Whether you’re familiar with the technology or not, you’ve probably seen or have even used a membrane keypad before. They are used in both consumer and commercial applications, offering an ergonomic alternative to traditional mechanical keypads. To learn more about membrane keypads and some of their common applications, keep reading.
What is a Membrane Keypad?
A membrane keypad is essentially a keypad in which the keys are embedded together into a single component. This is in stark contrast to traditional mechanical keypad, where each key is a separate moving part. Membrane keypads typically feature pressure pads containing outlines and symbols printed on the surface.
While the design of a membrane keypad varies depending on the particular model, most rely on an electrical contact between the underside of the keypad and the circuits on the actual board. When you press down on a membrane keypad, the respective key comes into contact with the underlying circuit board; thus, creating an electrical circuit that tells the device which key is being pressed. Because the keys aren’t separate moving parts, membrane keypads are more resistant to dirt, moisture and other elements than traditional mechanical keypads.
But there are still some potential downsides to using a membrane keypad, including the lack of tactile feedback. Tactile feedback is used to “tell” the operator that his or her input was registered, usually through a light vibration. But there’s very little tactile feedback with membrane keypads, increasing the risk of typos and errors. Of course, this is a minor problem that many users can overlook. Regardless, though, it’s still something that needs to be considered when choosing a keypad.
Membrane keypads have roots dating back to the 1980s, during which they were used for home computers. They offered an inexpensive solution for PCs. As such, they remain one of the most popular styles of keypads on the market.
Membrane Keypad Applications
So, what are some of the common applications in which membrane keypads are used? You can find them in industrial controls, access control systems, medical equipment, telecommunications devices, telephone systems, household appliances, security systems, and computer peripheral devices. They are often used in place of mechanical keypads when durability is paramount. For outdoor applications, for instance, a membrane keypad is likely the preferred choice because of its resistance to dust and moisture. Its “membrane” shell-like design protects the underlying electrical circuits and components from moisture damage.