Canadian Manufacturing

Designing solutions using silicone rubber keypads

by Ron Friesen - Vancouver   

Leister Blake Enterprises
Sponsored by Leister Blake Enterprises

Working with a supplier like LBE provides manufacturers with one of the most immediate solutions to avoiding the cost overruns

PHOTO: Leister Blake

How does one design and mark up the specifications to efficiently produce a custom silicone membrane keypad?

This article is not a tutorial, but we do want to emphasize some of the important factors to consider when designing custom components of any kind. The first thing is to line up all the resources and collaborators required to assist the process.

Other initial considerations should be – Who will be the end user of the product for which any custom component is being developed. How will they use the product (ergonomics)? Where will the product be used and what kinds of environmental and competitive challenges will the product be likely to face? When, and at what rate does the component need to be delivered into the manufacturing process?

Granted, some of these are as much marketing questions as design criteria determinators, but we know all of the answers to these kinds of questions will inform the design.


Then there are the advantages, challenges and limitations of the various methods of production to consider. Cost considerations are always a factor. And the costs include design, production, delivery, warehousing and integration into manufacturing among others. Let’s not forget about the cost of miscommunications with suppliers and other unexpected back-and-forth contingency costs often associated with the process.

This is where working with a proven supply chain partner comes in. A good supplier will bring a manufacturers closer to and in control of the custom component development and delivery processes. Robert Blake of Leister Blake Enterprises in British Columbia works directly with their customers’ engineers on the requirements side – and works directly with the people here and overseas who produce the required custom components on the solution delivery side.

LBE takes charge, giving their customers one degree of separation control. Manufacturers gain informed control of their designs through prototype delivery & approval, to final delivery of finished components including warehousing in Canada if required.

Working with a supplier like LBE provides manufacturers with one of the most immediate solutions to avoiding the cost overruns associated with producing custom components, simply by reducing the number of parties to the process.

As an example, take a look at the product pictured at the beginning of this article. It is a silicone rubber custom keypad produced for Firan Technology Group (head offices in Ontario and avionics division located in Chatsworth, California).

Firan Technology Group is a leading North American manufacturer of high technology printed circuit boards and precision illuminated display systems. Their product is a custom flight aviation management device for installation in the cockpit. The keypad for this device required durability, ease of use, intuitive and user-friendly layout, clear markings, ruggedness, wide-range environmental tolerances, as well as meeting aircraft ergonomic specifications for night vision and backlighting.

When a design requires manual input via a console or other input device the keypad comes into play. Selecting keypad materials and technology will be based on the operating environment and specific end-user requirements. Often, the old reliable silicone rubber is the most suitable solution. Here’s why.

Cost and design flexibility are the real obvious advantages of tried and true silicone rubber keypads which have been around since Du Pont invented the material in the 1970’s. The material is flexible, durable and offers an array of design features to accommodate a wide range of applications. In addition, in production only one tool is required to control stroke length, size of keycap, tactile feedback and the colour of individual keys.

The production process was improved when the choice was made to work with Leister Blake Enterprises. It’s like having direct communication with the people and processes involved. Robert Blake understands the process and has been delivering custom solutions for decades. There are no surprises.

It’s as if the supply chain is shortened when a manufacturer is able to work with a competent and hands-on supplier like Leister Blake Enterprises. The LBE west-coast warehouse allows for just-in-time delivery to customers throughout North America, and their long-established in-house expertise on delivering custom components to manufacturers products to reach market more quickly and with fewer missteps.

The secret to establishing and maintaining a productive working relationship with a custom component supplier is to keep them informed and up-to-date. Robert Blake and his team can bring everything you need once he is informed and orders are processed. As it was stated earlier, it’s like having direct access to the people and processes involved in the production and delivery of custom components, right from the get-go, right from the design stage.

Speak with Robert about Leister Blake Enterprises becoming a supply link in your organization. Reduce frustrations. Improve efficiency. Enjoy the cost and time savings. 604-464-4452

Since 1989 Robert Blake and his company Leister Blake Enterprises has been delivering valuable expertise, industry insights and quality components to Canadian manufacturers.


Stories continue below