Choosing the Right Industrial Keyboard

In addition to office applications, industrial keyboards are increasingly common in HMI (Human Machine Interface) terminals, IoT (Internet of Things), POS (Point of Sale) devices, kiosks, medical carts and mobile devices.

Industrial keyboards are designed for operation in extreme conditions

Some keyboards used in areas open to the public can be “vandal-resistant.” Those used in high-risk industrial environments are often hardened so they are shock and explosion resistant. They are rugged and often protected against water, dust, dirt, oil and chemicals. They can be cleaned with industrial cleaners and chemicals.

Another special feature of industrial keyboards is that they are designed to be perfectly integrated into your work environment: open frame or built-in version, panel mount, rack mount, etc.

View industrial keyboards

  • How to choose an industrial keyboard?

    Pepperl+Fuchs keyboard
    Pepperl+Fuchs keyboard

    Your choice of keyboard depends on your application and should be based on:

    • The number of keys: it is up to you to determine if you need numbers, letters, function keys (F1, F2) etc. A standard keyboard has 101 or 102 keys, but there are multiple configurations available with a variable number of keys (from 24 to 128).
    • Mounting: you can choose between many mounting options: VESA & AMPS mounted (on external support), front panel mount, rack mount, etc.
    • The necessary protection: vandal-proof, waterproof, explosion-proof, electromagnetic field compatible, etc.
    • The desired pointing device: trackball, touchpad, pointing button or joystick.
  • What types of mounting exist for industrial keyboards?

    Desktop: these closed or encased keyboards are configured for office applications. Desktop keyboards often use an inclined casing or folding feet to tilt the keyboard surface towards the operator.

    Panel mount: these are built-in keyboards allowing for easy integration on the upper or front surface of an instrument panel or equipment, for example on the control panel of a machine.

    Rack mount/rack drawer: keyboards with optimized dimensions for perfect integration into shelves or drawers in order to access video, keyboard and touchpad functions from a single workstation and manage one or more servers.

    OEM /open frame: this version without a frame or casing is intended to be integrated into a machine or kiosk.

  • What pointing device should you choose for your industrial keyboard?

    NSI touchpad
    NSI touchpad

    Keyboards can have an integrated pointing device replacing the mouse:

    • A trackball: allows for more precise cursor control and is usable by both right-handed and left-handed people. The trackball also has the advantage of being user-friendly.
    • A touchpad (or trackpad): moves the cursor by simply sliding a fingertip over the surface.
    • A Force-Sensing Resistor (FSR): this force sensor pointing device measures the pressure exerted on a sensor cell with variable resistance. This technology can be integrated into thin and flexible applications.
    • A joystick: with this type of system, the operator moves the mobile part (joystick) to control the movement of the cursor. Single-axis or multi-axis joysticks are available depending on the complexity of the application.
  • What are the protection standards for industrial keyboards?

    EOZ keyboard
    EOZ keyboard

    A good industrial keyboard must meet safety standards:

    • Vandal-proof keyboards: are very robust, almost indestructible, often made of steel and waterproof, they are designed for outdoor use, for example in kiosks and terminals for the public.
    • IP index: you must know the operating conditions and environment in order to select the necessary protection index (IP index). The first digit indicates protection against solids, the second digit indicates protection against water and/or liquids. Industrial keyboards are generally rated IP65 or IP68.
    • IK rating: the 2-digit IK rating indicates the mechanical protection index for protection against impact energy, given in joules. It indicates the equivalent to the fall of a mass of a certain weight from a certain height. For example IK01 => material protected against an impact energy of 0.15 joules (impact equivalent to the fall of a 150 g mass from a height of 10 cm).
    • ATEX standards: concern the protection of people working in environments sensitive to explosion risk. There are industrial monitors that comply with ATEX standards for use in explosion risk areas.
    • MIL-STD-810G/F is an American standard that indicates the robustness of a device. This standard was developed for the US military and is now used commercially to indicate to what degree a product is suitable for the environmental conditions.
    • MIL-STD-461 also comes from the US military and indicates electromagnetic compatibility.
  • Which connector should you choose for your industrial keyboard?

    Connectivity refers to the physical connections used for data transmission and electrical connections. You can choose between:

    • PS2 (Personal System/2): this was the connector used to connect the keyboard and/or mouse before the arrival of USB. With this connection, it is essential to connect the device to the computer before turning it on, otherwise the keyboard/mouse will not work.
    • USB: is the most versatile and widespread connector technology. USB is used for connecting devices.
    • Wireless: There are two main technologies: the IEEE 802.11 standard, better known as Wi-Fi; and the wireless keyboard that works with Bluetooth via a receiver connected to a USB port.
    • Serial ATA (or SATA): allows you to connect devices compatible with this standard (hard disk, DVD drive, etc.) to a motherboard. It specifies a data transfer format as well as a cable format.
    • CANbus: uses an approach known as multiplexing, which consists in connecting a large number of ECUs to the same cable (a bus), which then communicate one at a time, thus avoiding having too many cables (depending on the application). The CAN (Controller Area Network) data bus is a serial system bus that is widely used in many industries, including the automotive industry.

    The connectors you choose depend on the computer or terminal you are going to connect the keyboard to and what ports are available on it.

  • How to choose the type of keys and technology for your industrial keyboard?

    With mechanical keys: when a key is pressed, a switch is activated that sends a signal to the processor.

    • Advantages: speed, ease of use, individually replaceable keys in case one stops working.
    • Disadvantages: more expensive and noisier than membrane keyboards.

    Membrane keyboards: are made of several layers of polyester. This type of keyboard has a visible layer (with decoration) and an invisible layer that includes circuits made from silver and/or conductive carbon screen printing. Membrane keyboards can be flat (simple and affordable), or have metal pads or dome switches to create a tactile sensation.

    • Advantages: they are easy to customize and less expensive than mechanical keyboards.
    • Disadvantages: shorter service life and slower than mechanical keyboards.

    Touchpad keyboards: we differentiate between capacitive touch (which reacts to a change in the electromagnetic field when touched by a finger) and resistive touch (two layers that come into contact when a finger presses down causing a current to flow). The disadvantage to capacitive touch is that you must press the keys with your bare fingers, so you cannot wear gloves when working.

    Piezoelectric keyboards: involve applying a mechanical charge to certain crystals such as quartz or Rochelle salts to produce electrical charges.

    • Advantages: very sturdy, can be used near water, long service life.

    Types of technology:

    • mechanical keys
    • membrane
    • capacitive touchscreen
    • resistive touchscreen
    • piezoelectric
  • What other optons are available for an industrial keyboard?

    There are other options when choosing an industrial keyboard in addition to the type of mounting, pointing device and connectors best suited to your application. The elements left to consider include:

    • Integration of USB hubs for optimal connectivity.
    • Backlighting, for use in poorly lit areas.
    • Custom keyboards: most industrial keyboard manufacturers can provide you with a custom solution, so that you have a keyboard that is perfectly adapted to your use.
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  • Replacement Laptop Keys says:

    This post is completely dedicated to people looking to buy the right keyboard for industrial purposes. It covers all aspects that an ideal industrial keyboard must-have. Keep sharing such useful content.

  • waterproof keyboard says:

    Flexible electronics have been cited in connection with an extraordinarily broad range of product applications where bendable and stretchable characteristics offer value.

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