How to choose a keypad or overlay for a security panel

The fire and security industry has seen a huge surge in investment since the London bombings in July 2006 and the riots across the UK in 2011. This has meant that the UK’s security industry is now worth £1bn with businesses having turned to manufacturers to provide cutting edge systems.

An important component of fire and security systems are the control panels which need toincorporate a simplified, but effective design. As a result, graphic overlays and membrane keypads have been growing in popularity across the industry over the last few years, as manufacturers avoid older and more bulky keypads.

Membrane keypads are made up of three main elements which include a graphic overlay, an electrically insulating spacer, and a printed film circuit. They can be tactile or non-tactile, and are an ideal option for many products across a wide range of industries.

These are chosen by manufacturers in the sector as they are extremely robust and can handle a variety of extreme conditions. Keypads are also versatile, and can be used on a variety of different products including; electronic access control panels and CCTV, intruder alarms, fire detection and control panels, gates, barriers, and door entry systems 

Why should I use a membrane keypad?

Membrane keypads can also be compact, in some cases assemblies can be designed as thin as 0.4mm, giving a more modern look than other keypads – for example a rubber keymat mounted onto a PCB switch. Advances in manufacturing means that silver circuits can be printed double sided to produce the equivalent of four layer PCBs that can fit smaller and more compact applications.

In many cases, flame retardants can be incorporated into the manufacturing process. For instance, Fascia manufactures keypads and overlays which incorporate Lexan flame retardant clear polycarbonate films that have a listing of UL94-V0. These films are suitable for most applications and can be used effectively when thermoforming, hydroforming, embossing, die-cutting, folding, and bending.

Before going into production, it’s a good idea to get some advice from an experienced manufacturer on the different features you may want to consider including:

Appearance – Tailor-made in design, shape and colour, membrane keypads offer flexibility in the choice of layout, and can incorporate a range of finishes to give a sleek and modern look. A wide selection of surface finishes can be combined with a variety of embossing techniques to produce graphic overlays with the highest cosmetic appeal and physical toughness. A hardcoat polyester film gives a brushed stainless steel effect, and chrome ink technology gives a bright metallic finish. Selective UV finishes together with insertable legend systems can also be incorporated to provide maximum adaptability.

Shielding – Overlays and keypads must be impervious to interference from energy in order to protect internal components. Fascia has the ability to shield products from radio frequency interference (RFI) and electromagnetic waves (EMC) to reduce the risk of the product malfunctioning without compromising the reliability of the product.

Sealability – IP (Ingress Protection) ratings define the level of protection a membrane keypad has from the intrusion of dirt and moisture. The first digit represents the protection of ingress from solid objects, and the second, from the ingress of liquids. Fascia has the ability to IP rate keypads up to IP68, to prevent water or dirt intrusion. This ensures the keypad is sealed and cannot be damaged even when submerged in water.

Backlighting or LEDs – Membrane keypads can include a wealth of specialist features, such as a ‘secret-til-lit’ function, fibre optics, electro-luminescent back illumination, or surface mounted light emitting diodes (LEDs) – which can be used as warning or indicator lights, due to their effective way of communicating the status of the device to the user.

It is also important that each product is value engineered. At Fascia, we identify cost savings by taking a value engineering approach to make suggestions about materials, adhesives and specification of parts, to ensure customers receive the most cost effective, high-quality product possible.

Paul Bennett is the Managing Director of Fascia Graphics, the market leaders for the production of membrane keypads and graphic overlays.

Contact: Fascia Graphics
Switchboard: 01249 460 606   Sales: 01249 646 580
Email: [email protected]
Bath Road Industrial Estate, Chippenham, Wiltshire, SN14, OAB