Keypads are a critical component used in the construction and design of a human machine interface (HMI). If a touchscreen interface is not used, the HMI will likely feature a keypad through which the operator can perform commands. While there are hundreds of different types of keypads, most are made of either plastic or rubber materials. The underlying purpose remains the same between both types, although there are subtle nuances that shouldn’t be overlooked. To learn more about the differences between rubber and plastic keypads, and which type works best, keep reading.
While rubber keypads typically aren’t waterproof (not unless specifically designed in that way), they are still resistant to water, more so than traditional plastic keypads. As you can see from the image above, rubber keypads are designed in a way that restricts the intrusion of moisture — a feature that’s not available in plastic keypads. Their water-resistant properties make them ideal for outdoor applications where there’s a high risk of moisture.
In addition to being water-resistant, rubber keypads are also resistant to rust and corrosion. The same can also be said for plastic keypads, however. Both plastic and rubber keypads are resistant to the otherwise devastating effects of corrosion.
Yep, rubber keypads are even resistant to dirt. Going back to the fundamental design of these keypads, it’s difficult for dirt to make its way underneath the keys. This is one of the reasons why membrane keypads are used in construction equipment and other outdoor machines.
Rubber keypads produce less noise than plastic keypads. Pressing down on a rubber keypad is quiet, making very little (if any) noise.
One of the lesser-known benefits of rubber keypads is their comfort. When confronted with a plastic keypad and rubber keypad, most people will agree that the latter is more comfortable to use. Rubber is softer with a better ergonomic design.
Of course, there are still some benefits associated with plastic keypads, such as increased tactile feedback. With mechanical, plastic keypads, the operator typically “feels” when the button is pressed down. Because rubber keypads are softer, however, they produce less of this tactile feedback. Granted, the operator may still feel the keypress to some degree, but it’s significantly less tactile feedback when compared to its plastic counterpart. So if you’re looking for a keypad with substantial tactile feedback, you’ll probably want to stick with a traditional plastic variety.