Blog  /  Keyboard PCB: The Design, and Factors Necessary to Build One

Keyboard PCB: The Design, and Factors Necessary to Build One

Are you a hardware enthusiast, gamer, or engineer that wants to build a custom keyboard that meets your needs? Then, you need comprehensive information about keyboard PCB.

A keyboard PCB is what distinguishes the regular keyboard from a mechanical keyboard. So, no matter the keyboard you plan to build, mechanical or traditional membrane keyboards, you need an in-depth knowledge of different keyboard types of PCBs.

The good news is; that we have created this article to answer all your questions concerning keyboard PCB.

So, if you're ready, let's get started.  

What Is a Keyboard PCB?

 

It's a panel or sheet in a computer that acts as the foundation of the keyboard—created to sense and define what happens—when you press a key.

With the keyboard PCB, you can also determine which key you press on your computer. And you can transfer data to the computer—using the keyboard.

Also, the keyboard PCB has two significant parts, which include:

  • The physical keys, which you can see with your eyes

 

Keyboard Physical Keys

Keyboard Physical Keys

 

 

Most manufacturers create keyboard circuit boards with thin sheet layers of plastic, epoxy, or metal components.  

Plate Mounted Versus PCB Mounted Switches

 

Plate-mounted board and PCB-mounted board switches are two types of mounting styles. And you can find them on mechanical keyboards.

In this section, we will find out their differences and similarities.  

Plate Mounted Switch

 

This switch comes with a dish because it doesn't have stabilization pins like the PCB-mounted switch. As mentioned earlier, this switch has only three pins at its lower part. Plus, it needs a plate to work—hence its name plate-mounted control.

Also, the mounting plate on this switch gives your keyboard a more sturdy, rugged, and stable feel. And you can find this switch on large or full-size keyboards.  

PCB Mounted Switch

 

Unlike the plate-mounted switch, this switch has five pins attached to its base. Indeed, the five pins at the bottom have their functions. The first two pins have plastic compositions, and they help with stability. There's one pin located in the middle, which resembles a large round handle. And the last two pins are responsible for making the switch work.

Also, the PCB-mounted switch comes with guiding pins that enable easy mounting of the button on a PCB. This feature isn't available on a plate-mounted switch.

But that's not all.

The PCB-mounted switch is ideal for a small or compact keyboard. They are less flexible and require little or no construction. Why?

Finally, the PCB-mounted switch would be the perfect go-to if you want a keyboard with softer keys.  

The Main Difference between Mechanical and Membrane Keyboards

 

Here is a summary of the difference between the mechanical and membrane keyboards:

Mechanical Keyboard Membrane Keyboard
Expensive and bulky. Affordable and light.
Have a longer lifespan. Have a limited lifespan.
Under the keycaps, there are spring-loaded switches that trigger when you press. And it responds with a loud click sound. It has rubber underneath. So, it gives a distinct mushy type feel when you press the keys. And they are relatively silent.
Due to its design, it offers better overall feedback. It gives decent feedback.
Mechanical keyboards have a crucial rollover feature to spot various vital presses simultaneously. This feature is essential for crouch jumping, playing games, fast typing, etc. The membrane keyboard doesn't have a crucial rollover feature. Hence, the keyboard lags your input because of limited processing.
You can operate the mechanical keyboard keys gently. And its mechanism will have automatic detection as long as you press the key far enough. You have to press the keys very hard. That way, the rubber layer will have contact with the circuit.
You can customize this keyboard. It isn't easy to customize the membrane keyboard.
 

How to Build a Custom Mechanical Keyboard?

 

This section will discuss the steps, electronic components, and critical factors required to build one.

First, here are the required materials you'll need.

  • PCB (circuit board)
  • Keycaps

 

USB cable

USB cable

  • Backplate and case

 

Keyboard Backplate

Keyboard Backplate

 

  • Stabilizers
  • Keyboard switch

 

Keyboard Switches

Keyboard Switches

 

Selecting the Parts

 

First, the keyboard you intend to build should determine the PCB size you choose. So, if you plan to build a large keyboard, go for 60 – 75 percent PCB boards.

In contrast, a smaller keyboard requires a lower percentage of about 40 - 50.

So, it's best to go for a 75 percent layout PCB because it strikes a balance between functionality and Size.

If you plan to create a board with ANSI, go for a stabilizer with the following:

  • Enter key
  • Shift keys
  • Backspace
  • Spacebar

But if you want a Numpad on your keyboard, choose stabilizers with:

  • + Key
  • 0 Key
  • Enter Key

Also, there are two critical stabilizers; cherry MX-style switches and costar.  

We recommend that you settle for cherry stabilizers because they are less fussy.

For keyboard switches, we advise that you settle for a PCB-mounted button because they are usually more durable and have a softer feel than plate-mounted.

Regarding keycaps, there are two primary options: PBT and ABS plastic.

Both keycaps are good. But the PBT stands out as it's way sturdier than ABS plastic. The only snag is that it's pretty expensive. But it's worth the price.  

Combining All Parts

 

  1. First, you must test the keyboard PCB to check if it's working. And you can achieve this by using a metal device to join the switch of each contact pad. You can also use this keyboard tester site to test the switch positions online.
  2. Next, mount the cherry stabilizers to the PCB. Ensure you're placing the stabilizers correctly. The general rule is to understand your keyboard layout before installing the stabilizers. That way, you'd avoid repeating the process—if it doesn't fit.
  3. After mounting the switch to the PCB, turn the PCB over and solder the parts. You can solder the components by evenly heating the electrical contact and the switch's pin together. By doing so, you'll connect the two regions. Also, ensure to use the ideal holes for your keyboard layout when installing the PCB-mounted switch.

However, be careful not to turn your soldering into a dome. Instead, do it patiently and don't apply too much heat even if the solder isn't flowing because you can break a component on your board. If you're finding it hard to get the solder job, allow it to cool off before attempting again.

  1. After soldering, the next thing is to insert the keycaps. This process is the easiest thing you'll do. But it could be time-consuming if you're mounting a ton of keycaps.
  2. So, the last thing to do is test your keyboard. You can plug it into your computer depending on the USB type your PCB comes with, Mini-USB, Micro USB, or Type C. Then, check all the keys and ensure they are all working.

 

Mechanical Keyboard PCB Buying Considerations

 

Here are five things to consider before purchasing a mechanical keyboard PCB:  

PCB layout or Size

 

The PCB layout or Size you choose when making a mechanical keyboard depends on your desired keyboard size. So, if you plan to use your keyboard for gaming and data entry, a large-sized keyboard is what you'll need. That means you should equally go for a large PCB keyboard size or layout between 65 – 87 percent.  

But if your keyboard is only for gaming, go for a regular-sized or minor keyboard size. That means you'll have to settle for a smaller PCB layout or Size between 40 – 60 percent.  

RGB support

 

An RGB Gaming keyboard

An RGB Gaming keyboard

 

When choosing a keyboard PCB, there's RGB or Non-RGB backlight support. The RGB backlight is preferable because it gives a bright ambiance at night. And it's more beautiful. However, it's more expensive than the non-RGB backlight version.  

Brand

 

There are a ton of brands that produce keyboard PCBs in the market. But not all deliver high-quality and reliable PCBs. So, you must be cautious when choosing a company with quality PCBs. Fortunately, at OurPCB, we believe in quality and show it with our high-quality keyboard PCBs.  

Price

 

Pay attention to the price when considering a keyboard PCB and other related parts. It is essential. Hence, we recommend that you place quality over price.  

Hot-Swappable Or Normal PCB

 

When it comes to keyboard PCBs, there are two major types; the Hot-Swappable or standard keyboard PCB. So, we advise that you go for the Hot-Swappable PCB. Why? Because you can replace the switch easily, and it's more flexible than the standard keyboard PCB.  

Why Choose Us: Our Capabilities

 

At OurPCB, we are devoted to high-quality productions. Also, we do a ton of quality control before releasing our keyboard PCBs. Hence, you can rest assured that you'll get only high-quality keyboard PCBs from our company.

If you have questions or suggestions on the topic, feel free to reach us. We'll get back to you as soon as possible!