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29 Dec 2016

The History of Membrane Keypads

The History of Membrane Keypads

Membrane keyboards are currently used in a range of industries for applications such as access control systems, medical equipment and other electronic machinery. But do you ever wonder when they were first used, and how they were invented? Membrane keypads work by using electrical circuits, so they are more sophisticated than they look. The experts at Fascia Graphics, who have been producing membrane keypads for over 20 years, share some history of the industrial product.

It all started in the 80s…

The 1980’s has a lot to answer for, including some of the best ever music and fashion! Membrane keyboards also first became known at this time, used for some of the early home computers. They were then popular in consumer electronics such as video games consoles.

What’s the difference between a membrane keyboard and normal computer keyboard?

The majority of keyboards you’ll be used to typing with have moving parts and a clear separation between the keys. In contrast, membrane keypads just have pressure pads for the letters or symbols. They are great to use in difficult industrial environments, because they are robust and more resilient against liquids and dirt than other keyboard designs.

When they were first invented, membrane keyboards were difficult to use because they had very little tactile feedback. However, after decades of development there is now the option of domed buttons and LED backlights which improve functionality.

How do membrane keypads work?

A membrane keyboard is an electrical component, which is operated by a circuit. There are three layers to the keypad, with one layer acting as a spacer between the two conductive layers. When the top layer is pushed down (after being pressed by a finger) it makes contact with the bottom layer, allowing the voltage to flow. This effectively closes the switch and completes the circuit, allowing electricity to follow the chosen command.

The modern membrane switch

Of course, since the first membrane keyboard was introduced all those years ago, vast improvements have been made. Engineers experimented with different materials to find the most hard-wearing options, to improve the life span of the keyboards. There is great flexibility in design, with digital display elements if needed. The modern membrane switch offers improved tactile feedback, longevity and easy-clean surfaces which can meet strict hygiene requirements.

Would you like to find out more about state of the art membrane keyboards? Contact us with any questions you may have.

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