Active web vs dead web in elastomer keypads

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By Steve Baker | Mar 13, 2020
An elastomer keypad with an active-web design

In a recent blog, we discussed how elastomer keypads offer unparalleled design flexibility to fit your product’s unique feel and specifications. Once you have decided on using an elastomer keypad, it is important to create an optimal customer experience by tailoring the exact feel of each button. Depending on the application, there are several design considerations to take into account.

Should it be difficult to press down to avoid accidental activation, or easy to press for a consumer application such as a television remote? Should the button make an audible snap sound when pressed? Regardless of which is desired, elastomer keypads can be customized to feel and behave a multitude of different ways by employing either an active web or a dead web design.

An elastomer button with an active web design has a small web at the base of the button that flexes when the button is pressed. The resistance of this flex gives a tactile response as the button is pushed down, informing the user of the switch actuation. A carbon or metallic puck is molded into the underside of the button, which completes the circuit when the button is pressed.

In contrast, a dead web design on an elastomer keypad is a button without any web at the base. Instead of the web providing the tactile feedback, a metal dome is inserted under the button itself. The metal dome provides the tactile response and an audible click sound when pressed.

One of the differences between the two designs is the cost of manufacturing. For an active web design, the tooling can be slightly more expensive since the resistance is governed by the web itself. This typically requires more trial and error to determine the thickness of the web, since the entire keypad is molded as one piece. It can be tricky to figure out exactly how much actuation force is needed to press the button to get it to the exact desired resistance. For a dead web button, the inserted metal dome dictates the resistance, and the metal domes typically have a very specific amount of actuating force needed to be pressed. Simply, the specific dome is selected based on how much force is desired.

Another important difference is the cleanability of both types. While both are sealed and work well in harsh environments, it can be easier to clean dead web keypads since the buttons usually do not protrude as much as with active web designs. In addition, they typically don’t come through a bezel, providing less space for unwanted material to get trapped. Due to the lack of bezel and the low profile of dead web designs, they generally are much easier to clean.

While there are differences between them, the decision on whether to use an active web or dead web design ultimately comes down to the desired user experience for the specific product. To learn more about all of the possibilities with elastomer, visit our elastomer page.