You all know about keyboards. The keyboard helps you to type by pressing keys and also helps to transfer data. You know about the keyboards but are not well aware of the keyboard PCBs. The PCB is the heart and soul of any keyboard, providing the electrical connections necessary for the switches to function.
Keyboard PCBs are an area of interest for hardware enthusiasts, gamers, or engineers. A layman doesn’t show interest in keyboard PCBs. So if you are a hardware enthusiast or engineer then, you need comprehensive information about keyboard PCBs. Let’s dig deeper to learn more about Keyboard PCBs.
What Is a Keyboard PCB?
PCBs are the heart of any functioning device. Without a PCB, a keyboard simply wouldn’t work. So, whether you’re building your own keyboard from scratch or upgrading an existing one, choosing the right PCB is key. It is a plane sheet in a computer that acts as the foundation of the keyboard. A keyboard PCB enables you to determine which key you press on your computer. Now you can make sense of and define what happens—when you press a key on the keyboard.
Also, the keyboard PCB has some significant parts, which include:
The Physical Keys
You can see physical keys with your eyes on the top of the board.
It is the foundation of a keyboard. It is a flat board made of insulating material. Electronic components are mounted. PCB helps to connect different parts of keyboards with each other. PCB is an important part of the keyboard. It helps determine the layout and the electrical connections between the keys. The switches, which are the mechanical components that register keystrokes, are soldered onto the PCB. The diodes, which are used to prevent ghosting and ensure that each key press is registered accurately, are also soldered onto the PCB.
The microcontroller is the brain of the keyboard. It is mounted onto the PCB. It receives input from the switches. Overall, the keyboard PCB plays a critical role in the functioning of a keyboard, and it determines the layout, switch type, and features of the keyboard.
Suitable Materials for Keyboard PCB
You have to consider several factors while selecting a keyboard PCB. Fortunately, you can find several materials for keyboard PCB manufacturing.
Here are some of the most common materials used for keyboard PCBs:
· FR4 material
FR4 is a popular material for PCBs due to its low cost and high durability. It is made of woven fiberglass and epoxy resin. It has excellent properties like moisture and heat resistance. furthermore, FR4 doesn’t change its shape even at higher temperatures. FR4 is an ideal choice for DIY keyboard builders. In simple words, you can say it is a safer option.
It is an expensive material. It has better heat and chemical resistance as compared to FR4. Furthermore, polyimide has excellent thermal stability and can withstand high temperatures up to 260°C without degrading. Polyimide is a lightweight material that does not add significant weight to the keyboard PCB. That’s why it is commonly used in high-end keyboards and other electronic devices. However, it is more expensive than FR4. That’s why it is the first choice of professional manufacturers. Furthermore, being lightweight makes it suitable for portable computers.
Ceramic printed boards are highly durable and resistant to heat and corrosion. But they are more expensive than FR4 or polyimide. As you all know, that keyboard undergoes a lot of wear and tear due to constant use. Ceramic PCBs can withstand this type of abuse better than other materials. Ceramic also has high dielectric strength and low electrical conductivity.
It is also a costly material, buts its low-friction property makes it a good choice for keyboard PCB. It shows better performance. However, manufacturers are less likely to choose it. Usually, manufacturers prefer FR materials and polyimide.
Ultimately, the choice of material will depend on the specific needs of the keyboard designer.
Furthermore, the intended use of the keyboard also helps to decide the suitable materials. You can also keep in mind the cost factors. If you are a beginner or hobbyist, then choose a less expensive material.
How to Design a Keyboard PCB?
Designing a printed circuit board (PCB) for a keyboard involves several steps. It is a bit complex process, and here’s a general overview of the process:
1. Schematic design
The first step is to create a schematic diagram of the keyboard’s circuitry. This involves selecting and placing components on a circuit diagram and connecting them with wires or traces. There is several advanced software that helps in designing Schematic design. It saves your time and makes your work hassle-free. In simple words, it provides you guidelines for every step.
2. Component placement
Once the schematic is complete, the next step is to place the components in the PCB layout. This involves arranging the components in a logical order. It is a critical step, and you have to be cautious. You can place certain components with each other. You have to consider many other things like signal interference and connectivity. That’s why software like KiCad or EasyEDA can help to create the layout. This software-generated layout helps you to avoid many layout problems.
3. Routing and design verification
Routing means to make the way. It is the next step to make connections between them. This involves drawing the traces that connect the components. Make sure that traces do not cross over each other. You may also need to add ground planes for signal integrity. Without proper connectivity, your keyboard PCB doesn’t serve the purpose. Now all components are placed. Routing has been done. But there is a need for design verification. In this way, you can verify that the design meets the requirements for PCB manufacturing. You can run a design rule check to find problematic areas.
4. Manufacturing and assembly
Now your design is ready for manufacturing. Many PCB manufacturers are available, and you can choose one based on cost, lead time, and quality. After the PCB is manufactured, you will need to assemble the components onto the board. This involves soldering the components onto the board and testing the keyboard to ensure that it functions correctly.
Designing a keyboard PCB is a complex and bit technical process. If you are a hobbyist and want to do it for the sake of a hobby, then well and good. You must have the right tools and resources. It’s important to carefully plan the design, follow best practices for layout and routing, and thoroughly tests the design before manufacturing. You can explore many service providers for this purpose. You can hire a professional for keyboard PCB design for better results. Mostly DIY keyboard PCBs need to be fixed due to their limitations.
Things To Keep in Mind Before Keyboard PCB Buying
Here are five things to consider before purchasing a keyboard PCB:
Make sure the PCB you choose matches the size of your keyboard case. The most common sizes are 60 percent, 65 percent, 100 percent, etc. Size also helps you to determine your needs. For example, if you need a keyboard for typing, then you may require a large PCB. Similarly, for gaming purposes, a 65 percent PCB serves best.
It is necessary to check. Sometimes your chosen keyboard PCB does go well with switches and ports. PCBs may only support certain types of buttons or may not support split or orthogonal layouts.
· PCB Layout
Consider the layout you want to use with your PCB. Some PCBs support multiple layouts, while others may not do so.
Selection of material is important when it comes to the keyboard PCB. A low-quality material can ruin everything. Choose high quality durable and heat-resistant material. Durable material can withstand heavy use. You can go for reputable brands for this purpose. This will help ensure that you get a reliable product that meets your needs.
· Hot-Swappable or Normal PCB
We recommend you go for Hot-Swappable PCB. It gives you freedom of replacement. You can replace the switch easily. It’s suppler than the standard keyboard PCB.
Price is the last step in the selection. You should not compromise quality over price. That’s why the price is the last thing in my check list. It is important to consider your budget, but sometimes you have to give importance to choosing a PCB that offers the features you need at a price you can afford. By keeping these factors in mind, you can choose a keyboard PCB that meets your needs and will provide a great working experience.
So, there you have it – a comprehensive overview of keyboard PCBs! It is the foundation stone. Overall, keyboard PCBs are a fascinating and essential component of any keyboard. With the right one, you can achieve the perfect combination of functionality, reliability, and style. So go ahead, explore your options, and find the right PCB for the keyboard.