Keypads, especially those made of silicone rubber, are used extensively in a wide variety of applications. You’ll find them in everything from industrial control systems to TV remotes, kids’ toys, smartphones and more. Some of these keypads, however, are customized with laser etching. If this is your first time hearing about laser etching, you might be wondering what it is and how it works. In this post, we’re going to walk you through the laser etching process to reveal how it’s used to customize keypads.

Laser Etching: The Basics

Laser etching refers to the use of a controlled laser to burn off the top specific areas of a keypad’s top layer. Keypads are typically designed with a painted top layer. By exposing certain areas of this layer to a high-powered laser, laser etching is able to create unique, custom graphics that would otherwise not have been possible.

Benefits of Laser Etching on Keypads

Laser etching serves two primary purposes. First, it’s able to create custom graphics on keypads. By removing specific areas of the top layer while leaving other areas intact, laser etching creates new, custom graphics on top of the keypad. As a result, companies and individuals that purchase laser-etched keypads can choose their own graphics for the keys. This is arguably the single most notable benefit of laser etching on keypads.

Second, laser etching enhances the keypad’s backlighting effect. It’s not uncommon for keypads to feature a backlight that illuminates the keys. With laser etching, the paint covering the graphics or legends of the keys can be selectively burned off. This means the surrounding areas of the keys will retain their paint and prevent the backlight from illuminating through. The end result is illumination that’s directed specifically at the keys’ graphics or legends to create an enhanced backlighting effect.

Laser Etching vs Printing Graphics

There are other ways to customize the top layer of a keypad, such as printing graphics on them. When compared to laser etching, however, printing graphics is a far less effective method. The problem with printing graphics is that the designs are susceptible to degradation. Over time, constant use — along with exposure to the sun if used outdoors — will cause the keypad’s printed graphics to fade. This is less likely to occur with laser-etched graphics because they are created by burning away specific parts of the uppermost layer.