Some environments demand more of their equipment than others.

Machinery in hygiene-critical facilities like health care and food production, for example, may be exposed to bacteria and other pathogens whose spread could prove disastrous to human health and well-being. Input devices and human-machine interfaces (HMIs) like keyboards represent one of the most critical battlegrounds in these spaces, because they are the parts of equipment most likely to be routinely touched and handled by human operators. In other words, if germs are going to spread via equipment, it will happen at the point where humans interact with the equipment.

So, how do you keep them clean enough to prevent the spread of potential infection? An effective approach to hygiene for these devices will pack a one-two punch. First, the equipment should incorporate antimicrobial properties into its design and construction. Second, the equipment should facilitate disinfection.

On the first point, incorporating an antimicrobial film into the device’s surface preparation can limit or eliminate the ability of germs to propagate on the equipment in the first place. Specifically, a substance like nano-sized silver ion particles can be integrated into the hard-structured coating, where it penetrates cell walls and interferes with the ability of microorganisms to grow and reproduce.

Interestingly, researchers have found that these silver solutions can turn dead bacteria into antibacterial agents themselves. Specifically, the dead bacteria absorb the silver nanoparticles and then leach them back out into the environment where they will be absorbed by nearby living bacteria. As Science Magazine reports, “When [researchers] exposed living bacteria to the dead, they witnessed a microscopic massacre: up to 99.99% of the living bacteria met their doom.”

The next step is building an HMI that facilitates thorough – and easy – cleaning and disinfection. This requires a high-end film surface that can be fully sealed (up to an IP65 rating). As a result, the equipment can be safely disinfected with virtually any commercial cleaner, up to and including pure alcohol, without damage. For example, Hoffmann + Krippner’s keywi CleanBoards can be cleaned in 10 seconds with powerful disinfectants simply by wiping them down.

This stands in stark contrast to traditional devices like mechanical keyboards, whose cleaning protocols require users to deconstruct the entire device (e.g., removing individual keys from the keyboard for individual cleaning and disinfection) and then re-assemble it again. Such devices will struggle in hygiene-critical environments. They’re too difficult to clean and pose too much risk when faced with high-risk contaminants and pathogens like MRSA and E. coli.

Thankfully, carefully crafted membrane switch input devices can protect against a wide array of bacteria and contaminants.

For more information about membrane switches and protective antimicrobial technology from Hoffmann + Krippner, please click here. For answers to other questions, please contact us.