When researching switches, you may come across the term “actuation force.” Some switches have a higher actuation force than others. Whether a switch is used alone or in conjunction with another device, such as a human machine interface (HMI), you should consider its actuation force. If the actuation force is too high, you may struggle to activate the switch. What is actuation force exactly, and how does it affect the performance of switches?

What Is Actuation Force?

Actuation force is the amount of pressure or force required to activate a switch. Switches are simple electrical devices that are used to control a circuit. They are typically made of conductive pathways that can be opened or closed. Closing a switch will complete its conductive pathways, meaning electricity can travel all the way through the switch. Opening a switch, conversely, will break or disrupt its conductive pathways.

Most switches feature a button. Pressing the button will open or close the circuit. With that said, some switches require more pressure to activate than others. You can refer to a switch’s actuation force to determine how much pressure or force it requires.

How Actuation Force Affects Switches

A switch’s actuation force will dictate how much pressure or force you must apply to activate it. It’s typically measured in grams. If a switch has an actuation force of 50 grams, for instance, you’ll have to apply 50 grams of pressure to activate it. Applying less than 50 grams of pressure won’t change the switch’s circuit. Rather, the circuit will remain in its original opened or closed position.

It’s not uncommon for switches to produce tactile feedback. When you press a switch, you may feel it respond. Tactile feedback such as this is typically influenced by actuation force. The greater a switch’s actuation force, the more tactile feedback it will produce. If a switch has a low actuation force — meaning it doesn’t require much pressure or force to activate — it may produce little or no tactile feedback.

You may discover that keyboards are labeled with an actuation force. This is because keyboards are switches. Each key is essentially a switch, and you’ll have to apply pressure to any given key so that the keyboard will register your command. Keyboards with a high actuation force will require more pressure than those with a low actuation force.

Whether it’s a keyboard or any other type of switch, though, you should consider the actuation force. It will determine how much pressure or force the switch or switches require.