101 Membrane Switch Design Technology Tips

March 18, 2015
101 solutions and strategies for navigating the complex field of membrane switch design.

Pannam Imaging published 101 solutions and strategies for navigating the complex field of membrane switch design to help their readers and customers understand the many facets of membrane switch technology. The extensive lists of tips includes membrane switch applications, user interface design and human-machine interaction, the use of PCBs (printed circuit boards), backlighting options and other technologies, tactile feedback and other design considerations, and membrane switch and electronics industry trends.

With Pannam Imaging's permission, we brigng you the first ten. At the end of the article you willl have a link to access all 101 tips.

  1. Membrane switches are used in many applications that you use every day. “Keypads have integrated deep into everyday schedule of an average person that it is almost impossible to carry out working on electronic devices without using them. Computer keyboards, calculators, remote controls, game joysticks, electronic locks and ATM machines are just a few cases where one cannot do even a single task without using keypad. It becomes quite uncanny that how deeply this electronic accessory has embedded into lives of a major part of the population.” - Arpit Jain, Insight – How Membrane Keypad Works, EngineersGarage
  2. Membrane switch technology is an ideal choice for medical electronic devices. “Membrane switch applications are well suited for medical electronics, which are limited to a specific or small number of functions, are portable, and require a high degree of visibility. Membrane switches are particularly suitable for handheld medical applications and portable devices because they are lightweight, low profile, durable, easy to clean, and RoHS-compliant.” - Seven Advantages of Membrane Switches for Medical Electronics, Medical Design Briefs
  3. Many medical devices make use of membrane switch technology. “Electronic devices and circuits are important tools for healthcare and for a wide range of medical applications. Medical electronics can help improve the quality of life in addition to extending life itself. Membrane switches are widely used in medical equipment for applications such as hospital bed controls, ultrasound systems, x-ray systems, patient monitoring, dialysis equipment, thermometers, scales, lighting systems, pharmaceutical delivery devices, and portable/wearable devices.” - Basics of Harsh-Environment Membrane Switches Aid Medical Devices, ElectronicDesign.com, Twitter: @ElectronicDesign
  4. Home appliances are now technologically advanced electronics, thanks in part to membrane switch technology. “The use of membrane switches with seven segment displays and LED illumination incorporated onto the switch substrate not only bring benefits to the manufacturer in ease of assembly and a lower number of inventory items, but also provide the end user with a much more pleasurable operating experience.” – Lee Thomas, How Times Have Changed, Connector.com, Twitter: @MolexConnectors
  5. Full computer keyboards are now being made using membrane switch technology. “Recently, many full-sized keyboards have been designed to fold in various ways in an attempt to make them more transportable. The flexible membrane keyboard, one type of full sized keyboard, is unique because it is made from silicon rubber, thus it is fully flexible and water resistant. Although a number of flexible keyboard characteristics are the same as standard keyboards (i.e. key size, shape and spacing), key-switch and key clicking mechanisms are inherently different.” - DongJae Shin, Performance and Usability of Flexible Membrane Keyboards, VT.edu, Twitter: @virginia_tech
  6. Assistive technology devices often make use of membrane switches. “Switch use and skills will only develop in the context of the whole activity, the switch is a means to an end. The focus of switching should be on the outcome: you are switching on the light, not just pressing the switch.

    “Children who really enjoy being with others may develop their skills more quickly using their switch to control a simple communicator rather than a computer program. Pupils with a visual difficulty may react best to being in control of a visually stimulating computer program. The choice of activity is a key part of the development of switching skills, in fact the activity is the reason for using the switch.” - Which Switch?, Inclusive Technology, Twitter: @InclusiveTechUK
  7. Membrane switches are space-saving alternatives to tactile switches. “An economy of space: Because membrane switches do not take up as much space as tactile ones, the designer has more freedom to include more decoration in the layout, and in consequence may of these keypads have colorful graphics overlaid on the keys. That is why they have become so popular in homes and offices. Membrane switches, in fact, can be installed in places with all types of decor as they can be colored to blend in with the overall color scheme of their context.” - Benefits of Using Membrane Switches, iLife Geeks, Twitter: @iLifeGeeks
  8. Membrane switches can add durability compared to standard mechanical switches. “Membrane switches are composed of several layers of membranes that allow users to interact with the devices’ circuitry without the possibility of contaminating it. These devices are prized also because they can, in certain configurations, resist hazardous climatic conditions like moisture or dust accumulation, which means that some membrane switches are suitable for use outdoors.” - Understanding the Value of Membrane Switches, Membrane Switch News, Twitter: @MembraneNews
  9. Membrane switches take up less space and provide a more modern look. “Over the past decade, the membrane switch has grown in popularity as designers are seeking a more modernized look, avoiding the older, bulky switches, and looking for ways to fit switches into smaller footprints in today’s equipment. The membrane switch’s sleek, flat design with modern LED lights is appealing with a less industrial look.” - Tips for selecting and designing a membrane switch, ECN Magazine, Twitter: @ecnonline
  10. Membrane switch design technology allows for sealability, preventing water or chemical ingress into the switch cavity. “One of the biggest threats to any type of user interface is the risk of water or chemical ingress into the switch cavity. A membrane switch can be sealed against various types of environments typically encountered in the portable medical device industry. This can be achieved with a full perimeter seal or gasket within which the circuit tail exit is routed. With the proper design and material choices, not only can the switch array be sealed against the environment, but it can also seal the enclosure to which it is mounted. The sealed membrane switch can also provide highly visible status indication through the use of low profile surface mounted LEDs.” - Seven Advantages of Membrane Switches for Medical Electronics, Medical Design Briefs

Read all 101 tips.