signs of that use.

Keycaps after several months of use, left side was cleaned using a washing machine

To clean the caps they can be machine washed like other nylon garments (a washing bag is recommended). They can be cleaned in the dishwasher as well as manually with normal dish soap and warm water, although the strongest cleaning effect so far was experienced with machine washing. Regarding the black caps it must be noted, that the black dye used to turn them all black is acetone soluble. This seems to lead to an accumulation of dye in the skin fat deposits especially where the most skin to keycap contact is. Washing the keycaps will take these bits of dye out of the keycaps which in turn leads to permanent noticeable lighter usage marking comparable to those in old jeans pants. The effect is strongest with machine washing. It shall be noted that it should be possible to re-dye the keycaps, although this hasn't been tested and confirmed yet.

Unused black keycaps on top of washing machine washed keycaps.

Smoothing the Surface

The raw surface of the keycaps can be smoothed by grinding. Easy results can be achieved with 400 or 600 grit wet sandpaper on the finger dish if the raw tactility is not desirable.

Really good results over the whole keycap surface can be achieved by using rock tumbling equipment with ceramic tumbling media. For a simple barrel tumbler 4 days of continous tumbling per grit yielded the best results in my testing. Using tumbling media with a 5mm dimension cannot be recommended as 5mm media gets easily stuck in the bottom of the caps and needs to be removed manually between each grit. Due to the current setup being capped around 50 caps / 16 days and the high cost of bigger tumbling machines and a micro plastic capable waste water treatement solution tumbled keycaps cannot be offered during this group buy. The visual effect of acetone and skin oils seeping into the keycaps is accentuated by this treatment.

16 days tumble polished keycaps after months of regular use. Notice how much darker the grey keycaps are on the bottom row and that there is a distinct line separating the used darkened area. The colored caps are coated in UV nail polish.

Coating the Surface

It is possible to coat the keycap surface with UV nail polish. The tests shown above did not use a special base coat, but were applied directly to the raw keycaps. So far the UV nail polish seems to be holding up without noticable degradation even after several months of use. When coating the keycaps it is important to build up the overall thickness of the coats as thin as possible. A too thick coating will lead to the keycaps rubbing together on the keyboard.

Additional production prototype pictures

Please note that these are prototype prints and surface quality may slightly vary from the final product.

Comparison: Hills, Blank, Braille Homing Flat, Braille Homing High