Graphic Overlay as the name suggests is that non-metallic (made out of polymer) part that is the topmost part of Electronic Controller. You may have noticed the graphic overlay for membrane keypad while using the microwave oven push button. This kind of graphic overlay is a part of our daily lives. They have served various industries, and they can meet customers’ specific needs, which have been happening for decades. This article focuses on Graphic overlays for membrane keypad, but you can always check our article on Crucial Customizations for accurate Membrane Keypad which talks about desired customizations for membrane keypads and gives broader view of all parts of membrane keypad.
What is a graphic overlay?
Graphic Overlay for Membrane Keypad:
The topmost layer that has switch buttons for receiving input and windows for display and LED indications. Also, overlays add aesthetics to control panel and displays the panel provider’s branding.
The graphic overlay is the topmost layer of a membrane keypad. This flexible plastic piece has a printed image, display window, and embossed keys. We can split the membrane keypad into two types by using graphic overlays differently.
1. The membrane switch panel is also called the non-tactile membrane switch.
2. Another type is the membrane keypad, also known as tactile membrane switching.
The difference between tactile and non-tactile feedback system is that, tactile feedback provides greater assurance of input recorded by the user which is felt by the user with greater perceptiveness. On the other hand, the non-tactile feedbacks do not provide this feeling.
These overlays can be printed with crucial functions and text display windows. Graphic Overlays for membrane keypads give an aesthetic sense to the control panel and provide a great user experience. Besides, it helps connect users to their devices, and it also protects the internal components from being exposed.
The control panel overlays are used as a user interface and shows how the user interacts with the devices. Before production, the graphic overlays for membrane keypads are customized by the designer. We need to consider the following factors: inks, well-designed elements, and featured images. Designers have endless options to give an overlay a unique look. You can also create any shape or size you want. Laser-cut and die-cut are the two types of cutting used in production. Die-cut is for general use, and laser cutting is more efficient for particular purposes. Professional engineers will make the final decision. Custom overlays can be a great way to impress end-users by using unique graphic design.
Why is material important for graphic overlays of high quality?
Have you ever walked up to an ATM or Petrol Pump and noticed the cracking, fading numbers on the keypad? It is a prime example of why the material selection is vital for graphic overlays.
This makes graphic overlays easier to use
Clear and straightforward membrane keypads are essential for a panel’s interface. The transparent material can make LCD windows look better. Clear transparency makes it possible to communicate commands and communications with the user, improving the user-friendliness of control panel overlays.
This makes graphic overlays and control panels last longer
The buttons on the surface of graphic overlay for membrane keypad would be pushed thousands of times throughout their lifetime. The button is under stress each time we press it. After the pressure release, the switch must return to its original position. The overlay materials must have a high Modulus of Elasticity. Otherwise, the overlay could deform due to stress. However, elasticity cannot be too high. Otherwise, the button will be too difficult to press. Only materials with optimum flexibility and elasticity can achieve this.
In some cases, membrane keypads are exposed to harsh environments. Humidity can cause irreversible damage. Digitally printed membranes will then have a shorter lifespan. Extreme outdoor temperatures could pose a severe threat. The climate in a desert or icy area could adversely affect the overlays. Corrosion could be caused by solvents, chemicals, and salty water. If we choose a suitable material, the overlay can provide the best protection for all membrane components.
This makes custom graphic overlays more attractive
You can create a charming and unique look with suitable material. There are many overlay printing inks available, thanks to modern technology. You also have the option to choose whether your graphics will be screen printed or digitally printed. You can achieve excellent color matching with the screen print. Screen printing is a reliable method of producing large quantities. Digital printing allows for more flexibility in design and sampling. Both digital and screen print can be printed in unlimited colors. You can also have different finishes with different materials. For example, we can have matte, gloss, embossing, or debossing. A specific finish can reduce fingerprints and scratches for indoor purposes. Some finishes are suitable for clear display windows and can be used to create various looks. The designer can customize graphic overlays to make them more appealing.
How do you choose the best graphic overlay materials for different applications?
Many materials can be used to make high-quality graphic overlays. The product design process is directly related to the substrate you choose. Before you jump to any conclusions, it is worth considering the following:
What environment is the printed graphic overlay for keypad membrane used? Is the overlay exposed to chemicals, solvents, or saltwater? Whether the keypad is for Outdoor or indoor use? What equipment (and where are they going to be used)? What would you like to see on graphic overlays that would represent your company/brand?
Graphic overlay material
You’ve probably already had some ideas about printed graphic overlays for membrane keypad. Now it is time to know more about the three most commonly used materials.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
PVC is half the Polycarbonate (PC) price and is, therefore, a cheaper material. It is flame retardant, chemical resistant, electrically insulated, and UV resistant. You can get a beautiful look by using a variety of colors. PVC isn’t an environmentally-friendly graphic overlay material, and it doesn’t perform well even in extreme temperatures because it’s cheap. PVC printed graphics remain famous for folding boxes and short-run signs.
The polycarbonate is tough and crystal-clear plastic. It can also offer outstanding mechanical properties. It is resistant to abrasion and is flame tolerant. Polycarbonate material is resistant to extreme climates and absorbs very little moisture. Polycarbonate materials can also be optically transparent. It is perfect for window displays, which gives the overlays a more professional look. The ideal option for graphic overlays is a PC, which is reasonably priced. It needs to be protected from solvents and chemicals. PC is easier to manufacture overlays during production. This means that die-cutting and embossing can be performed more efficiently.
You can also get PC overlay in various surface textures and finishes. You can create unique designs to meet your customer’s needs. You can even see PC overlays used in a variety of applications.
Another common material for graphic overlay for membrane keypad is polyester. It is more robust and more durable than Polycarbonate. PET is well-known for its durability. PET has not shown any wear even after 1,000,000 actuation cycles. In the case of PC, it begins to show signs of wear after 1,000,000 actuation cycles. PET has a reputation for being resistant to extreme environments. PET is also resistant to solvents and chemicals. These properties are what military and medical applications require. Polyester is the best option for such applications. The polyester overlay is more expensive and takes longer for overlays to be manufactured from PC. The average lead time will therefore be slightly longer.
What material will you choose: polyvinyl chloride or polycarbonate? There are three types of graphic overlays in the market, each with its benefits. Before you decide, it is crucial to weigh the pros and cons. At Linepro Controls, we have the best Engineering team to suggest you appropriate material for your Graphic Overlays for Membrane Keypads. We take care that the material suits the working condition and is secured in terms of its life span. Contact us if you have any questions about graphic overlay material.