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20 Mar 2018

What Is Membrane Technology?

What Is Membrane Technology?

Membrane technology has been an intrinsic part of electronic gadgetry for over 30 years now, revolutionising the way we input commands on a variety of devices. Whether it be an everyday household appliance like a microwave, an office essential such as a photocopier or an industrial access control system, membrane keypads are a versatile, resilient and efficient piece of technology.

Membrane vs traditional

What sets a membrane keyboard (also known as a membrane keyboard or membrane switch) apart from a traditional one? Well, the QWERTY keyboard you’re probably using to access this article on your laptop or desktop computer is more than likely a traditional model, which means that its keys are separate moving parts. By contrast, a membrane keyboard does not have any moving parts, but rather three distinct layers which rely on pressure pad technology.

The top layer contains the letters, numbers or any other symbols needed for data entry on its upper surface and conductive traces on the lower. The middle layer, known as the “space” layer, simply contains spaces which separate the top and bottom ones. The bottom layer also contains conductive traces, meaning that when a key is pressed down, an electrical current is allowed to pass between top and bottom. This effectively closes the circuit, registering a keypress on the device.

Advantages of membrane keyboards

The main selling point of a membrane keypad is its durability and reliability, even in the most difficult conditions. This is because unlike a traditional keyboard, there are no gaps between keys down which dirt, dust and other detritus can slip. In an industrial, medical or commercial setting, the cleanliness and functionality of the product is paramount.

What’s more, membrane technology has advanced to such a state where it is now possible to incorporate anti-microbial, chemical and UV resistance into the materials used in its creation. For these reasons, membrane keypads are the ideal choice for the aforementioned industries, or indeed any setting where a high level of precision is needed and a unique set of criteria must be met.

In the early days of their invention, membrane keyboards were difficult to use due to the proximity of keys to each other and the likelihood of making an error. However, over time, the technology has been developed to include LED backlighting to improve key visibility and domed textures on the keys themselves to enhance tactile feedback. These improvements have made membrane keyboards easier to use and as such, a more attractive proposition than ever before.

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