When designing keypads for use in a sensitive environment, more engineers are turning to silicone rubber instead of hard plastic. It’s useful for settings where there shouldn’t be much noise, a lot of people working in shared spaces and where focusing on the project at hand requires a fairly quiet setting. Silicone rubber keypads and keyboard are ideal for noise-sensitive environments.
Sounds of Silence
When it comes to working in a room full of busy people, finding the right touch on keypads and keyboards isn’t just about accuracy, it’s about not disrupting your neighbors. A soft sound that’s barely audible is better than having to listen to the clickety-clack of hard plastic keyboards for any amount of time. For the people sitting near co-workers who pound away on their computer keyboards at 100 words per minute, silence is golden. Rubber molded keyboards can eliminate the glares and stares from just a few feet away. During the manufacturing process, silicone rubber molding can be adjusted to have softer consistencies so that the sound of fingers tapping is nearly non-existent – or even silent.
The snap force of a device is the amount of give the user feels when pressing a button on a rubber keypad. Also referred to as the tactile response, it provides assurance that the button has been pressed. While most rubber keypads are set to about a 50-percent tactile response level, a higher tactile response level requires a harder strike to the keys. When designing keypads that need to be some degree of quiet, a softer tactile response, or one that’s less than 50 percent, is a better choice. A lower snap force makes it easier to type faster. The key shapes and features also affect the sound and the tactile response.
Military keypad manufacturing typically demands a silicone rubber design to comply with the performance necessary for a successful mission. Another advantage that the softer liquid silicone molding brings to the military is that it’s ideal for rugged environments. Whether it’s a remote control device to maneuver drones in an operation out in the field or a military computer onboard a convoy vehicle, silicone rubber molding is hardier than hard plastic material. Extreme heat and cold affect the durability of plastic, but not military silicone rubber molding. As keyboards for rugged computers and communications devices, silicone rubber is also waterproof, dust-proof and resistant to certain chemicals. The usability of military keypads and keyboards in these situations can have a significant impact on the success or failure of a mission.
There are many mechanical design factors to consider when building a product for use in noise-sensitive environments. Consult our SiTECH Application Guide to view our recommendations for material and processes for product design using silicone rubber molding.