MEMBRANE SWITCH PANELS

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.

BACKLIGHTING YOUR MEMBRANE SWITCH PANEL APPLICATION

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

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