Plastic keypads are one of the world’s most common types of device interfaces. You can find them on everything from calculators and remote controls to ATMs, retail point-of-sale (POS) terminals and human machine interfaces (HMIs). All plastic keypads are made of plastic. That’s essentially what distinguished them from other keypads, such as silicone rubber keypads. But there are still different types of plastic keypads. When choosing plastic keypads, you should consider the following.

#1) Rigid vs Flexible Circuit

Like other keypads, most plastic keypads are used in conjunction with a circuit. They either feature a rigid circuit or a flexible circuit. Rigid circuits are characterized by a stiff and rigid construction. Flexible circuits, on the other hand, are characterized by a flexible construction. You should choose plastic keypads with an appropriate circuit type for your intended application.

#2) Finish

Plastic keypads are available in different finishes. Some of them feature a vacuum metallization (VM) finish, whereas others feature a laser-etched or powder-coated finish. VM is a popular finish in which plastic keypads are made. During production, plastic keypads are placed inside of a vacuum chamber. Negative pressure will then force the finish material — typically aluminum — to adhere to the surface of the keypads.

#3) Backlighting

Don’t forget to consider the backlighting when choosing plastic keypads. Backlighting, of course, consists of a lighting system. Some keypads feature backlighting to illuminate their keys. You can find plastic keypads in several different backlighting options, some of which include light-emitting diode (LED), electroluminescent (EL) and fiber optic.

#4) Key Profile

You should consider the key profile when choosing plastic keypads. Plastic keypads support low-profile keys. They don’t feature tall keys that protrude far out of the surface. Low-profile keys are low and sit flush or almost with the surface of the keypad. Regardless, you should consider the key profile. Plastic keypads with low-profile keys consume less space and are arguably easier to use than their counterparts.

#5) Travel Distance

Always check the travel distance between buying a plastic keypad. Travel distance is the distance that a key must travel when pressed to register a command. It’s essentially the distance between the keypad’s electrical contacts. Some plastic keypads have a higher travel distance than others. And the higher the travel distance, the farther you’ll have to press the key. With that said, a high travel distance helps to protect against accidental key presses.