Also known an elastomeric keypads, rubber keypads are characterized by their low profile and use of silicone-rubber materials. Unlike mechanical keypads, they use compression molding to create a webbing around the electrical switch. When you press down on the key, it allows the underlying switch – which is usually made of a conductive metal – to make contact with the PCB contact. This contact is essentially how the keypad works.
So, why should you choose a rubber keypad over a mechanical keypad? For starters, they typically offer a higher level of resistance to the intrusion of dust, moisture and particulate matter. This makes rubber keypads as an excellent choice for outdoor applications. Furthermore, rubber keypads support laser etching, which involves the use of a controlled laser to remove the top layer of paint; thus, revealing a lighter color below.
But if you plan on owning a rubber keypad, you’ll need to know how to clean and maintain it. Like all keypads, they require some basic maintenance to preserve their appearance and functionality.
First and foremost, try to avoid using the rubber keypad with “dirty fingers.” Granted, this shouldn’t be an issue for most consumers. If you’re a business owner or worker who uses the rubber keypad in an industrial setting, however, this could be a problem. Operating a rubber keypad with dirty fingers day after day may result in some debris finding its way down into the keypad’s component. If enough dirt gets stuck between the switch and the PCB contact, it may prevent the electrical switch from completing its circuit, at which point it won’t register your keypress.
Additionally, you should clean your rubber keypad on a regular basis using compressed air. You can buy cans of compressed air at most office supplies stores for about $5 bucks, which is a small price to pay considering the protection it offers. While holding the can upright, adjust the spray nozzle towards the inside of your rubber keypad and make short, fast bursts by pulling the trigger. This should knock out dirt, dust and debris.
Some people may feel compelled to take apart their rubber keypad for deeper cleaning, but this generally isn’t recommended. Rubber keypads have numerous, small components that can easily be misplaced. Furthermore, you can usually clean them well enough using compressed air. If your rubber keypad has become damaged, consider replacing it or hiring a professional to repair it.