Different materials and components contribute to the successful operation of a circuit board. A printed circuit board is the heart of most electronic devices. However, some materials are used for designing this circuit board. A PCB plate is an example of such materials.
A plate is an important component in a circuit board. PCBs offer both mechanical and electrical support to electronic devices. A plate is often used in a keyboard PCB. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about PCB plates.
What is a PCB Plate?
A PCB plate is a metal plate attached over the PCB used in a keyboard. This plate offers extra support. Also, the keys on a keyboard are directly mounted on the PCB plate and not the PCB. In addition, the PCB plate on the keyboard prevents it from bending. This plate enables the keyboard to be more stable and reinforced.
PCB plates are usually used with bigger keyboards. This is because it offers more support. Also, the keyboard might flex more due to the extra size. However, some keyboards don’t have a PCB plate. Modern keyboards feature a plate. You can choose to design your keyboard without using a plate. However, the soldering quality will determine the stability of the switches.
The PCB is the building block of a keyboard. A keyboard functions based on the PCB. Everything built on a keyboard starts from the PCB. Just like the way a motherboard serves as the foundation of a computer, so is the PCB to a keyboard. The PCB plate provides additional support when placed on the top of the PCB.
This plate helps to provide enough stability to the keyboard. Also, it prevents the keyboard from any flex.
Types of Plate Materials
There are several materials used for designing a PCB. However, the two commonest materials used for plates are brass and aluminum. The type of material you use for your plate depends on your choice. However, it is good to explore these materials and see what works for you.
A brass plate is a very rigid one. Also, brass is a great material for a PCB plate. However, this material can tarnish or oxidize over time if left untreated. According to some users, brass can be loud and bassy.
This plate is very durable. Also, it is lightweight and enables flex when typing. Therefore, carbon fiber plates offer a bouncy feel.
This material is the commonest PCB plate material. Aluminum plates are often used on prebuilt keyboards and custom. Also, aluminum is an available material. This material offers sturdiness and it is easy to cut. It is a rigid material that features no flex in a keyboard.
This is a plastic material. A polycarbonate plate enables flex and can be bouncy when used. However, users maintained that this plate features a bassy sound.
Application of PCB Plate
Plates are majorly used in keyboards. These plates offer additional support when installed on top of the PCB used for keyboards.
Plate-mounted switches: These switches require plates. Also, they feature 3-pins on the bottom. There is a middle circular knob and two metal pins. However, they don’t have stabilization pins. This is where the plate becomes functional. Therefore, this plate stabilizes every switch and minimizes side-to-side wobbling anytime you press the key.
Difference between a PCB-mounted and Plate-mounted Keyboard
Both plate mount and PCB mount feature the circuit board. However, the major difference is if the keyboard uses or doesn’t use a metal plate for support.
PCB mounted keyboard
With this type of keyboard, the key switches will be directly mounted to the PCB. Also, a PCB mounted keyboard doesn’t require a mounting plate. This style of mounting is ideal for smaller keyboards. However, it isn’t ideal for larger keyboards. This is because the result will be a flimsy keyboard.
Using a plate mount style on a smaller keyboard may not be worth it. However, a plate mount is ideal for a larger keyboard. Also, it is cheaper to design a PCB mounted keyboard since it offers more flexibility. PCB mounted keyboards are very easy to modify. Also, they are less expensive.
Here, the key switches are all installed on a plate. The metal plate is often installed above the PCB. Also, the designer mounts the key switches on the plate and then solders it on the PCB. A plate-mounted keyboard often takes more time to design. Also, this mounting style is time-consuming and requires more cost.
The plate mount style is suitable for larger keyboards. Also, it could be a great option for a smaller keyboard. However, the outcome will be a high-quality keyboard. The mounting plate is very difficult to move. Therefore, customizations or modifications can be very difficult to do. So, it is advisable to desolder all key switches and resolder once done.
Types of PCBs Used for Keyboards
There are different types of PCBs used for keyboards.
A through-hole PCB is a 5-pin PCB. The use of a PCB plate here is optional. Keyboards with through-hole PCB often come with build guides. Also, the designer will need to solder in some components like resistors when using this PCB. This PCB is ideal for more advanced keyboards builders who have experience in soldering.
This PCB is already installed with hot-swap sockets. Also, this PCB allows you to install switches without desoldering or soldering it. Therefore, it is an ideal option for beginners. Also, it doesn’t require you to purchase soldering equipment. In addition, it is of great benefit as it allows experimenting with several switches.
Soldered PCB is widely used in custom mechanical keyboards. With a soldered PCB, you have to solder in the switches. Also, this PCB features 5-pin pockets to allow switches. A soldered PCB supports 5-pin switches.
PCB plates offer great functionality when used in keyboards. Their importance can’t be underestimated. However, not all keyboards feature them. This depends on the size of the keyboard. PCB plates offer stability when used in a keyboard.