Keypads are available in a variety of designs, including flat panel and mechanical switch. A third type of keypad, however, is dome switch, which features design elements of both flat-panel and mechanical-switch keypads.

What Is a Dome-Switch Keypad?

A dome-switch keypad is a type of keypad that’s characterized by the use of two circuit board traces embedded underneath keys — which are typically made of silicone rubber — using metal dome switches. While dome-switch keypads are designed using different materials, most feature stainless steel dome switches. The actual keys, however, are usually made of a softer material like silicone rubber.

When you press a key on a dome-switch keypad, the circuit board traces make contact to create a closed circuit. When you release a key, the circuit board traces pull away from each other, thereby opening the circuit. All switches rely on this same basic principle of opening and closing a circuit, but dome-switch keypads are unique because they use elements of both flat-panel and mechanical-switch keypads.

Benefits of Dome-Switch Keypads

Dome-switch keypads offer a variety of benefits, one of which is the creation of tactile feedback. Because they contain metal domes, pressing them creates a natural “force” that you can feel. As a result of their natural tactile feedback, dome-switch keypads offer a higher level of user satisfaction and lower risk of user error than other keypads that create little or no tactile feedback.

But tactile feedback is just one benefit of using dome-switch keypads. Another benefit worth noting is longevity. It’s not uncommon for dome-switch keypads to last for millions of cycles. Even when used for commercial applications, such as manufacturing machine and equipment controls, it’s unlikely that a dome-switch keypad will fail under normal usage. A typical dome-switch keypad can last for over a decade — sometimes even longer.

You’ll also find dome-switch keypads used in smartphones, tablet computers and other small devices. Their compact design makes them ideal for applications such as these. However, dome-switch keypads can be used in other applications as well, including larger electronic devices.

Furthermore, dome-switch keypads can be designed to offer a superior level of quietness. Rather than using stainless steel for the metal domes, for example, companies can use polyurethane. While polyurethane produces less tactile feedback than stainless steel and other common metals, it’s significantly quieter than its metal counterparts. As a result, dome-switch keypads with polyurethane domes are often used in environments where noise is a concern.