In praise of the lowly MicroSwitch...

A news item caught my eye earlier. Today marks the 75th anniversary of Honeywell's ubiquitous MicroSwitch. 75 years ago, this rather lowly invention was the spark for the entire sensing industry. I've used hundreds of them, as has many another controls vendor. They are used for contact-closure control in literally thousands of applications. It is probably the most significant Honeywell innovation ever. From the press release: "This is a very special milestone for our industry, as the MICRO SWITCH is one of the major contributing factors improving industrial productivity," said Beth Wozniak, president of Honeywell Sensing & Control. "The MICRO SWITCH has paved the way for millions of products that would not have been possible without it. Honeywell's tradition of innovation lives on through the MICRO SWITCH and its many related technologies, helping to make our world a safer and more productive place to live." The MICRO SWITCH has provided generations of manufacturers and design engineers superior operating characteristics, long mechanical life and absolute dependability in closing and opening electrical circuits. Invented in 1932, the MICRO SWITCH was one of the first components to supercharge the race to miniaturization and high performance in electronics. Prior to its debut, no switching mechanism had its strength, repeatability, reliability, high current capacity, small size or weight. While modern technology has improved some of the materials used in the MICRO SWITCH, most of the initial design has remained unchanged, enabling the advancement and affordability of many of today's modern machines and appliances. "We began using MICRO SWITCH technology in the 1930s and Honeywell has gained our trust through decades of dependable service," said Cheryl O'Connell, director of materials of United Electric Controls. "The superiority of the MICRO SWITCH truly lies in its quality and reliability. With 80 percent of our mechanical products using the technology, we know we can depend upon the MICRO SWITCH to exceed the performance requirements of our customers."           The first MICRO SWITCH - known as the Large Basic - was used to control the temperature of chicken brooders. From those humble beginnings, the MICRO SWITCH today has become the industry standard in electromechanical control, used in millions of products from smoke alarms and dishwashers to computer products and airplane landing gear. MICRO SWITCH reliability and quality is legendary. In 1972, a WWII Hurricane bomber was recovered from a Canadian swamp. While the aircraft had been submerged under water for 30 years, a Honeywell MICRO SWITCH in the cockpit was still intact, sealed and functioning. In 1975, a Honeywell MICRO SWITCH survived the 505 million mile journey to Mars aboard NASA's Viking Mars Lander. The switch, used in the retractable surface sampler, helped scoop up Martian soil and deliver it safely back to the biological laboratory. Today, Honeywell manufactures more than 120 million MICRO SWITCHES annually for aerospace and defense, industrial, off-highway and medical applications.

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  • Not only has Micro Switch pioneered the electromechanical switch world but took that expertise into other sensing areas to become innovators with some of the first inductive proximity sensors, hall effect sensors, data keyboards, and fiber optic components. As far as I know they still build a quality product at a reasonable price point.

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