Keypads can generally be broken down into one of two different categories: mechanical and membrane. While their primary purpose is the same — to allow the input of commands in a human machine interface — there are subtle nuances between the two that shouldn’t go unnoticed. Today we’re going to take a closer look at the differences between mechanical and membrane keypads.
The main difference between mechanical and membrane keypads lies in their method of construction. Membrane keypads are essentially keypads that are not separate moving parts. They feature pressure pads with outlines and symbols on a flat, sometimes flexible, surface.
Membrane keypads work by using an electrical contact underneath the keys’ surface. When a key is pressed, it makes contact with the circuits; thus, registering the key press. Membrane keypads have been around for decades now, with some of the earliest models dating back to the 1980s when they were used for computer keyboards.
Another notable difference between mechanical and membrane keypads is their maintenance requirements. Because membrane keypads are embedded into the components, there’s really no way for dust, dirt and debris to fall into the cracks. As such, cleaning a membrane keypad is far easier and less time consuming than cleaning a mechanical keypad. Just run over the top of the keys with a lint-free microfiber cloth and you are done! If there’s any sticky residue on the keys, you can use rubbing alcohol to remove it.
Some people assume that membrane keypads are more expensive than their mechanical counterpart, but this isn’t necessarily true. On the contrary, membrane keypads typically cost less, making them an attractive choice for business owners who are in need of bulk orders. Because the keys are all integrated together without moving parts, membrane keypads are easier to manufacture; thus, resulting in a lower price for the end consumer.
But there are some potential disadvantages to choosing membrane keypads over mechanical keypads. Membrane keypads generally produce little-to-no tactile feedback when pressed. Subsequently, this increases the risk of accidental key presses and missed keys.