WHAT ARE MEMBRANE SWITCH PANELS?
A membrane switch requires a supporting surface to push against in order to activate the switch. This surface must be smooth, flat and well suited to where it goes and how it is used. The membrane switch panel can be made of many materials and any shape depending on a specific panel fabrication process. The panel surface where the membrane switch goes should be as flat as possible and free of bumps that could actuate the switch from the back or show through the membrane overlay.
The most common membrane switch panel types are:
- Plastic Injected molded cases/front cover
- Metal panels
- Circuit board material
Plastic Injected molded cases have the advantage of a molded cavity to receive a membrane switch that allows the membrane to be flush with the case surface. The color and texture of the case can tie into the membrane switch and appear as one piece. This type of membrane switch panel is common in the medical industry where esthetics is of high importance. Parting lines, bosses, and injector pin marks should be avoided in any switch button locations to prevent switch actuation problems.
Metal membrane switch panels are very popular in the industrial controls markets, for example, CNC controllers, beverage dispensing machines and the like and can be aluminum or steel. The membrane switch panel is usually protected with a finish to prevent corrosion. Black anodized aluminum panels are the most common and can be any shape, size and thickness to accommodate the product’s needs. Hardware can be added to meta membrane switch panel to facilitate installation of the panel to the cabinet. PEM has a wide assortment of hardware in many styles and finishes.
Circuit boards are themselves and another type of membrane called PCB membrane switches. PCB material without circuitry can be used as a panel as well. The advantage of this membrane switch panel is similar hardware can be installed as metal panels and yet the panel is lighter and nonconductive. This type of panel is used in portable equipment where weight is an issue and in equipment where RFI or EMI can be a problem, for example, radio controllers and phone systems.