PCB Mount vs Plate Mount: The Impact on Keyboards

Imagine you’re putting together a puzzle. Each piece needs to fit snugly to create the perfect picture. Similarly, when you’re building a mechanical keyboard, the way the keys (or switches) fit into the keyboard is super important. There are two main ways to do this: PCB mount vs plate mount. But what are they, and why should you care? Let’s find out!

Think of the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) as the brain of your keyboard. It’s a little like the foundation of a house. In the PCB mount method, the switches are directly mounted onto this PCB.

This means they have extra little pins to hold them steady, like a plant with deep roots. Now, for the plate mount, imagine a sturdy table sitting over the foundation with a hole for each plant.

Here, the switches are attached to a metal or plastic plate that sits above the PCB. They don’t need those extra pins because the plate keeps them in place, kind of like a pot for each plant.

Why does this matter to you? Well, if you’re building your own keyboard, knowing the difference between PCB mount vs plate mount can help you pick the right parts.

It affects how your keyboard feels when you type and how easy it is to swap out the switches. PCB mount can offer a bouncier feel and makes changing switches a breeze.

Plate mount, on the other hand, often provides a firmer typing experience and can make the keyboard feel more solid. So, just like choosing the right pieces for your puzzle, knowing these differences helps you build the perfect keyboard for your fingers to dance on!


What is a PCB Mount?

PCB stands for “Printed Circuit Board.” Imagine it as the brain of your keyboard, where all the magic happens. When you type, it’s the PCB that processes your keystrokes and sends them to your computer.

PCB mount switches are special keys with five little legs, or “pins,” that stick out from the bottom. Think of these pins like tiny feet that help the key stand up straight on the board.

Among these pins, two are made of metal, and they have a very important job. When you press a key, these metal pins connect with the PCB and tell your computer what you’ve typed.

But what about the other three pins? These are made of plastic and they’re not there to make the key work, but to make it steady.

They help prevent the key from wobbling around when you type. It’s like having training wheels on a bike; they keep everything stable.

The way these switches attach to the PCB makes a difference in how your keyboard feels. Since they’re connected directly to the PCB with no extra layers in between, typing can feel a bit more bouncy. Every time you press a key, it might have a slight springiness to it, which some people really like.

So, when you’re using a keyboard with PCB mount switches, you’re experiencing a direct connection to the keyboard’s brain.

It’s a unique feeling that changes the way you interact with your keys, making your typing experience quite distinctive.


Understanding Plate Mounts

When it comes to customizing keyboards, plate mount switches offer a unique feature. Unlike their counterparts that have five pins, plate mount switches come with just three pins.

The two missing pins are not an oversight; they’re intentionally absent because these switches rely on a different form of support. Instead of using additional plastic pins for stability, plate mounts are secured by a metal plate.

This metal plate is not just any piece of hardware; it’s a crucial component that rests directly above the keyboard’s circuitry, commonly referred to as the printed circuit board (PCB).

The role of the plate is significant – it ensures that every time you hit a key, the action is smooth and the key doesn’t shake or wobble. This might not seem like a big deal, but it’s essential for a comfortable and reliable typing experience.

The absence of those extra pins means that when you install the switches onto a keyboard, they are aligned and held in place by this metal plate.

This method of mounting provides a noticeable difference in how the keyboard feels when used. Typists and gamers alike often report that keyboards with plate-mounted switches have a more robust and sturdy feel to them. That’s because the plate adds a level of rigidity that can enhance the overall typing experience.

So, if you’re considering building or buying a custom keyboard, or you’re just curious about the different types of mounts, remember that plate mount switches are designed to offer a solid, stable typing feel.

They might be simpler in design with fewer pins, but they’re engineered to work hand-in-hand with the metal plate to give you a consistent and satisfying keystroke every time.


Understanding the Differences: Circuit Board Mounting and Plate Mounting

When it comes to building or choosing a keyboard, two common terms you’ll encounter are circuit board mounting and plate mounting.

These terms refer to how the keys are attached to the keyboard, which can affect how the keyboard feels and operates. Let’s break down each type to see which might suit your needs.

Circuit Board Mounted Keyboards

Keyboards with a circuit board, or PCB (printed circuit board) mounting, attach the keys directly to the board. This design can lead to a keyboard that is lighter in weight and potentially less costly to produce.

For those who prioritize a lightweight design or are budget-conscious, this might be an appealing feature.

However, one trade-off can be in the overall feeling of stability. Some users might find that these keyboards feel a bit more flexible or less ‘solid’ compared to plate-mounted versions.

Plate Mounted Keyboards

On the other side, we have plate-mounted keyboards. These have a metal or plastic plate between the keys and the circuit board. This plate adds extra weight and rigidity, giving the keyboard a more stable and often described as a ‘premium’ feel.

For those who type a lot or prefer a more solid typing experience, this can be a significant advantage. However, the sturdiness comes at a cost, making these keyboards generally more expensive.

 Additionally, if you’re someone who likes to customize or modify your keyboard, plate mounts can be more challenging to alter after the initial assembly.

What’s Right for You?

Ultimately, the decision between circuit board mounting and plate mounting boils down to personal preference and priorities.

If you value a lightweight and more affordable keyboard and don’t mind a bit of flex, a circuit board-mounted keyboard could be a great choice.

However, if you’re looking for a more robust typing experience and don’t mind spending a bit more, consider going with a plate-mounted keyboard.

Consider your typing habits, budget, and whether you plan to modify your keyboard in the future when making your decision.

Can You Switch Between Them?

Yes, you can! For those who are into customizing their keyboards, you might find yourself with a circuit board mount switch when you really needed a plate mount one.

But there’s no need to worry or rush out to buy new switches. You have the option to modify the switch yourself to fit your needs.

What you’ll need to do is take a close look at the bottom of your switch. You’ll notice it has several pins sticking out.

The big metal ones are crucial – they’re what actually register your key presses, so don’t touch those. However, you might see two extra plastic pins. These are only needed for certain types of keyboard mounts.

If your keyboard doesn’t need these pins, you can carefully remove them. Use a pair of small pliers or wire cutters to clip them off.

Be very careful not to snip the metal contacts, though. Those are essential for the switch to work. If you accidentally cut the metal contacts, the switch won’t be able to send signals to your computer anymore.

This little trick is a handy way to experiment with different switch styles. It means you can try out how different switches feel and sound without the need to invest in a whole new set. Just remember to work carefully, and you’ll be able to customize your keyboard to your heart’s content.


Different Types of PCBs

When you’re diving into the world of electronics, particularly keyboards, you’ll come across something called a PCB, which stands for Printed Circuit Board.

It’s the backbone that holds all the electronic components together. Just like there are different kinds of cookies, there are also different kinds of PCBs. Let’s explore them!

Soldered PCBs

First up, we have the traditional soldered PCBs. These require a bit of skill because you need to use a tool called a soldering iron to attach the switches.

Think of it as gluing tiny parts together, but with metal. Once the switches are in place, they’re pretty much there to stay. So, you’ll want to be sure about your choice before you start.

Hot-Swappable PCBs

Then there’s the hot-swappable PCBs. These are super user-friendly because they let you change the switches easily, without any soldering.

It’s a bit like Lego for electronics; you can pop switches in and out whenever you want to try a different feel or sound. This type is great for beginners or those who love to customize their setup without the extra work.

Through-Hole PCBs

Lastly, we have “through-hole” PCBs. This type is for the DIY enthusiasts who love a challenge. With through-hole PCBs, you get to assemble a lot of the parts yourself. It’s similar to doing a complex puzzle, where each piece needs to be placed just right.

You’ll solder the components through holes in the PCB and connect them on the other side. It’s a fantastic way to learn about electronics and feel a sense of accomplishment once you’ve completed it.

Each type of PCB offers a unique experience, whether you’re a pro at soldering, a beginner, or someone who enjoys a hands-on project. Understanding these differences can help you choose the right PCB for your next electronics adventure!

What about Plate Materials?

Have you ever thought about what’s under the keys on your keyboard? It’s not just a bunch of springs and buttons – there’s a whole piece called a plate, and it matters more than you might think.

Plates can be made of different materials like metal, plastic, or even carbon fiber. Each material can change how the keyboard feels and sounds when you type.

Let’s dive into metal plates first. They’re usually made of steel or aluminum, and they’re pretty popular. Metal plates give your keyboard a sturdy feeling and a sharper sound when the keys are pressed. Plus, they can last a long time because metal is tough stuff.

Next up, plastic plates. These are often lighter and can make typing feel a bit softer. The sound is also more muted compared to metal.

If you’re not a fan of loud typing noises or want something a bit gentler on your fingers, plastic might be your go-to.

Then there’s carbon fiber – it’s kind of a special player in the keyboard world. Carbon fiber plates are strong like metal but light like plastic.

They can make your typing experience feel snappy and responsive. Plus, they have a unique sound that’s different from both metal and plastic.

Some people really love to mix things up and try different materials to find their perfect match. It’s like picking your favorite ice cream flavor – everyone has their own preference.

Whether you want a keyboard that feels like a solid rock or one that’s light as a feather, there’s a plate material out there for you.

Remember, it’s not just about how it feels and sounds to you. The material can also affect how long your keyboard lasts and how it handles everyday bumps and spills.

So, think about what’s important to you and maybe give a few different materials a try. Who knows, you might discover something new that you really like!

So, Which Should You Choose?

Whether you go for PCB mount or plate mount, it’s all about what you prefer. Do you like your keyboard to feel solid and heavy, or do you prefer it light and bouncy?

Do you enjoy tinkering and customizing, or do you want something simple? Whatever you choose, have fun building your keyboard and happy typing!

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