Switches are found in nearly all electrical devices. Consisting of a controllable circuit, they respond to input. A switch’s circuit can either open or close in response to input. While switches consist of a controllable circuit, though, there are different types of switches, one of which is a membrane switch. This post offers an introduction to membrane switches and how they work.

A Brief Look at Membrane Switches

Even if you’re familiar with switches, you might be unfamiliar with membrane switches. Membrane switches are electrical switches that consist of a controllable circuit. They can open or close in response to input. What that said, membrane switches are unique because of the material from which they are constructed.

Most electrical switches are constructed of hard plastic. Therefore, they have a stiff and rigid texture that doesn’t bend. Membrane switches, on the other hand, are made of a softer and more elastic material. By definition, any switch with at least one contact made of a flexible material is considered a membrane switch.

Why Choose a Membrane Switch

Consumers and businesses alike often prefer membrane switches over traditional switches because they are more ergonomic. Ergonomics is important because it affects comfort. Traditional switches, as mentioned above, are made of hard plastic, which isn’t exactly comfortable to use. You can still control a traditional switch — typically by pressing a button — but they aren’t as ergonomic as their membrane counterparts.

Only membrane switches are made of a soft and elastic material. As a result, they are more ergonomic than traditional switches. If you’re planning to use a switch for a long time, you may want to choose a membrane switch for this reason.

Membrane switches also offer a high level of protection against moisture and other liquids. Although they can be designed in different ways, most membrane switches feature a sealed top layer that’s made of silicone rubber or a similar soft and elastic material. The presence of this layer prevents moisture and liquids from reaching the underlying circuit.

Another reason to choose a membrane switch is for backlighting. Membrane switches can be designed with one of several backlighting solutions. Electroluminescent (EL) is a traditional backlighting solution that uses EL bulbs to illuminate the switch’s buttons from behind. In addition to EL, light-emitting diode (LED) is a common backlighting solution for membrane switches. EL and LED backlighting can even be used with optical fiber to distribute their respective light more evenly across the membrane switch.