Unbeknownst to many consumers and professionals, keyboards are often manufactured with membrane switches. Below each key is a membrane switch consisting of multiple layers of polyester featuring conductive traces. When you press a key, the top and bottom layers are pressed together, resulting in contact between their respective conductive traces. This, of course, completes the circuit while subsequently allowing the keyboard to register your command.
Of course, there are other switching technologies available. In recent years, however, membrane switches have become increasingly common in keyboards. From portable laptop/tablet keyboards to commercial-grade office keyboards, countless keyboards now use membrane switches. This begs the question: Why do so many keyboards now use membrane switches?
Membrane Switches Are Reliable
With their simplistic design, membrane switches are highly reliable. Some people assume that membrane switches are complex and, therefore, prone to failure. In reality, though, they are less likely to fail than keyboards featuring other types of switches.
Each membrane switch consists of multiple layers with conductive traces printed on them. As long as a key is pressed hard enough, the top and bottom layers will meet, thereby completing the circuit. There’s little or no chance of technical failure when using a membrane switch keyboard.
Membrane Switches Are Small and Compact
Another reason membrane switches are used extensively in keyboards is because they are small and compact. Keyboards themselves typically don’t have a lot of space. Therefore, a small switching solution must be used. Membrane switches offer a small and compact switching solution that can be easily integrated into a keyboard.
Membrane Switches Protect Against Liquid Intrusion
Membrane switches offer a sealed design that protects against the intrusion of water, beverages and other liquids. Statistics show 64% of U.S. adults drink coffee on a daily basis. Office workers who start their day off with a hot cup of Joe can rest assured knowing that their membrane switch keyboard is protected against spills. If liquid is spilled on a membrane switch keyboard, it won’t be able to reach the underlying conductive traces.
Membrane Switches Offer an Ergonomic Design
It’s also worth mentioning that membrane switches, when used in the construction of a keyboard, offer an ergonomic design. Pressing a key just slightly should result in the top and bottom switch layers meeting. Membrane switch keyboards will still “spring” back up — a process that creates tactile feedback — but they offer a cleaner and more ergonomic design that other types of keyboards.