MEMBRANE OVERLAYS

WHAT ARE MEMBRANE OVERLAYS?

Membrane overlays are separate plastic layers, usually polyester, that at some point will be applied to a membrane switch. Membrane overlays are unique from their cousins, panel overlays and graphic overlays, due to the mechanical nature of a membrane switch.  It is important to design the membrane overlays around the underlying membrane switch. Membrane overlays can be embossed to provide tactile feedback and room for components on the membrane switch if needed. If backlighting is involved through the use of LEDs, fiber optics, or Electroluminescent (EL), a selective opaque light blocking layer may need to be incorporated.  This layer can be printed behind the colors of the overlay and can help control where the light goes.

Material selection is important due to the mechanical requirements of membrane switches. Polyester will survive millions of actuations and is solvent resistant, making it ideal for membrane overlays.  Other materials will crack in time as the switches are repeatedly pushed.  Another important feature when choosing material is UV exposure. It is important to let  us know if the part is going indoors or outdoors so we can select the correct overlay material.

The printing process used is dependent on number of colors, color callout and the type of image to be printed. Screen printing is still the standard for most simple overlays with solid colors. Digital printing has evolved to a point where it is less costly and the produces the same quality on solid colors as screen printing. In addition, digital printing is the only answer when images contain gradients and halftones. Our Indigo printer may be the solution to the amazing customized overlays you’ve always wanted. We can even print unique serial numbers readable by both humans and computers on your membrane overlays with the digital printing process.

WHY BUY MEMBRANE OVERLAYS?

  • Inventory reduction. Order the overlays as you need them, which can help reduce inventory.
  • If you choose, install them yourself to reduce cost as well.
  • Customization. Different languages are a prime example of needing multiple overlays for a particular membrane.
  • If you don’t know how many of each will sell, we can build them as you need them.
  • Adhesive life consideration.

BACKLIGHTING YOUR MEMBRANE OVERLAY

If you would like to backlight your application, the membrane switch construction would incorporate either light guides or LEDs for uniform lighting.  Other options for backlighting are fiber optic backlighting and EL backlighting.  Depending on the requirements of your application such as thickness preference, shape, environmental exposure, and other unique specifications, the backlighting options would vary and be selected specifically to fit the function of your device.  Using the latest LED powered lighting can reduce cost and reduce power used by a device.  Since many devices today are portable, this backlighting solution is more relevant than ever.

A variety of applications that use backlighting solutions are: remote controls, laboratory equipment, airplane dashboards, medical devices in dimly lit operating rooms, consumer appliances, such as coffee makers and microwaves, laptop keyboards, and many other applications that we all come in contact with daily or sporadically.

We have various backlighting samples that you can evaluate and consider for your application.  Please feel free to submit a sample request  and we’ll send you a variety of useful samples and tools you can experiment with for your application.

NormaTec membrane switch with embossed keys, a lens, and gradient color patterns
5-button membrane switch, with integrated window, designed and manufactured for Bunn-O-Matic
12-button, embossed key, membrane switch with integrated window, designed and manufactured for Baxter Healthcare
10-button membrane switch, with mechanical rotary-dial cut out, designed and built for CareFusion

NEED HELP WITH YOUR NEXT MEMBRANE OVERLAY PROJECT?

SCHEDULE A MEETING WITH US TO RECEIVE TOP-TIER ENGINEERING AND DESIGN SUPPORT.

Download your free membrane overlay design guide now!

Hand Opening Microwave

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