Keypads are used in a wide variety of applications, ranging from desktop computers and peripherals to heavy machinery and industrial equipment. While the basic principle of keypads remains the same — to provide a physical interface through which a human operator can control the device — there are subtle nuances between the different types. And one of the newer and more popular types of keypads is a membrane keypad. So, what exactly is a membrane keypad and how does it work?
In the most basic sense, a membrane keypad is a keypad featuring keys that are embedded into a single platform, without separate moving parts. Normally, keypads are designed with individual keys, each of which is a separate moving part. But membrane keypads take a step in a different direction by featuring pressure pads on which the key outlines and symbols are printed.
The mechanics behind membrane keypads is relatively simple and straightforward: the keys contain a conductive metal on the bottom, so when pressed, it creates a circuit with the underlying components. According to Wikipedia, some of the earliest model membrane keypads have been around since the 1980s, when they were largely used with home computers and similar consumer electronic devices. Membrane keypads are inexpensive and easy to produce, making them an excellent choice for budget-conscious consumers. Of course, there are other reasons to choose a membrane keypad over traditional mechanical keypads.
There are several benefits associated with membrane keypads, one of which is the ability to repel dirt, dust, moisture and debris. Because the keys are not separate moving parts, membrane keypads have few points through which moisture and debris can enter. As a result, membrane keypads are an excellent choice for outdoor applications. They’ll withstand the rain and moisture of being outdoors, continuing to function as intended without succumbing to damage.
But on the other hand, there are also some potential disadvantages associated with membrane keypads. Unlike traditional mechanical keypads, membrane keypads have little-to-no tactile feedback. This makes error-free typing/input difficult. The good news, however, is that some membrane keypads are now being designed with tactile feedback mechanisms, such as vibration. Just a small vibration can provide enough tactile feedback in a membrane keypad to improve user accuracy and satisfaction.
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