Industrial keyboards

Industrial keyboards: Robust, reliable and easy to use

Published in PC & Industry 09/2021: Article as .pdf >>

The crane is controlled with dirty work gloves, the keyboard is exposed to permanent vibrations and grinding dust in the assembly hall - no question, industrial applications demand a lot from input units. One robust construction, simple operation and reliable function are the key parameters here. The input unit must be optimal protected against vibration and shock oder sogar explosion resistant be constructed. It should be resistant to water, dust, dirt, oils and chemicals, and be able to withstand temperature fluctuations. Despite the high demands, come different keyboard and button solutions depending on the area of ​​application as an industrial keyboard.

stainless steel keyboards

Desktop stainless steel keyboard as an industrial keyboard

The first thought when asking for a robust input solution is obvious stainless steel keyboards. Especially found in public space or local transport, as well as in industrial machine controls vandal-proof keyboards Application. In terms of appearance, the standard version is analogous to any conventional PC keyboard and thus benefits from a high level of acceptance. Another advantage for customers is that there is a very wide product range of stainless steel keyboards and therefore no initial costs, as for customer-specific input keyboards, arise. Despite the standard, customization is also possible here through the button layout, printing and backlighting in smaller frames. The keys are labeled by laser engraving or etching, which means that the key symbols are wear-free. Colored graphics or raised symbols, such as B. Braille or other customer-specific labels possible.

High protection class

The body and buttons are made entirely of stainless steel and typically come with fully sealed keymat technology. Both in the front installation and in the rear installation variant is a Protection class up to IP67 and impact class up to IK10 possible. Fully encased desktop keyboards even reach one IP class of 68 and are therefore protected against permanent submersion. The integration of touchpads and trackballs is also possible without sacrificing the protection class. Input solutions made of stainless steel are often used as industrial keyboards in areas where damage by vandalism is to be expected or where they are exposed to heavy loads from environmental influences and user interaction.

Different installation variants

Thanks to various installation variants and common interfaces, stainless steel keyboards can be easily integrated into existing work environments. They also defy fluctuating temperatures with an average working range of -20°C – +60°C. In addition, many providers also offer pure number blocks and function keys in different sizes made of stainless steel.


Robust pushbuttons for public areas

If only single keys are needed, are pushbutton made of stainless steel or robust plastic is an option. The buttons often take on the functions of a pure command transmitter, so that signals such as start and stop or forward and reverse or emergency stop, clearly communicated become. With engraved or printed lenses, colored status LEDs and various housing colors, these are given a individual appearance. Even the presentation is enhanced by multicolor lighting multicolored status indications possible. The buttons are built directly into a front panel or a housing and reach a Protection class up to IP68 / IP69K. The service life of several million cycles also makes the buttons very reliable. Almost maintenance-free are made of metal Piezo button. By eliminating a mechanical hub, wear and tear and dirt are almost eliminated. Lifetimes of over 50 million cycles are now the standard.

Customized solution

If the standard product is not enough, one must customized HMI interface as an industrial keyboard. Especially control units of construction and agricultural machines, as well as mobile input devices for outdoor use are mainly manufactured customer-specifically. The devices often need a smaller number of functions, but one good visibility, sufficient big buttons with haptic and partly also acoustic Feedback and high mechanical durability. The working environment here demands reliable operation, even with heavy work gloves, a high level of background noise and sometimes extreme weather conditions. Therefore find present membrane keyboards and silicone keymats Due to their freedom of design, closed surface, resistance to chemicals and their tightness against liquids and dust, they are used in industrial environments.

Silicone switch mat as an industrial keyboard

Silicone switch mats with seal as an industrial keyboard

The silicone keymat it adapts to your construction and is extremely flexible and space-saving. Keycaps made of metal and plastic, different key shapes and individual key colors can be easily implemented in one mat. The individual keys can be designed to be abrasion-resistant thanks to special coatings. It triggers a direct switching function on the circuit board underneath and determines the haptics, the visual and tactile impression and the electrical behavior via the integrated contact elements. In addition, the safety mat often assumes a sealing function on the printed circuit board.

Integrated seals

Button designs with integrated gaskets ensure a dust and moisture-proof housing integration up to IP67. A higher protection class can be achieved by full overmolding of a housing with an integrated keyboard layout. The mechanical Service life with up to 10 million switching cycles makes the silicone keymat a long-lived and almost maintenance-free input solution. The lighting of individual keys or the entire mat is off LEDs can be implemented in connection with transparent silicone or integrated light guides. The presentation of status displays in individual keys is also possible thanks to a very precise 2-component injection molding process. Without LEDs, silicone keymats made of phosphorescent silicone acquire luminous properties. Lighting offers users an advantage in avoiding incorrect entries in the often diffuse lighting conditions in industrial halls.

The force-displacement behavior of a silicone keymat can be customized to the requirements of the respective application. This means that the high actuating forces of 200g - 500g and actuating travel of 0,3 to 5,0 mm that are typical for industry are also possible. The silicone keymat can demonstrate its advantages above all when large quantities are required. The high one-off costs for the tools make small series very expensive. Compared to equipment with individual buttons, however, they are also in middle series significantly cheaper.

Membrane keyboard as an industrial keyboard

Membrane keyboard as an industrial keyboard

The way food is membrane keyboard can take any form with the use of tools and is the cheaper option compared to the silicone keymat in smaller quantities. The Design option there are hardly any limits due to screen and digital printing processes, as well as specially embossed foils and surface coatings. Also the Lighting A membrane keyboard can be easily implemented by integrating LEDs, while retaining its flat structure. The decorative foil as the top layer of the keyboard consists of polyester or polycarbonate and is printed on the back to ensure the best possible protection against abrasion. In comparison with other flexible materials, polyester in particular is impressive with a long life cycle of over 1 million switching cycles, very high abrasion resistance and resistance to chemicals.

Foil embossing for finger guidance

In order to ensure a concise fingering, the Decorative film be embossed. There is the possibility of button, dome and edge embossing with which very ergonomic button shapes can be realized. A high-quality epoxy coating gives the keys a three-dimensional appearance. Integrated snap-action discs provide tactile feedback, which when actuated produce a noticeable touching feeling and, depending on the version, an audible “click” sound. This direct feedback reduces file entry errors. The combination of metal snap domes with a high actuation force and button embossing is common in the industrial environment.

hybrid form

In addition, there is the possibility to replace the upper polyester film with a silicone surface to replace. This silicone cover with buttons can be used as an actuation-only layer on the circuit pack of a normal membrane keyboard laminate on. The resulting one Hybrid of classic membrane keyboard and silicone keymat gives scope to combine the advantages of the individual input solutions in one keyboard. With the silicone surface, a three-dimensional design can be realized, a point at which the membrane keyboard is naturally severely limited. This makes it possible to have protruding keys with free shapes, guide elements such as separate rings around a key, Braille labels or cursor keys. At the same time, the surface is visually and haptically enhanced.

To reinforce the membrane keyboard Membrane keyboards and decorative foilson bespoke backing plates be mounted with press-in bolts. Aluminum plates are used as standard, but other metals or plastic plates are also possible. The membrane keyboard is glued to the carrier plate over its entire surface. A complete assembly with display and printed circuit board is also possible. By integrating seals, a membrane keyboard can achieve protection class IP67, which makes it an interesting solution for an industrial keyboard.

Multi-touch display solutions

Capacitive multi-touch display solutions are also suitable for use in industrial environments, at least in terms of their protection classes and technical parameters. However, the limitation of gloveless operation does not fit into every work environment. However, if to simplify a complex machine control, displays are desired, a resistive Single touch display be an option. In combination with pushbuttons, a membrane keyboard or a silicone switch mat as an additional input element, user-friendly menu navigation can also be promoted. Recurring input commands or preset parameters can be called up quickly, easily and clearly using the mechanical keys. Thanks to the haptic feedback from the mechanical command transmitter, user-related input errors can be avoided, which increases the safety of operation. For easier handling, the displays can be equipped with anti-reflection and anti-fingerprint coatings.

Conclusion about industrial keyboards

In the industrial environment in particular, conventional input keyboards and buttons are still very common. The trend towards miniaturization, as in other areas of application, plays less of a role here. The requirements for service life, protection class and technical equipment are increasing.

Keyboard solutions and industrial keyboards have always been one of our core competencies and we support and advise you extensively on equipment and material selection. We can also take over the complete development and construction of the right keyboard for your application. We look forward to your inquiry!


Specialist article on input keyboards

Multisensory membrane keyboards in medical technology
Capacitive membrane keyboards: Traditional design combined with touch technology
Silicone switch mats vs. membrane keyboards in medical technology - a decision-making aid for developers
Efficient input in a small format - versatility of membrane keyboards and silicone keymats
The silicone keymat: A classic with future potential
Keyboard solutions for industry
Keyboards in medical technology
Membrane keyboards – the perfect addition to touch
Does the conventional keyboard have a future?
Advantages of membrane keyboards