An Introduction to Membrane Switch Keyboards

Dec 22, 2021

Have you heard of membrane switch keyboards? They’ve become a popular alternative to dome-switch keyboards. Membrane switch keyboards still consist of the same buttons as their dome-switch counterparts, and they are used for the same purpose of controlling desktop or laptop computers. Nonetheless, membrane switch keyboards feature a unique design that distinguishes them from dome-switch and other types of keyboards.

What Are Membrane Switch Keyboards?

Also known simply as membrane keyboards, membrane switch keyboards are characterized by the use of multiple membrane layers. The top layer features the button keys printed on it. On the underside of the top layer is conductive traces. Membrane switch keyboards also have a bottom layer. The bottom layer is devoid of button keys. Instead, it only features conductive traces. The conductive traces of both the top and bottom layers face each other.

How Membrane Switch Keyboards Work

Membrane switch keyboards work like traditional membrane switches. They feature two layers with conductive traces that face each other. By default, the two layers are separated by a gap.

When you press a button on a membrane switch keyboard, you’ll push the button of the top layer into the button of the bottom layer. Since both layers contain conductive traces, this will complete the button’s circuit. The membrane switch keyboard will then register your keystroke while sending the appropriate signal to the computer.

Flat-Panel vs Full-Travel Membrane Switch Keyboards

It’s important to note that there are different types of membrane switch keyboards, including flat panel and full travel. Flat-panel membrane keyboards are ideal for use in humid or moist environments. Many of them, in fact, are completely waterproof. They feature a top layer that’s completely sealed from the bottom layer.

Full-travel membrane keyboards feature plungers. They still have two layers, both of which contain conductive traces, but that are designed with a plunger for each key. These plungers allow for stronger tactile feedback. You can feel the keys spring back up after releasing your finger. With stronger tactile feedback, full-travel membrane keyboards are often preferred over flat-panel membrane switch keyboards.

In Conclusion

Dome-switch isn’t the only keyboard technology on the market. Another common keyboard technology is membrane switch. Membrane switch keyboards leverage two layers. The top layer features the button keys, whereas the bottom layer only features conductive traces. When you press a key, the two layers will touch each other, resulting in the completion of a circuit for that key.

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