Membrane Keypad Technologies for Harsh Working Conditions

An exclusive membrane keypad in harsh working conditions subjected to harsh use and probably fluid spills

Membrane Keypads or Keyboards are highly sought-after components for contemporary product designs offering visually stunning and sophisticated user interface that’s intuitive and functionally top performing. Some products are made for use in extreme conditions than the standard electronic application, leading to additional design tolerances. This article will discuss membrane keypad technology and its considerations for use in harsh environments.

Limited protection by certain membrane keypad technologies

Membrane keypads and keyboards are made up of many layers, each having a distinct function. Graphic overlays are the most visible layer of the membrane keypads however, while it offers some protection to the layers underneath, some issues may prevail under certain situations. The pressure-sensitive adhesive that bonds an overlay with sub layers, based on the particular adhesive that is employed, may provide only a few seal properties for the layer beneath – however, it is not enough to protect extreme working conditions.

An example of Graphic Overlay pasted on a device

For instance, a graphics overlay, as well as the adhesive that is pressure-sensitive beneath , to a small extent, shields the underlying layers by keeping dust or drops of liquid from entering into the crucial keypad components which are more sensitive to exposure. But this could cause problems under certain situations, for instance if a device is submerged in liquid because, the graphic overlay does not provide protection around the edges.

Membrane Keypad Technologies help sustain special working conditions

There are many aspects and environment conditions that could be a source of problems for the membrane keypads.

The accumulation of dust and debris is usually an issue for devices that are used outdoors

Caustic solutions including specific cleaning products or chemicals

Extremely high humidity

Extreme temperatures that is both cold and hot

High Altitude atmospheric pressure

Conditions and elements may affect the functioning of a device temporarily. Correcting the condition may fix problems with functionality in certain situations however; it is not always the case. If you’ve been exposed for a long time to certain elements or conditions of the climate the damage could be too severe that the keypad’s membrane is beyond repair.

Because of this, membrane keypad technology is created for typical use conditions in mind as well as the most likely adverse conditions that devices could likely be subjected to. For instance, even the most cautious user could spill drinks onto a device, which is why membrane keypad technology which is capable of enduring most occasional or minimal hazards are suitable for the majority uses.

Membrane Keypad Technologies Subject to common failures in harsh conditions

If your product doesn’t have the intention of being used in applications where it is subjected to extreme environments, the membrane keypad technology is likely to be adequate for your particular application. There’s a chance that any device could be exposed to dangerous circumstances because of accidental drops or other situations.

There are some typical issues that may occur with membrane keypad technologies caused by the accidental exposure of harsh environments. Certain cleaning solutions can cause problems with certain graphic overlays, like submersion of a component of a membrane keypad in water, or any other liquids can result in discoloration of the top graphic layer. Submersion may also affect the quality of some adhesives that are pressure sensitive which can leave a gap for other elements like dust to enter the base layers, and cause damage to critical functional components.

Things like transmission of water vapor and electrostatic discharge could affect the strength of certain adhesives that are pressure sensitive. Environmental pressure variations due to elevation can cause issues with the adhesive used to secure membrane keypad technology. In the end, repeated or prolonged exposure to poor conditions could result in device failures and malfunctioning, which is a major issue for both companies that provide warranties for their products and users.

Material selection is the fundamental of membrane keypad technology

Membrane switch technologies that can withstand harsh environments require accurate decisions for correct components and materials to offer the security required for each component assembly of membrane keypads.

The main considerations to make are selecting sturdy materials for the graphic overlay, and choosing pressure-sensitive adhesives that have the capability to stand up to possible contaminants and other elements that may affect the performance. An adhesive sealing procedure is also a possibility to make an impervious bond that is unaffected by severe conditions that could cause the device to fail.

Silicone Keypad

There is a variety of alternatives to materials and components that are durable and which can stand up to extreme and harsh conditions. For certain situations, keys made of silicone rubber provide adequate seal that protects fragile components underneath from damage caused by liquids spills, or use outdoors in snow or rain. Furthermore, certain membrane keypad technology offers outstanding water resistance, being in compliance to IP 65 specifications.

Medical Devices need exclusive attention for membrane keypad technology

Membrane Switches are used in medical technology. In the field of medicine, there are many devices which rely upon membrane keypads in order to offer patients the best care. In case of products like medical devices, inefficiency is not acceptable. Likewise, harsh cleaners are frequently used to clean up equipment used in clinics, hospitals as well as other healthcare facilities to stop spreading bacteria.

Fortunately, some membrane keypad technology can meet this requirement by using graphic overlay with a textured polyester component that incorporates antimicrobial substances to help with sanitation, while offering a tough overlay that is able to withstand repeated contact with harsh cleansing solvents. These specifically designed graphic overlays are durable however, the antimicrobial overlay material aids in preventing the development of mold, bacteria and mildew that could cause the typical graphic overlay to deteriorate, and can cause the development of stains and odor.

It is not unusual for membrane technology to be employed in applications and environments that have poor conditions. In areas where electronic devices was not a best suit a couple of decades ago, today’s membrane keypad technologies have evolved to provide robust durability- needed to endure even the most extreme operating conditions. It is necessary to communicate both the common and potential risks that your product is susceptible to, which help the engineers determine the most durable components and material to ensure long-term viability that your product will carry.


At Linepro we are experts in designing, material selection and manufacturing of Membrane Keypads for more than 30 years. We offer customized membrane keypads designed as per the application and harshness of working environment. Feel free to contact us for free consultation on design of membrane keypads and keyboards for any working environment. Visit our website for more details:

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